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Entertainment News
5th July, 2001

Hayley Westenra at the Civic Theatre


If the world really does need a successor to the teen-child singing sensation Charlotte Church, then Hayley Westenra from New Zealand might well be It.

A hot property at only 14, with a top-model glide that sometimes defaults to a gangly, school prizegiving walk, and a disarming giggle at the end of her obligatory thank-you speech, Hayley is the wistful face on a "popera" CD that's breaking the 50,000 barrier.

The secret of her phenomenal success and stage personality is in the double agency of her voice. Sometimes it floats pure and clear like a treble in church (sorry, Charlotte), revealing the angel her publicity harps on about.

At other times it is positively seductive, with a sensuous vibrato that adds glamour to the notes, and never once falters in phrasing or pitch.

Here's fine training alongside natural talent, and an unerring gift for commercial imitation that shoots her out of the ranks of wannabes and karaoke funsters into The Big Time. At least in New Zealand.

Not that the concert was always a trouble-free, professional affair.

The lack of programmes was a surprise, as were the occasional popping microphones, elusive balances, guitar-wiring problems ... Wisely, the set was unchanged. On one side, a quartet of strings, on the other a rhythm and keyboard section. Everyone scrubbed up to their youngest, and described as "immense talents."

Violinist Ben Morrison powered through two stunning showpieces with less accuracy than speed.

Tim Beveridge, fresh from success in Cardiff's musical theatre contest, had lots of reverb added to an already-full vibrato, making him suitably "tremulous and tender."

Shaun Dixon can also add a richly commercial vibrato to his fine tenor voice, and partnered Hayley with style.

The star herself stuck religiously to items from her present CD, such as Schubert's Ave Maria and the Lloyd Webber Pie Jesu .

Franck's Panis Angelicus was one of the few "new" pieces, and let Hayley show off her younger siblings - not a good idea since the whiff of the old-fashioned talent show hung in the air.

Other notable solo numbers were The Mists of Islay and Memory.

Clearly, Hayley's runaway CD success is not just a creation of the industry. She lives, moves, and sings just as sweetly in real life, and her fans love it.

Tomorrow the world, maybe.

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