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Review 02 - By Brian Harmer - 1st September 2001

Mary and I went into town on Tuesday evening to a concert starring the young soprano, Hayley Westenra in the Michael Fowler Centre.

It was one of those moody nights with reasonably clear weather in the Hutt Valley and something dense and
grey obscuring the city from view. The skyline to the West where the remnants of the sunset should have clear that a cloudburst was occurring. Even from a close as the Ngauranga Gorge it was not possible to seeany trace of anything other than the brightest lights on the water's side. Suddenly it started raining. Since I had been driving towards it for the last ten minutes this ought not to have been a surprise. Wham! From drywindscreen to the need for the high speed wiper setting in less than three seconds! However, we soon emerged on the other side, and found ourselves in the prowling process of look for a park near the Michael Fowler Centre.

Considering that the star of the show is a mere 14 years old, she may have felt intimidated by an audience which seemed to contain very few under-fifties. Since our decision to go was very much at the last minute, we were near the back in a very full house. In front of us was a vast sea of predominantly grey hair, which,now that I think of it, was nicely offset against the lovely warm timber of the hall. Now I have neither the competence nor the intention to offer a concert review, yet I can't avoid passing a few comments. For those who have never heard of her, Hayley is a young Christchurch girl who is attracting favourable comparisons with the British soprano, Charlotte Church.

I don't mean to "spam" you, but I commend to your attention the site which advertises her CD, which was the third top seller in NZ this week according to:

cassette image RIANZ: http://netcd.co.nz/cgi-bin/netCD/Recordings.cgi?61781 CD image

There are a few samples on the site, so if you are willing to download them, you can hear Hayley's voice. Considering this is a 14 year old with no serious training, imagine how she will sound as her voice matures, and perhaps is formally trained. Patrick Shepherd reviewed the album in today's Press: "Hayley Westenra has an undoubted talent, a crystal, pure voice which promises much. For any singer, this is a most accomplished album. For a 14-year-old, it is remarkable. Her voice has an ethereal quality in the live recording of Amazing Grace, which is both very moving and, to be honest, more satisfying than some of the bigger production numbers." I had been reluctant to go to the concert because there were so many supporting artists I had never heard of including two male singers and a violinist, a guitarist, and a choir.

The two male singers were Shaun Dixon and Tim Beveridge. The violinist, also a mere 14 years, was Ben Morrison. And unadvertised, Hayley's younger sister Sophie, 11 and her brother Isaac who is 8, also creditably accompanied her for a few numbers. What an amazing family. The programme was skilfully selected for the audience, with lyric pieces for almost everyone. Among the many pieces sung by the two men was the duet "Au fond du temple sant" from Bizet's the Pearl Fishers. They made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. But as I said, I am no reviewer.

I am just so delighted to have heard such a marvellous pool of genuine young New Zealand talent.

~ Brian Harmer ~

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