Self Titled CD


Following a limited edition CD that was only ever made for friends and family, this was Hayley's first commercially available recording, but even this was only ever released in New Zealand. She was astounded last week when I told her that I had bought a copy in HMV in Oxford Street, London! (They have a few more copies if you're quick, as they do of 'My Gift For You'.)

The recording sessions took place in 2001 when Hayley was still only 13 years old yet her voice sounds so mature and rich and she displays such wonderful voice control. Overall, this recording allows the listener 47 minutes of absolute bliss.

1. Walking In The Air (Words and music by Howard Blake)
This was once a hit for Aled Jones and remained popular for years. Now with an intriguingly mystical introduction, a gently cascading theme between verses and Hayley's gorgeous voice always strong and vibrant, it surely causes the listener to believe they are indeed 'walking in the air'.

2. Ave Maria (Bach)
With its omnipresent and highly recognisable tripping piano accompaniment, nobody could ever sing this better. With perhaps a greater level of reverb than usual, it sound as though Hayley is singing in a huge cathedral. Just as it should be. So she can even sing in Latin. Whatever next?

3. Memory (from 'Cats')
This begins with an arrangement for piano and vocal only which enables the listener to concentrate fully on Hayley's wondrous voice. A full instrumental backing then becomes rich and powerful before gradually subsiding to allow Hayley's vocal part to once again transcend all expectations.

4. All I Ask Of You (from 'Phantom of the Opera')
This is sung in duet with Shaun Dixon, a New Zealand tenor aged 23 at the time of the recording. They alternate the lead and blend together perfectly when they sing together.

5. Somewhere (from 'West Side Story')
I feel that 'Somewhere' is a slightly uninspiring title but the opening line, 'There's A Place For Us' generates instant recognition. It is, however, a particularly memorable song from the pen of Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It never sounded more lovely than when Hayley sings it. Her voice is so perfect that you want every note to be held for half an hour or more to enable you to wallow in its beauty.

6. The Mists Of Islay (Music by Wishart Campbell; Lyrics by Gavin Creed)
This sounds for all the world as though it is a traditional song but, in fact, it isn't. In places, the melody is reminiscent of 'The Skye Boat Song' and 'Scarborough Fair'. The island of Islay lies just blow Jura off the west coast of Scotland - a place that evokes a feeling of peace and tranquility. So does the song and, particularly, Hayley's interpretation of it which is quite delightful.

7. Ave Maria (Schubert)
This is enchanting and begins so peacefully it makes one want to drift off to sleep. It sounds a very ambitious work for someone so young to attempt but, Mr Schubert need have no fears. Hayley will never let him down.

8. Bright Eyes (Words and music by Mike Batt)
Of course, we do not know how much time elapsed between the recording of the last track and this one or even that they were recorded in the same order as they appear on the end product but the change in style from classical to popular is magical and seamless, displaying Hayley's eclectic tastes and her great versatility.

This song, originally from the film 'Watership Down' was made popular by Art Garfunkel. It is so well known that any other version will inevitably be compared to it and familiarity usually tends to win. Not so here. Hayley's voice is utterly sensational. It was always a lovely song but, sung by Hayley, has become an eternal favourite. There is a delightful vocal fade-out at the end. Lesser singer's voices can sound frail when singing softly but Hayley's is still strong even as it fades gently away. [Even if it was done electronically, I still think you're brilliant!]

9. Pie Jesu (from 'Requiem')
We return to the classical genre. At least it sounds as though we do, but this was written in 1985 by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Those piercing high notes send shivers down the spine. Hayley is surely capable of taking the lead in some future Lloyd Webber production. Are you reading this, Sir Andrew?

10. Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again (from 'Phantom of the Opera')
Hayley reaches the low notes in this song easily. What an incredible range she has. The instrumental break from violin, cello, piano and cymbals is haunting and delightful but, at the same time seems to demand the return of the vocal. It comes. The final note is so high.... so (I have to use the word) pure.... so perfect.

11. I Dreamed A Dream (from 'Les Miserables')
A fabulous song which never sounded better than this. The central section contains some notes so low that I wouldn't have expected Hayley to reach them. But she does so easily and they sound so rich. The whole song is sung with such feeling and passion that I defy anyone to listen closely to Hayley's voice especially during the final few lines and not be deeply moved.

12. Love Changes Everything (from 'Aspects of Love')
This is probably my favourite Andrew Lloyd Webber song anyway. A few weeks ago it occurred to me that it would be wonderful to hear Hayley sing it. I did not know then that she had recorded it. Here, sometimes singing two tracks in harmony with herself (is there no end to her talent?!) it sounds quite magnificent. Two Hayleys - heavenly. And that top note at the end, perfectly held and controlled for seven seconds. Awesome.

13. God Defend New Zealand (Music by John Joseph Woods; English lyrics by Thomas
Bracken; Maori lyrics by Thomas henry Smith)

This song and 'God Save The Queen' share equal status as the National Anthems of New Zealand but, in the absence of the Queen or a member of the Royal Family, only 'God Defend New Zealand' is used. The words were written in the 1870s and set to music a few years later when a competition was held for that purpose with a prize of ten guineas!

The first verse is arranged simply for vocal with piano accompaniment. The second verse is for vocal and acoustic guitar. Throughout these two verses Hayley's voice sounds quite majestic. Finally comes a synthesiser sounding for all the world like the majesty of a cathedral organ above which her voice sounds triumphant. Throughout, it is a joy to hear.

14. Amazing Grace (Traditional)
Unlike the rest of the album, this song was recorded during a live performance in Hamilton, New Zealand in February 2001. We hear the announcement, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, Hayley Westenra'. The welcoming applause dies away as Hayley begins to sing the ever popular 'Amazing Grace'. It features the pipes and drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The arrangement would sound magnificent as an instrumental but is enhanced by a 13-year-old Hayley whose voice sounds mature beyond her years. Such feeling. Such control. Such emotion. Utterly perfect. As we hear in the closing announcement, it was 'absolutely fantastic. Thank you very much, Hayley.' And so say all of us.

Hayley, if anyone told you at the time that your CD was a success, you tell them they were wrong. It was absolutely magnificent. Tell them, I said so!

The following credit appears in the back of the booklet from the CD:

Jill & Gerald Westenra (Westenra Management)

One wonders how they 'manage' to contain their excitement of being the parents of not only a superstar but also of a truly delightful daughter.... two in fact.... and a son! What a family.

Roger Mansbridge



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