Hayley Westenra International report
by Peter Such
The Hall To
avoid repetition I'll link readers to my 'Hayley Westenra in a Christmas
Concert with Pennine Brass and at the invitation of Huddersfield Methodist
Choir' post which is on the HWI
That post gives a background to Huddersfield and its glorious Concert Hall.
Pictures were then not forthcoming but I did take a few of this glorious
concert hall this time round.
herself commented on what a marvellous hall this is and how much she enjoyed
a return visit. An idea of the pressure she is under is that there were
several songs where she had electronic backing due to lack of rehearsal
time and the need to arrange the music, that last probably being the key
element. Arranging orchestral work for a brass band is no mean feat and
I suspect Hayley wanted full participation. There is also the time factor
of gaining clearance from the original composer, presumably. I assume the
tracks were the ones from the recording studio taken at the time before
mixing-in her voice for the final master. These questions and the definitive
colour of her first dress are questions I would have liked to have asked
had the opportunity been there. [In fact, editing my original forum posts
for this main review I have since learned from the lady herself that the
colour of this dress was aqua.]
to the audience, it is difficult to assess who was there for the band and
who was there for Hayley. The hall was packed. What was clear was that last
time the audience were there for the Methodist Choir, their regular performers
and Hayley by repute. This time, they welcomed Hayley for herself and the
local reputation she had acquired previously.
came on stage the applause was a warm one for her as the person, not simple
appreciation of a celebrated artist of distant reputation. A warmth of applause
that increased as the evening progressed-and she gave us eight songs!
programme was a
straight forward 8pp full colour job on good quality art paper. The key
four lines of the heading went in the following degree of emphasis: 2,3,4,1.
INNOVATE Skelmanthorpe Band In Concert
with Special Guest Hayley
details of date and venueA partial
showing of a euphonium next to a prominent head and neck shot of Hayley
in the current promotional pose of three-quarter face on, her eyes looking
extreme left and wearing (though barely in the picture) that red dress. All
this was white lettered out of a three-quarter weight red to orange colour.
At the bottom, interestingly was the official web address, standing out quite
prominently under which was 'by arrangement with Solo'.
is carried through at the top of each double-page spread with different heads
of Hayley, going back over the last four or five years. They are pictures
with which we are all familiar but interestingly the youngest of them I think
is taken from the Russell Watson open-air concert in NZ.
opening spread is all about Hayley: her discovery and rapid progress. The
centre spread is the programme. The last spread devotes one page to the band
and the other to an advertisement to which half the back page is devoted, the
other half devoted to Acknowledgements of sponsors. Regrettably, there is not
any break-down of the band which I would have found very useful. I am not
familiar with the composition of brass bands. In my December report I said I
was not particularly enamoured of them. I have changed my mind since hearing
these two excellent bands. Both, I suspect regularly enter competitions and the
music is carefully chosen to reflect their instrumental balance. Too often, I
suspect, one mostly hears brass bands 'playing music', rather than music
specifically arranged for them. A point I shall mention later.
an established local raconteur of (to me) original jokes, several of which
(most unusually) remain with me. At least the ones I understood. The broad
well, let's say
'local' accent as I'm not too sure which side of the Pennines I'm in (or he
was from!), meant that I was often still deciphering the joke while the rest
of the audience were already laughing at it. In one or two instances I simply
never got it at all. Unfortunately, the ones I remember are of the more risqué type
and being sensitive to the diverse range of our readers (some quite young)
I cannot share them here. I could, however, imagine Hayley in her dressing
room hearing them over the Tannoy and emitting that lovely infectious giggle
of hers-for the jokes' value as jokes, not necessarily because they were risqué!
