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The 2004 Classical Brit Awards

26th May 2004

A Night To Remember; A Moment To Forget

As this was my third visit to the Royal Albert Hall in six months, it begins to feel like my second home! Each of those occasions was for the same reason - and what better reason could there ever be than to see Hayley?

The doors would not be open until 7.15 but I arrived shortly after six o'clock. I walked around the outer perimeter of the hall and found a gathering of press photographers lined up outside Door Number 6. A red carpet led up to the door though I suspect this may not have been for my benefit! There was an air of expectation; clearly, something was about to happen. Sure enough, within a few minutes, a car pulled up and out stepped Maxim Vengerov. He stood outside the door for what was obviously an arranged photo shoot. He then stepped forward and spoke to journalists and several people in the gathering crowd before he entered the hall.

I was behind a wall of photographers as it became apparent that another artist was being photographed which was clearly going to happen time and time again as each one arrived. There was much shouting from the army of photographers as they tried to catch the attention of the celebrity of the moment. Amid the general cacophony of sound, the name that they were calling was barely discernable. Then I made out what it was.

"Hayley, Hayley", they were shouting. "Over here, Hayley". I stepped up onto the bottom rail of the barrier that was between me and the photographers but it did little to increase my height. However, I did catch a glimpse of Hayley looking absolutely radiant in a shimmering silvery-blue, sparkling dress. Her hair was slightly wavy and she looked absolutely stunning.

I raced from one end to the other but my view was always blocked. I crept around the side but was told to move as cars would be coming through. Eventually I found a spot where I though I might be able to take a shot or two and ended up right next to her while she was being interviewed. I had only managed to take one when a voice behind me said, "Sorry sir, no photographs". Thankfully I recognised the voice otherwise I might have belted him one! It was Steve Abbott, Hayley's manager! I had not noticed him or Gerald standing right behind me and wonder now if, in my enthusiasm to obtain a better vantage point, I had pushed them out of the way!

I took a few more pictures before Hayley turned to enter the Albert Hall. As she did so, she noticed me and said in her charmingly friendly way, "Oh hi!"

So that was that, except for the continual arrival of a stream of celebrities. I only had a passing interest in them. Hayley was my reason for being there.

I wandered off to circumnavigate the building and, in doing so, I made a minor discovery. I had wondered how the arrival of so many artists at regular intervals had been arranged. Now I discovered.

They were already in the Albert Hall and were coming out of a door, one at a time, on the other side. They got into a car which then drove the short distance to Door Number 6. There, they got out as if they had just arrived. This fiendishly simple escapade worked like magic. Apart from Maxim and Hayley, I remember seeing the "arrival" of Katherine Jenkins, Aled Jones, Amici Forever, Myleene Klass, Bryn Terfel, Renee Fleming, Denise Leigh and Jane Gilchrist, Vanessa-Mae and Nigel Kennedy. Nigel produced his violin and entertained the crowd for a few minutes in a none too serious manner. His antics went down very well.

Soon after the doors opened to those of us who were not up for an award, I went in and lingered in the corridor expecting to meet Keith. Through the crowds who were waiting to enter the auditorium, I saw Steve Abbott approaching. Why? What was he doing there amongst the riffraff? This epithet was clearly applicable to me because, as soon as he saw me, Steve asked, "Who let you in?" By then, my curiosity as to his presence had turned to excitement when I saw that Hayley was with him!

They stopped and chatted for several minutes which is when I conveyed the good wishes from Belinda Hutchison and Joe Sukenick, HWI Correspondents in New Zealand and America respectively. Their sentiments were very graciously received by Hayley. As we spoke, Hayley gave me several of her beguiling smiles that rendered me almost speechless but I did manage to give her a kiss for good luck (which probably didn't help) trying not to smudge her make-up. She was apparently less concerned about this than I was because, as I stepped back to a respectful distance, she turned her head and offered the other cheek…. so I stepped forward again and had another go!

I entered the auditorium and took my seat. With only minutes to spare, Keith arrived and told me that he had been severely delayed on his journey. I told him of my adventures with the stars during their photo call and he seemed spectacularly unimpressed! At least he got there in time for the main event.

Following a superb rendition of Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" by Vanessa-Mae, the Awards Ceremony began. It was introduced by Katie Derham, ITN newsreader and Classic FM presenter. It amused me to know every word that she spoke just a few seconds before she said them. You see, like Katie, I was reading the "idiot board" which was placed directly opposite her near the back of the auditorium. At one point, I read what she was about to say and was willing her not to say it…..

"…..And now for New Zealand's greatest export since the lamb chop…." Well, what a way to introduce a vegetarian! Hayley took the stage and sang what for me was the highlight of the evening. Unlike the version during the Pure tour, "Pokarekare Ana" was now performed with the English Chamber Orchestra and choir. It never sounded so good. Hayley, as ever, was note perfect. She looked and sounded totally at home and her performance was utterly spellbinding. If only she could have given us more than one song but there were many other artists performing that night, not to mention the little business of the presentations.

