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Review 04 - by Keith Sheel, UK - 27th November 2001

“My Gift To You”

Well, after what seemed an age, but was actually less than two weeks round trip by snail mail (UK - NZ - UK), my copy of “My Gift To You” arrived this morning. I was the very epitome of the over-excited child on Christmas morning. I had to go out, I didn't want to, I wanted to play my new CD. But, I had to force myself to be patient - at least long enough to put it in the CD player in the car (where there's a will there's a way).

Hayley's first, self-titled, CD was the best I had ever heard. Nothing could ever be as good as that. I was right! Hayley's second CD is not as good as her first. It is a quantum leap better. But, I am confused. How can anyone improve on perfection? No one can - except Hayley it seems.

Anyway, down to business. What about the tracks on “My Gift To You”.

1) “All I Have To Give” - I had never heard of this one. Don't know whether it's old or new. All I know is that it is a beautiful song. The words carry such meaning and Hayley's expressive singing conveys it so well. Secondly, the melody of this one is absolutely perfect to show what Hayley can do.

2) “You'll Never Walk Alone” - Not since "Carousel" have I heard such an emotive delivery of a song that is a real tear-jerker when you know the context of the two occasions that it is sung in the film. Hayley delivers a faithful performance that is second to none. Once again - perfection.

3) “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” - So many versions of this are rushed to the extent that makes you feel that the singer can't wait to get it finished. Not so with Hayley. The timing of this Christmas favourite is perfect. Hayley's delivery reinforces an understanding of her deep understanding of her music, piece by piece. I'll say no more than I love it.

4) “Mary Did You Know - What a song of wonder”. A song of the miracle that was the first and most precious Christmas gift. I believe that, although this is another I have never heard before, there are none who could give a better rendition of this.

5) “The Peace Song” - A song that, on it's own, should make people think before they act. With Hayley singing it, it stirs the very soul. It is a song with a message that is beauty personified. How appropriate that Hayley should sing it.

6) “Do You Hear What I Hear?” - Delivered with such awe and devotion. The ultimate in ability. No it's not! Hayley is the very pinnacle - what could improve upon that? Well, listen to the echo and close harmony performed by a guest vocalist. Sophie Westenra is absolutely divine and a perfect complement to Hayley. The beauty of this song brought tears to my Eyes.

7) “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” - Once again, I have heard many version of this song. I have witnessed (from the wings) it performed by "The Wizard", "Dorothy", the whole cast including the children (munchkins etc), on the last night - when all on stage took their cue from one little girl and tears streamed down their faces, even so they kept going. Never could anything carry such an impact again. WRONG. Hayley gives it no less impact. It is simply the best I have ever heard of this song.

8) “Gabriel's Message” - A song of joyous wonder this time. Yet again, this is well within Hayley's ability to deliver with its fullest meaning expressed in such magnificent manner.

9) “Pokarekare Ana” - A very well known Maori song. Typical of this people. Beautifully melodic and gentle. So full of sentiment. How perfectly Hayley carries it off has to be heard to be believed. And, here, she also shows her ability to sing "a capella" with absolutely perfect control and pitch. This in itself raises this piece to one of the finest pieces of music I will ever hear.

10) “Through These Eyes” - Yet another I have never heard before. What difference does that make? For, the moment I heard Hayley start singing this I was in love with it. And then perfection got even better (what! Again?). Hayley is joined again by Sophie, singing in close harmony. This really does impress upon the listener how perfectly suited these two voices are to each other. A very moving performance indeed.

11) “Morning Has Broken” - As soon as this track starts, it is recognisable more for the absolute faithfulness of the piano part to the original. Then Hayley starts to sing. It's a different type of song to any that have gone before. Such a classic as this would cause many to stumble. NOT Hayley. She delivers in such a deep and meaningful manner that it could almost have been written for her. Not, as is the case, so many years before she was born. How did he know, all that time ago, that Hayley would sing this?

12) “Silent Night” - I am going to say very little about this. Perfect voice. Perfect delivery. A capella introduction again. No better version has, in my humble opinion, been produced since the Vienna Boys Choir recorded "Stille Nacht" all those years ago.

Altogether, a set of songs that would challenge many. Hayley sings them with such consummate ease that it is clear that she hasn't even begun yet. Unless I miss the point by a long way, the complete mastery of every piece produces an album that could only have been improved in one way. And that's precisely what they did. Sophie Westenra is absolutely divine, as I've said before. Her voice is utterly beautiful and that bell-like quality is in there too. Hayley is heaven-sent. Now we have been given a taste of another heaven-sent voice in the person of Sophie. I sincerely hope that we are going to hear quite a bit more of her.

Hayley, and you, too, Sophie, thank you so much for the beauty of your music. It really is a language that can be understood all around the world.

From an ever more devoted fan.

Love and best wishes to all from Keith S

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