Thursday, September 11, 2003

Voice Of An Angel


She was invited by Posh Spice to sing at her birthday bash, called a phenomenon by Russel Watson, requested to perform at the Classical Brit Awards in London, and worked with Beatles producer, Sir George Martin on her album. Quite a feat for a girl who is only 16 years old. New Zealander Hayley Westenra, whose repertoire of classical songs shot her to stardom in her native land, has earned the honour of being the biggest-selling local artist ever in New Zealand.

She is currently celebrating the release of her first international debut album, Pure, consisting of a mix of classical, modern and cover songs as opposed to her two previous albums, the self-titled Hayley Westenra, which was a mix of show music and classical pieces, and My Gift To You, a classical-styled Christmas album.

Although Hayley sees herself primarily as a classical performer, she does not wish to limit herself to a stylistic corner, singing only classical tunes. She has also agreed with her record company that she should aim to reach a wider audience. Thus on Pure, she has included a range of styles such as pop, traditional Maori songs, operatic and theatrical tunes. The music in Pure truly showcases her amazing vocal skills, whose voice reviewers describe as angelic. Her vocal prowess is particularly highlighted in the beautiful harmonies of Kate Bushís Wuthering Heights, where her excellent rendition of this hauntingly beautiful song would surely make Kate Bush nod in approval.

Hayley, who travels with her dad Gerald Westenra (heís also her manager) and her make-up artist, is currently on tour in Asia to promote her album. Galaxie met up with Hayley and chatted with this waif-like beauty with the captivating voice.


Every artist has a success story. Whatís yours?
I recorded a demo album when I was 13 and made about 1,000 copies to distribute. I gave one to a lady who turned out to be a TV station journalist and she arranged for a TV appearance, and Gray Bartlett (a leading New Zealand concert promoter) spotted me and that led to a deal with Universal Music.

What propelled you to sing?
I come for an artistic family of musicians with the exception of my dad (he is a gemologist). My grandparents on both sides used to perform in hotels, pubs and even on radio. Even my mum was a singer so it sort of rubbed off on us, the children.

And when was your first concert?
At six, when I performed at a school show called "The Little Star". I was playing the lead for the show and after the show, my teacher, Mrs.Compton suggested that I take up a musical instrument to nurture my talent.

You have two Maori songs in your album. Do you actually speak the language?
We learn Maori in school but it is not so widely spoken, and so I had to make sure I had the pronunciation right in Pokarekare Ana and Hine e Hine.

What was the idea of having two Maori songs in the album?
Itís because I am a New Zealander and itís part of my identity, and in school, weíd always sing Maori songs. They are truly beautiful songs to sing with a mass meaning behind them. Pokarekare Ana is about someone leaving to sea and leaving loved ones behind. Hine e Hine is a lullaby, a mum singing her daughter to sleep.

Do you choose the songs on the album?
I choose all the songs but a lot of them were suggested to me. Wuthering Heights wasnít on my original list but Giles the producer and my mum were the ones who asked me to give the song a try. But itís not like they push any songs on me.

Why choose the classical music genre when other young artists would prefer to do pop or rock?
When I was younger, I did try to sing pop music but it was quite low and it didnít suit my voice. Classical music was introduced to me and I enjoyed singing it so much. But on my album, itís not strictly classical style but I also included a few poppier tracks like Who Painted The Moon Black and a few others. Just a bit more variety.

Classical music seems very rooted in you. Did you grow up listening to classical then?
I did. Apparently when I was a baby, my parents used to play classical music to me. Subconsciously, that may have influenced me.

What music do you listen to now?
Coldplay, The Corrs, Destinyís Child, Enrique Iglesias and many others.

Youíre constantly compared to Charlotte Church. Do you mind the comparisons?
I met her while I was singing in Cardiff at Russel Watsonís concert. Sheís really lovely and I donít mind the comparison. It doesnít really bother me that much. But I do want to make my own mark, and have my own style. I donít want to be another Charlotte Church.

Thanks to RWHW Group for this item


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