Apart from Vanessa-Mae and Hayley, we were treated to performances by Bryn Terfel (accompanied by Catrin Finch on harp), the Choir of Kings College Cambridge, Katherine Jenkins, Renee Fleming, Nigel Kennedy, Amici Forever, Bryn and Renee in duet, and the English Chamber Orchestra. What a line-up!

As you no doubt know by now, Hayley was not successful in the Best Female Artist category. That award went to Cecilia Bartoli and was collected in her absence by Sir James Galway. Similarly, the award in the Contemporary Music category was won by Philip Glass but was collected on his behalf by Julian Lloyd Webber.

Awards were presented by Nigel Havers, Elaine Paige, Aled Jones, Classic FM's Simon Bates, ITN newsreader John Suchet and composer of "The Queen Symphony", Tolga Kashif.

And so we come to the award for Album of the Year. This was the one we had been waiting for. "Pure" had nestled comfortably in No 1 position for a total of fifteen weeks in the Classic FM chart and had not fallen below third place for 34 consecutive weeks. Sales figures have been truly spectacular ever since its release in the UK last September. The daily Classic FM programme entitled "Most Wanted" often features Hayley on the selection list from which listeners can vote. The ten most wanted items are then broadcast during the following morning's programme. On the day prior to the Awards, the selection included everyone that had been nominated for one award or another. Hayley had come out in No 1 position that very morning. When I arrived at the venue, and during the interval, I kept hearing Hayley's name being mentioned. It seemed that everyone was talking about her. When the ten nominees for Best Album were announced, quite a cheer went up for Hayley. That didn't happen for anyone else. So, all the signs were there. Surely she was going to do it and, if so, clearly she was going to be a very popular winner.

Hayley was sitting with Gerald and Steve and several other people including Myleene Klass, at a table on the floor of the arena just a few yards in front of where Keith and I were sitting. Hayley had already looked up and acknowledged us. I wasn't going to miss this opportunity to witness the look of surprise and delight on her beautiful face when she was declared the winner. I was staring at her as we awaited the result.

Right, this is it. "….And the winner for Best Album of the Year is…..Bryn Terfel".

I was stunned. I couldn't believe it. What had gone wrong? Why did the public vote not support the sales figures and the phenomenal chart success that had been sustained for eight months? It just didn't make sense. Of course, Hayley looked genuinely happy with the result, applauded and smiled at Bryn who had been sitting at a table next to hers and was now making his way to the stage to accept the award. This announcement was the moment to forget and I am sure that Hayley has done just that; a commendable attitude and one that I wish I could adopt. Unfortunately, I can't forget it. I would have given anything to see Hayley walk up to the stage to collect the award that she deserved so much. Sadly, it was not to be.

Don't get me wrong, I have great respect for Bryn and his achievements deserve to be rewarded. I congratulate him. But, at the same time, I find it inconceivable that Pure's sustained and immense popularity was not reflected in the public vote on this occasion.

Such was my disappointment that I had little interest in what followed which was a duet by Bryn and Renee Fleming. I probably missed a rare treat but I was still looking towards Hayley in total disbelief.

Eventually the programme ended and people began to leave the auditorium. I remained in my seat feeling stunned. When the announcement was made, I remember feeling that I didn't want to be there any more. Now, I didn't want to leave.

A gangway to my left led down to the floor of the arena and I noticed that there was no gate to prevent anyone from passing through in either direction. Many celebrities, their families, managers and representatives from the music industry were still there and I was not about to gatecrash the party. However, if only I could attract Hayley's attention, it just might work. When she looked my way, I stood up and held out my left arm with the palm of my hand open towards the entrance to the gangway as though to invite her to come. She tried but kept being stalled by EMI representatives. We could see she wanted to come. Steve came over to us and eventually said he would go and "rescue" her and bring her over. It took several more minutes but she eventually managed to break away so that Keith, our other UK Correspondent Dave Ludlow and his daughter Emma, and I spent, maybe, about fifteen minutes with her. It may even have been longer; time passes so quickly when you're with Hayley.

As ever, Hayley greeted us like friends and was absolutely delightful. She did not appear in any way disappointed not to have won an award. I did not mention it just in case she was concealing some disappointment. She probably thought nothing of it. Knowing her, it probably had never seriously crossed her mind that she just might win. Had she won, she would probably have been the only person in the whole of the Royal Albert Hall to be genuinely surprised. I know someone who was in the audience that night who is a great fan of Bryn Terfel and even he was surprised and fully expected Hayley to win.

Neither Keith nor Dave mentioned the result either but we had a great time chatting about Hayley's experiences since we last saw her and some of her plans for the future. One thing that was clarified was this: We were under the impression that she would remain in the UK from now until her appearance at the Hampton Court Palace Festival next month, taking her exams in the meantime. However, Hayley told us that she will return to America on Monday and will come back here for Hampton Court. Her exams are in November.

As soon as our meeting ended, Hayley had to make a live broadcast for New Zealand television. So, we wished her well until the next time we see her (which is only three weeks away) and left.

Hayley, thank you for another wonderful evening and for the time you gave us which, as ever, was very much appreciated. Your day will come. Regardless of the outcome on this occasion, you are still my number one and you always will be.

Roger Mansbridge

28th May 2004


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