Strauss' (arranged by Banks) Fest Musik Der Stadt Wien. This was followed by a
rarely heard Suppé overture Tantalusqualen. It reminded me I have an LP of
several Suppé overtures which I have not played for some time. This overture
is one of them. For me, it showed what a brass band can do when orchestral
music is properly arranged for the changed composition of players.
introduced by the compère and greeted by a warm, spontaneous and affectionate
applause. In both parts she was described in the programme as giving us 'A
selection of songs from her albums 'Odyssey' and 'Pure''. The dress she
wore was essentially a satin under-slip in aqua with simple shoulder straps
over which was a midnight blue chiffon over dress, hence my difficulty
originally in defining the colour.
with Pokarekare Ana. Initially there was no difference to what we know. The
clear, bell-like tones of her soaring voice open that expectation of her
pure musical beauty. Then the orchestra comes in gently behind her. but there
an orchestra. Lacking strings and woodwind what came in, almost sotto voce
but with wonderful depth of tone was the euphonium section. That was the
moment, later confirmed by Hayley almost apologetically for using recorded
backing later on (due to lack of time for rehearsal and arrangement) that
one realises just how hardworking this girl really is.
It is not
just a question of jetting here and there-look at this past week: Sunday in Germany;
Tuesday Sloane Square; Thursday Wisley, a pre-show radio interview, rehearsal
and performance; Saturday Germany then Harrogate; Sunday Germany. It is the
behind-the-scenes work of continually selecting and balancing not just varying
programmes but programmes with varying musical support: piano and violin,
string only and orchestras of different sizes. This past week: Tuesday with a
sextet or octet, we couldn't recall; Thursday a full-scale orchestra, Saturday
a brass band. Not just song changes but different instruments and numbers
of instrumental players.
New-style Interview with Hayley? What
I would love to hear, or read, would be an interview with Hayley conducted
by someone with the appropriate technical knowledge, to discuss with
her just what goes on behind-the-scenes. We know she looks at tunes
with particularly appealing lilt or words that are meaningful. In short,
that which musically or lyrically has depth, nothing trite. Clearly,
there is another dimension, the complexity of arranging for different
instrumental combinations. How does she go about this? How does she
indicate the interpretation she wants with the specialists, as with
an orchestral or band conductor? What are the complications with the
relevant composers or their estates for copyright clearances? It seems
composers may need, or should appreciate, arrangers in the same way
that writers need editors. Where and how does Hayley interact in this
diversity of juxtapositions? When one thinks of all this background one
really begins to understand just how much work this girl puts in behind-the-scenes
in every public appearance she makes.
was what we are accustomed to: a fantastically enthusiastic response from
the hall. She explained the background to Pokarekare Ana as the conductor
stepped aside and disappeared. I had thought she was about to sing a
she then apologised for the use of backing tracks and introduced 'The Water
is Wide'. She then explained her interest in, and admiration for, Joni
work, saying that every time she sang her songs, the following one in
particular, she seemed to find different meanings in each line. The song
'Both Sides Now'.
time on stage there were two different lighting approaches to which she
responded in the classic Hayley manner, adapting to the different opportunities
each gave her. During this and the following song 'Lascia Ch'io Panga' she was
on a darkened stage with a follow spot. This sense of isolation gave her stage
presence a sense of exquisite vulnerability, adding more feeling by inference
to her singing. Later, with house lights partially up she used the technique
I noted in my Christmas report, 'playing to the gallery', except this time she
was 'playing to the whole audience as individuals'.
I am sure
she made that whole audience believe she was singing straight to each of
them, whether or not she could actually see them. I am sure I caught a flicker
of recognition as her eye caught mine. Perhaps it was only a flicker of the
lights reflecting in her eyes. She has said 'The stage is my space. I feel at home
there'. Without doubt she was aware of everything around her, every aspect
of the whole and the whole was a part of her. For those moments we felt we
had been invited into her home and she was totally in command without seeming
to be so.
applause as Hayley left the stage, which led to the band's final two pieces for
Part 1. 'Fugue from Graduation Day' by Philip Sparke and a rendition of
'Somewhere' from Bernstein's 'West Side Story'. An interesting arrangement
that was clearly challenging but the orchestral version is so well known I
felt this rendition a pale imitation. Nonetheless, one could admire the artistry
with which the arranger had tried to evoke the mood of the orchestral version.
