Evening of "Pure" Pleasure
review [by Keith] of
the Aled Jones Concert, North Wales Theatre, Llandudno on 7th
October 2003 With Special Guest Star Hayley Westenra.
the mid 1980’s, I was entranced by the fabulous voice
of a boy who, on more than one occasion, was referred to as
"The Treble". For those who are not aware of it, "treble"
is the word used to describe a boy soprano. This boy was Aled
Jones. Aled’s voice did not break until he was sixteen,
and then it broke with a vengeance in the middle of a recording
session. His career as "The Treble" was over. This
hailed the start of years of waiting for his return. It was
well worth the wait, for Aled has returned with a magnificent
unlike boys, girls do not experience that caprice. No, their
voices just get better as they mature. None establish this fact
more comprehensively than Hayley Westenra. Her voice is clear
as crystal, with a bell-like purity which tells not of a good
voice, but a truly great voice.
have had the great honour of meeting both Hayley and her father,
Gerald, twice now. On both occasions I found them warm and welcoming.
On the second occasion I was greeted as a friend, which moved
what has this to do with reviewing the concert performance?
I feel it has much to do with it, because it gives an insight
of the person who took part. It should be said that Aled is
no less genuine and friendly. Both are great ambassadors of
their art. Anyway, down to business.
Prior to the concert, and during the interval, the music being
played featured the boys choir "Libera".
A most excellent choir producing beautiful music. The concert
opened with Aled giving a flawless rendition of "All
Through the Night" in both Welsh and English.
With an opening like this, could the standard be maintained
throughout the evening? I will answer that question later. When
Aled finished his first song, the appreciation showed by the
capacity audience was not in doubt. They loved it.
to perform were a violin duo called "Duel". They are
Craig Owen and Greg Scott, two young men who are masters of
their art, and of whom we will surely hear much more in the
years to come. They played six pieces:
Dance No. 5"
Christmas Mr. Lawrence"
of these pieces were played with passion and drama. So much
so that it seemed they were finishing almost before they began.
came back on and gave a truly beautiful performance of "Vespera".
The audience was now caught up completely in the fantastic entertainment
of the evening. They were certainly ready to receive Hayley.
Aled introduced her, and she came on to a wonderful, unreserved
round of applause. She approached the microphone and spoke.
"Diolch yn Fawr" –
Welsh for "thank you very much".
That brought a cheer and yet more applause. Three little words
and she was ready to take control of this audience, who were
only too happy for her to do so.
began with "River of Dreams",
a most beautiful and melodious song which instantly showed skilful
interpretation of her music, her perfect voice in both pitch
and tone, and her control. The audience loved it and showed
it in no short measure. Next, she sang "Dark
Waltz", a thoughtful, mysterious, haunting
song which had the audience listening in wonder at the maturity
of technique and performance from one so young. Hearts were
melting in that auditorium and you could feel the growing warmth
of the audience for Hayley.
third song from Hayley was the traditional favourite, "Amazing
Grace". Performed with reverence and feeling,
and illustrating the easy precision which is such a rare talent.
And those high notes at the end still send a shiver down my
spine – I could see that I was not the only one so affected.
Hayley introduced her final solo song, "Hine
e Hine". Some of those present had heard
it at the Faenol Festival on 24th August and it was obvious
that this simply heightened appreciation for this beautiful
Maori lullaby. Hayley was, by this time, in total control. She
had spoken to the audience quite a bit between her songs, and
had impressed the audience with her genuine, open honesty and
unassuming, charming character. This was the second time I had
seen an audience listening so intently, hanging on her every
word. Everyone in the house had thoroughly enjoyed Hayley’s
solo performance and, as she left the stage (once again with
that lovely little wave I had first seen at Faenol), the audience
was intent on giving her a lengthy round of rapturous applause.
The microphones were re-set, and it was time for Aled to join
Hayley in a duet of "Pokarekare Ana".
what had so far been a fabulous evening took a huge leap forward.
It is only my opinion but, I feel that this Maori love song
is much better suited to a baritone voice than it is to a tenor;
and Hayley’s incredible soprano is complemented better,
too. When Hayley sings with others, and I know of Russell Watson,
Aled Jones, Bryn Terfel and Jose Carreras, her brilliance sparkles
even brighter. Singing together, Hayley and Aled gave a performance
which was emotionally moving. Well, it was for me and, I must
admit that throughout this song I was oblivious of the rest
of the audience. It was only when it ended that I was brought
back to reality by the fact that the approval being shown by
the audience was far greater after this piece than any which
had gone before. This was the end of the first half of the concert
– which was just as well. I felt that the audience needed
a chance to catch their breath. According to the programme,
Hayley’s part in the concert was over.
second half began with Aled singing "San Damiano".
He then answered some questions from members of the audience,
exhibiting an easy friendliness and brilliant communication
with his public. Next on Was Helen Cole, a harpist of exceptional
ability. She played two pieces which, due to the high I was
now on, I found I could not remember the titles of. In fact,
I would now be lost if I didn’t have the programme to
this, Aled performed:
Gan" – a song I had first heard performed
by James Rainbird as the opening theme in the film "Empire
of the Sun".
of the White Rock"
You Not Hear My Lady?"
of these were thoroughly enjoyable but, to some extent, wasted
on me. I was still wallowing in the wondrous performance Hayley
had given. According to the programme, Aled was now to sing
"Ave Maria". It was a delightful
surprise when he announced that Hayley would be singing it with
him. He introduced her for this song as "….my
was so engrossed in the performance that I swear someone could
have borrowed money off me without me really knowing.
last song on the programme, "How Great Thou
Art", was given as an encore. During this
song, I thought only of Hayley and her singing. The evening
ended with Aled, joined by the audience, singing the Welsh National
Going back to the question I asked earlier, "could
the standard be maintained throughout the evening?"
The answer is that it was not just maintained, it was improved
upon repeatedly throughout. But none impressed me more than
Hayley. I find that the more I listen to her music, the better
she seems to get. Then, to see her perform live just takes your
appreciation a quantum leap higher.
the end of the concert, the entire audience were on their feet
giving a standing ovation to not just Aled, but to "Duel"
and Helen Cole and, at least in my case, especially to Hayley.
to be greeted by Gerald with a big smile and warm handshake,
and then Hayley calling "Hi, Keith" to me
from their car, plus their thanks for being there to support
her just keeps warming my heart to them both, but particularly
to Hayley, all the more.
I took my leave of them, they left the car park first, turning
right as I was about to turn left. As they turned out onto the
road, Hayley had turned in the back seat, and was sporting a
gorgeous big smile as she waved to me. This is an image which
will stay in my mind’s eye far into the future.
again, Hayley has given me the most fantastic night out. I can’t
wait until I get the chance to see her perform live again.
Thank you Hayley.
Reviews Menu 2003