Sun, August 17, 2003 Singapore

Hayley Westenra showcases her mix of music


EVERY generation has had its child stars. From Judy Garland to Michael Jackson and Charlotte Church, they must have been born singing. No different for Hayley Westenra, the latest 'angel-voiced' teenager to hit the spotlight.

This New Zealander, who will be performing in a showcase today, wowed audiences at school when a teacher told her parents that their little one was pitch perfect and should be encouraged. Westenra didn't need much cajoling, taking to the violin, piano and several other instruments with gusto. She took part in musical theatre productions and cut a demo.

After being spotted while busking with sister Sophie, and put on television, Westenra released a few albums that sent her soaring to the top of the New Zealand charts. When her talent was spotted by Universal Music, her blossoming career was put in the hands of Sir George and Giles Martin. Sir George, who made the Beatles sound great, and son helped make Westenra quite a voice to be reckoned with.

Her first international album, Pure, tosses up a mix of material - from classical to traditional Maori and pop - and Westenra is keen on furthering the classical-crossover category. 'It's important to try different things,' reckons the 16-year-old who bubbles with teenage excitement.

The photogenic linguist - she's learning French, Italian and German - is revelling in the limelight and is enjoying the jet-setting ways of the international performer, complete with tutor.

Like most teenagers, there is a sense of longing for familiarity while on the road, but that passes quickly when the pace picks up. 'I definitely want to do this. When I was younger, I always enjoyed singing, but never expected this would happen. It's a dream come true,' she enthuses. The mix of music has helped to keep things interesting for Westenra. By blending a largely classical repertoire with some sophisticated pop fare, Westenra is aiming for a long-haul career.

Already, her talent has seen her performing with Russell Watson, and soon with Jose Carreras, at Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival in Wales. Westenra is the first to admit there's lots to learn on the road ahead. 'There's lots more pressure to do well. People are relying on me to do well. I can't let them down.'


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