Sandra Pires was born in East Timor, a Portuguese overseas territory. She spent her early childhood with her grandparents in Leiria, located between Lisbon and Porto and fairly close to the world-famous place of pilgrimage Fatima. This is where she first discovered her passion for music. Her grandmother, a teacher, combined famous pre-existing melodies with her own lyrics. Sandra cut her teeth as a performer on these: Her grandmother had her sing them in front of Sandra’s fellow primary school pupils. This first experience of having a live audience was to shape the girl’s entire future.
Aged 13, Sandra moved to Adelaide, Australia, to live with her parents. She did not have to wait long for her first real on-stage performance. As part of a French-themed evening, she wowed the audience with her rendition of “La Vie en Rose”. Sandra enjoyed this experience so much that she started giving near-daily lunch-break concerts in her high school’s music hall, accompanied on piano by her best friend. At age 15, she won one of Australia’s biggest music competitions. She was invited on the spot to audition with saxophone player Eroll Budell, who had previously worked with legends like Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole.
The next few years were intense, filled with live concerts, projects with a variety of bands, as well as numerous TV appearances, e.g. several visits to Steve Vizard’s Late Night Show, an Australian equivalent of David Letterman. Sandra was offered her first record deal and recorded the first album of her own material. Production was already underway when, in the spring of 1992, she decided to go on a trip to Europe – a decision with almost uniquely far-reaching consequences.
Sandra travelled to Portugal, Paris and Milan, followed by a brief visit to Vienna. In a local club she came across a jam session and, true to form, went right ahead and asked if she could sing as part of the session. The club manager’s initial scepticism towards the straightforward tourist in her plain outfit was short-lived. The dark blues voice that the young singer conjured up from her wide repertoire took the audience by storm – so much so that she was offered a string of solo performances. Sandra returned to Australia, but she responded to Europe’s beckoning: she packed her bags, sold off her belongings and threw herself headlong into adventure.
While gigging live, Sandra soon embarked on a co-operation with Erwin Kiennast, whose wealth of experience included everything from the Vienna State Opera to Austropop music.
She also did projects with beat4feet and MG Sound Studios. That’s where she conceived her idea to cover Eros Ramazotti’s “Adesso Tu” in English: “Here I Am” was born soon after and awarded gold status within a few weeks. It stayed in Austria’s Top 40 for a whopping 17 weeks. To this day, “Here I Am” remains the only authorised cover version of a Ramazotti song. In Vienna’s sold-out Ernst Happel stadium, Sandra Pires and Eros Ramazotti treated their audience to a legendary duet together.
The “Here I Am” hype culminated at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on New Year’s Eve 1999, where Sandra’s solo concert rang in the new millennium for thousands of people in the audience and in front of their TV screens. Appearances with Wet, Wet, Wet, Lisa Stansfield and others happened around that time, too.
In 1999 Sandra had also signed her first contract for a musical. At Johann Pölz Halle in Amstetten, she played the narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.
As part of the peace project “Bethlehem 2000”, Sandra made a lasting impression with the extensive work “Terra Santa” and the “Hymn of Life” in particular, which she sang in English, German and Spanish, together with the London Symphony Orchestra and St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir.
The singer had her cinematic debut in Reinhard Schwabenitzky’s film “She, Me and Her”, in which she showed dramatic prowess in not one, but two main roles. Naturally, she also provided the musical backdrop for the film.
Her unique talent allowed Sandra Pires to create a stir even beyond the continent’s borders. In 2001, she was the only European to be invited to perform as part of the concert series “Divas Simply Singing” at Wilshire Theatre, Los Angeles.
While pregnant, she made the highly personal album “Songs for Lea”, celebrating their bond before her daughter Lea was even born in 2002. She also dedicated the record to all her fellow parents-to-be seeking to calm and prepare themselves for family life ahead by means of music.
After a few intense and inspiring years with her little daughter, Sandra returned to her roots and recorded the CD Destino (fate, destiny) in her mother tongue Portuguese. On the album, for which she wrote both lyrics and music, she tells stories based on her own life.
Almost at the exact same time, she played Maria von Trapp, the main role in “Sound of Music”, at Vienna Volksoper.
The year 2007 was further marked by concerts in Dili, her place of birth, and an appearance as the Sandman at the opening of the Life Ball.
At Starnacht am Wörthersee, a big open-air event on a Carinthian lake shore, the artist presented her first solo single in a long time, “I Feel So Alive”. Right after that, she allowed her passion for dancing to take over and signed up for the Austrian national broadcaster ORF’s production of Dancing (with the) Stars, where she made it to the top 5.
In 2009, audiences loved her performance as Mary in Jesus Christ Superstar at Museumsquartier, Vienna.
Next up, she played Nellie Forbush opposite Ferrucio Furlaneto for two seasons, in Volksoper Vienna’s production of the musical South Pacific. She continued on at that opera house in the following season, reprising her role of Maria Trapp until 2013.
The chameleonic artist finally swapped Maria’s traditional dirndl dress for the very different costume of the Bird Woman, whom she played in Ronacher theatre’s Mary Poppins until 2016.
The following year, Sandra showed off her “licence to sing” on stage as part of “The Music of James Bond”: Alongside Conchita, Maya Hakvoort and Nazide Aylin, she presented a dazzling array of hits from the legendary secret agent films.
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