Teenage star wins hearts

 Q U E E N S T O W N    S T O R Y

18 March 2002

STAR QUALITY: Teenage popera star Hayley Westenra woos the 3000-strong crowd at Saturday's Quest on Queenstown charity concert.
SUE FEA/The Southland Times

Sensational Hayley Westenra stole the hearts of nearly 3000 people when she performed with a maturity way beyond her 14 years as the star closing act of Saturday's Quest to Queenstown charity musical extravaganza.

Hayley was the icing on a complex cake, which took 200 people and months to prepare and which won the fans at the dramatic Lakeside Estates setting of composer and performer Kevin Carlin's.

The Burnside High fifth-former leaves for Dublin in a fortnight to record her first international CD release with Decca Records. She will tour Britain with Britain's leading classical/cross-over star Russell Watson next month.

While Hayley charmed the crowd, moving many to tears, entertainer Suzanne Prentice, who described Hayley as having that rare "X factor," had them rocking. A dramatic delivery by concert organiser Carlin and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra of hits from Carlin's classical CD, The Quest, brought a true musical drama to life.

Perfectly-timed pyrotechnics exploded with synchronised precision, catching the odd on-stage television cameraman and photographer off guard. Carlin's on-stage accompaniment included last year's 18-year-old Barber Shop quartet champions Hannah Calder and Nicole Campbell, of Christchurch, and piper Jimmy Young.

Carlin's son, Conner, 8, made his professional drumming debut on stage with his father performing Moondance. But it was young sufferers of the rare and distressing skin disorder, epidermolysis bullosa (EB), like six-year-old Holly Gilshnan, of Christchurch, and Wellington teenager Humphrey Hanley, who were the biggest winners on Saturday. Both were in the audience.

Known as "the butterfly children," EB sufferers spend three hours a day treating and dressing their wounds. The touch of clothing tears their skin and their throats rip and scar when they eat.

Carlin, with help from his 10-year-old daughter Alexis, handed over two giant $20,000 cheques, one to help sufferers of EB and the other to the New Zealand Plunket Society. The concert raised $10,000 each for both causes. Carlin's family doubled the cheques with another $10,000 gift to each cause.

For Carlin, who will tour New Zealand in June with singer Art Garfunkel, of Simon and Garfunkel fame, the result could not have been better. The weather cleared on cue: "I was thrilled – it was my bungy jump – it's (music) what I do for thrills."

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