Music: Refreshing Kiwi
hip hop and R&B dominating the charts and female
singers trying to outdo each other in getting down and
dirrty' on their records as well in concerts and
videos, it's so refreshing to see a 16-year-old heading
the other way.
Zealand's Hayley Westenra performed at the Panggung
Bandaraya recently and let her voice and talent shine
through in a set featuring folk songs and and standards.
a pretty knee length dress decorated with butterfly
motifs and backed by an acoustic guitarist, it was a
show of the utmost simplicity for the most part.
started the show with perhaps the most famous Maori
song of all, Hurry Hurry Home, plus songs from her album
Pure like Who Painted the Moon Black, Never Say Goodbye,
and Across the Universe of Time.
displayed an exceptional voice, a clear, strong and
rich soprano. Sort of Sarah Brightman, Sally Oldfield,
Kate Bush sound, that you can only achieve with lots
of training and practice, and natural talent.
then she was born into a family of singers her
grandparents on both sides sang in pubs and on the radio
Hayley's perfect pitch was noticed by a schoolteacher
when at the age of six she performed in a school Christmas
is now 16, a major artiste in her native New Zealand,
with a performance portfolio that includes the Royal
Philharmonic Orchestra and Russell Watson. Hayley's
voice so inspired New Zealand opera diva Dame Malvina
Major she offered to tutor her. Hayley's first international
CD release is Pure.
I was singing show tunes and light classical music.
It was all one genre, whereas now I've got a lot more
variety. I'm going to more extremes with proper classical
pieces and poppier songs. Making this album has broadened
the way I sing. I've developed different singing styles."
Hayley sees herself as primarily a classical performer,
but she does not wish to put herself into a stylistic
corner, and on Pure she explores the worlds of pop,
traditional Maori choral singing, and gives a new freshness
to well-known classical repertoire. The album's producer
Giles Martin enrolled a number of people to help Hayley
achieve this, including his father, legendary Beatles
producer Sir George Martin.
eldest of three artistic children (Isaac, Sophie and
Hayley), Hayley is adept at piano, violin and ballet.
Her parents, Christchurch gemologist Gerald and his
wife Jill naturally encourage their children, but insist
they're not pushy stage parents. They are facilitating
their children's artistic wishes whether it is dancing,
music or acting, not the other way round. In stark contrast
to most children who have to be forced to practise,
Hayley took every opportunity to perfect her talents
quickly adding piano and recorder tuition to
her violin lessons, and learning to read music by seven.
It was also around this time that her passion for Musical
Theatre began to take shape. By the age of 11, Hayley
had appeared in over 40 stage productions, sung on TV
shows and performed in major concerts. In 2000, Hayley
recorded a demo album, mainly as what she called a memento'.
This personal souvenir just 1,000 copies were
pressed unlocked the key to her future. On the
day the recording of the CD was completed, Hayley and
her younger sister Sophie (both vocalists, violinists
and pianists while younger brother Isaac plays the flute),
busked in their home town, Christchurch. The pair quickly
drew an enthusiastic crowd. "A woman asked us if
we'd recorded anything." The young busker's fan
was a journalist with a local television station and
Hayley soon appeared on air. The appearance captured
the attention of a leading New Zealand concert promoter
Gray Bartlett, and a deal with Universal Music New Zealand
self-titled debut recording for Universal New Zealand
featured an eclectic mix of show music and classical
pieces; it went straight in at No.1 in the pop charts
(where it remained for four weeks), turned triple platinum
and made Hayley the fastest-selling local artiste in
New Zealand's history. This was soon followed by the
Christmas album My Gift To You.
from the stage, Hayley is a typical teenager. Music
is her top priority but she is also keen on netball,
swimming and indoor rock-climbing and has represented
her school at cross-country running. "Other than
music, I also enjoy ballet dancing, (she has performed
with the Royal New Zealand Ballet) reading, watching
movies, shopping and hanging out with my friends! I
also like listening to music. My favourite artistes
are Nelly Furtado, Craig David, Shakira, The Corrs and
to Andy Wood at www.Hayley-Westenra.com