Part 2 started with three
pieces with which I was totally unfamiliar and about which I can only say
gave the opportunity for the various soloists and instrumental sections
to 'strut their
stuff'. They were 'Start of Something Big' arranged by D Roberts but otherwise
without authorship. 'Vitae Lux' by Frode Alnaes arranged by T Aagaard-Nilsen
and a very jazzy piece in which the band really let go called 'Sparkling
Diamonds' arranged by Sandy Smith.
Hayley reappeared. This time she
wore a royal blue to light navy silk dress, again with a chiffon or tulle
over dress. I gained the impression she had commissioned a basic pattern
upon which she rings the changes regarding colour and presentation. The dress
is what I would describe as a Jane Austen style, high waisted and flowing
straight down, except in this case it ended at her knees in a deliberately
'haphazard' fashion. It is a very fetching design and I wonder if the implied
economy is monetary (not that she needs that economy but simply she is
an economically-minded girl) or economy of time to make, her schedule being
so demanding. Maybe it is simply a fashion statement, with Pride and Prejudice
and Jane Austen generally being much in vogue.
with 'Quanta Qualia', followed by 'Prayer' the background to which she
explained fully. Then she sang 'Across the Universe of Time'. She completed
this section with a fulsome rendition of 'Amazing Grace'. Then she left the
stage to rapturous applause and an unquestioned demand, through calls and determined
continuation of clapping, for an encore. She declined and I thought she had
made a mistake not to heed that audience response. Of course she hadn't!
and Victory' from 'Cry of the Celts' arranged by Graham announced the band's
closing section followed by the Finale from Stravinsky's 'The Firebird'. This
was a very interesting piece. It is music with which I am personally very
familiar, not only because I like it as music but because it has been used as
mood music for one or two Shakespeare productions in which I have been
involved. It is an orchestral piece and showed the limitations of transmuting
music from one set of instruments to another. I could admire the ingenuity with
which the play of instruments and their registers mimicked the missing strings
and woodwind but in that mimicking they emphasised their absence. Disappointed
in the rendition I could nonetheless, perhaps perversely because of the
disappointment, admire the extraordinary skills that an arranger requires in
adapting music from one intended presentation to another. This piece also
helped to bring home to me the hard work that lies behind Hayley's so often,
seemingly 'throw away' remark of 'arranging' something.
compère again, this time giving the usual 'winding down' tributes. A joke or
two and then, 'Do you want any more?' There was a slightly puzzled response.
After all, we hadn't indicated we wanted an encore. So we said, 'yes',
seemingly out of politeness, 'Pardon?' 'YES!' we shouted back in the spirit of
the music hall. 'Ladies and Gentlemen, Hayley Westenra'! Now we knew why
Hayley had declined the audience's previous and very obvious desire that she
should return earlier. The thunderous, rapturous applause that greeted her
return to the stage let her know quite clearly what was the audience's opinion.
The applause kept her waiting for some little while until she hushed it in
order to move on.
describe the closing song as Hayley used to describe it. As a Maori lullaby to
which theme NZ TV used to close down as a little kiwi climbed up into the
satellite dish and tucked himself in bed. But this was a rendition to which I
was unfamiliar. This was a lullaby to waken, not put to sleep but the waking
would surely have been to sing joyously with it and not to cry. This was after
all the finale to a splendid evening of music. Crescendo rose upon crescendo
to finally die with the fading notes of the band only to rise again, this
time with the crescendo of an appreciative audience expressing their thanks
to a young girl who had given them so much pleasure that evening. A young
girl, whose natural generosity of spirit insisted on sharing that applause
with all the other players.
presented her with a bouquet. A young man came on stage, handed her the bouquet
and seemingly unsure, or not wishing to presume upon the traditional kiss
on each cheek, nodded his head. It was she who leaned right forward and kissed
him, I think fully on the lips but my angle may have mistaken and it was
to the side of the mouth. Which ever, the audience approved. It is without
doubt that the young man, turning towards the audience to leave, wore an
enormous grin and left the stage somewhat pinker of cheek than when he came
on. I think she had just made his year.