Hayley Westenra


There comes a time when an author wants so much to write the perfect article. This is such a time, but I do not believe that even the greatest writer in the world could do justice to this album.

No matter how much I love Hayley’s previous two albums (and if you have read my earlier reviews, you will know that I do), with the release of ‘Pure’ she seems to have musically come of age. I have been buying albums for forty years.

Hayley’s voice, her choice of material, the arrangements and the overall production make this, without doubt, the best album I have ever heard – by anybody. Hayley’s voice is simply adorable. Her charm, which comes across in the songs, is delightful and her beauty is beguiling. A daily dose of Hayley would make us all feel a lot better – they should have her bottled!

I believe that an album should be judged as a whole, as though it were one complete work, rather than as a collection of individual songs. To my mind, it is rare for an album to succeed in that way but this one does. Once it has become familiar due to successive playing, it is as though no one track has ended until the next has begun. Hayley has said that she doesn’t wish to be restricted to a single category of music – she wants the freedom to sing anything. And so she should. She has certainly achieved that goal here with such an eclectic selection of material. Yet, at the same time, every song does fall into a single category - a unique and very special category. It is called, simply ‘Hayley’….

1. Pokarekare Ana
For anyone who has never heard Hayley’s voice, this makes a perfect introduction for it immediately attracts the listener’s attention. With its Maori lyric, haunting melody and dynamic arrangement, it is absolutely stunning. I must have heard it a hundred times and every time it sends shivers down my spine. Turn up the volume and let the music take you. And listen to the dramatic entry of the backing vocals; then hear Hayley’s voice soaring high in the clouds. Oh, how it gets you. It is magnificent and triumphant.

2. Never Say Goodbye
As if anyone would want to say goodbye having heard the opening track! Delightful though its Maori lyric was, it is refreshing to hear her now sing in English. The words are charming and the melody, by Ravel, beautiful. It is Hayley’s voice, of course, that makes it so special.

3. Who Painted the Moon Black?
I know this is one of Hayley’s favourites and I can see why. It is a truly lovely song. The words pull at the heartstrings yet, although it has sad undertones, its melody, and Hayley’s presentation, are so delightful that nobody could be saddened by the song. I can’t imagine anyone showcasing this song as well as Hayley does. Her voice is soothing, even sympathetic and her phrasing is perfect. Hayley, I never discovered who it was that painted the moon black. All I know is this. You have painted it all the beautiful colours of the rainbow – especially gold.

4. River Of Dreams
Wow! This is too gorgeous for words. I always loved this section of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ but never envisaged a vocal version. This is truly breathtaking and utterly beautiful. The vocal and orchestral backing towards the end, now at a slower pace, is truly amazing.

5. Benedictus
This sacred work comes from ‘The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace’ by Karl Jenkins. Hayley’s voice, initially backed by little more than the vocal chorus, lulls you into an apparent eternal tranquillity. Then, without warning comes a mighty explosion of sound complete with heavy timpani and brass fanfare above which Hayley is heard singing her heart out. I hesitate to repeat a much-used comparison but it is impossible to complete this review without one. Hayley really does have the voice of an angel. This is as good a place as any to say so but it is applicable throughout the album.

6. Hine e Hine
Another fantastic arrangement of a delightful song. Perhaps this one needs to be heard a few times before its beauty becomes apparent but there’s nothing wrong with that. Once it becomes familiar it is a delightful experience to listen closely and just drown in its loveliness. [See also track 13]

7. Dark Waltz
There is a dark and mystical feel to this song as its introduction languishes in apparent despair. Paradoxically, the opening line says otherwise: “We are the lucky ones….” No, it is we who are lucky to have had such a world-class singer enter our lives.

8. Amazing Grace
This instantly recognisable song is given new and refreshing life by Hayley’s equally recognisable voice. Always delightful, this arrangement includes another moment of great intensity at the beginning of the third verse - the change of key, the inclusion of percussion and the fortissimo of all other instrumental backing is really rousing. Then comes the peaceful final verse with gentle backing vocals and snare drum until it finally fades away.

9. In Trutina
Here is another excursion into the classical genre. From Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, this is a splendid contrast to most of the preceding tracks. Together with tracks 2, 4 and 5, it justifies the decision to display the album, largely, in the Classical sections of most stores. But it equally belongs in other categories. Indeed, some larger stores have them on display under Pop, Easy Listening, New Releases, and Seasonal as well as Classical. Quite right too. With talent like this she should be everywhere!

10. Beat Of Your Heart
Yet another fine song, this time from the combined pens of George and Giles Martin which Hayley sings perfectly. There is such emotion in her voice which suggests that she cares for everyone. Having met her, I truly believe that she does.

11. Heaven
Compared to the previous two tracks, this is just a little more up-tempo but still it has a feeling of peace about it. A delightful instrumental enhances the overall effect of the song. Who could doubt that they are in Heaven upon hearing a voice like this?

12. Wuthering Heights
….And they always said that no-one could ever sing this song as well as Kate Bush. Up to now that has probably been true. The complexity of the melody and the vocal style in which the earlier version was recorded surely make it impossible to emulate. Then Hayley came along and once again transcended all expectations. Not only that, but she stamped her own identity all over it. This version is truly amazing. ‘Wuthering Heights’ is due to be released as a single in the UK in March. It should do well - a stunning performance.

13. Hine e Hine (Maori mix)
When there is such a magnificent rendering of this song earlier on the album, was there any justification in its further inclusion simply to add the voices of the Te Tau Choir? The answer is a resounding YES! The wonder of this great song would justify its inclusion several times (but not at the expense of the other material!). Furthermore, it adds a true flavour of New Zealand to the song. It is a perfect way to close a perfect album….

So this was Hayley’s first international album. We all know that it has become the fastest selling debut album in the classical charts. And deservedly so. As I write this, I am hearing that it has gone double platinum in the UK (that is 600,000 units) and that it has been at No 1 in the New Zealand charts now for 21 weeks! How much further can it go? Well, I will make a prediction. I fully expect that, by the time her next album is released, ‘Pure’ will have sold, worldwide, in excess of 3,000,000 copies. Hayley, I congratulate you on the success that you so richly deserve. And for all you do, I salute you. And for all you are, I love you dearly. We all do.

Roger Mansbridge



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