Westenra a classical crossover hit, debuts in Ottawa on Thursday
Hayley Westenra at poses at the Dupont Hotel in New York,
recently. (AP/Jim Cooper)
(CP) - Ever since the breakthrough success of the Lord of the
Rings film series, the spotlight has been shining on New Zealand.
from the country's newfound hipness is Hayley Westenra,
a 17-year-old soprano whose classical singing is appealing to
the easy listening crowd. Her elfin grace and ethereal falsetto
have already made an impression with sales of over one million
of her record Pure.
become the latest classical crossover success following in the
footsteps of other youngsters like Josh Groban.
while she's made it to pop charts in places like Australia,
Japan and the U.K., her serene voice is still unknown to most
North Americans (she's currently sitting at No. 10 on Canada's
classical crossover chart).
about to change with a current promotional blitz of Canada and
the United States, which also includes a campaign with Doritos
alongside singer Nick Lachey, of Newlyweds' fame.
bubbly teen, who is striking thanks to almond-shaped eyes and
waist-length hair, makes her Canadian debut Thursday and Friday
in Ottawa at a Lord of Rings symphony concert with composer
Howard Shore. She'll sing solo vocal parts from the movie including
Annie Lennox's Into the West.
few days later, Westenra will visit Toronto where, with the
help of the New Zealand tourism board, she'll perform for journalists
and retail executives at a posh showcase set in a tony downtown
the phone between rehearsals in Ottawa, Westenra admits "now
that people have seen Lord of the Rings and Whale Rider . .
. definitely people are more aware of New Zealand and they're
fascinated by it."
the guidance of her mom and dad, Westenra began pursuing a music
career long before she hit puberty. A teacher encouraged her
parents to enrol her in violin and piano classes after hearing
her, at age six, sing at an elementary school Christmas pageant.
years ago the family helped record a demo CD in the hopes the
then-12-year-old would be discovered.
didn't have a lot of faith it would happen. I kept on trying
but in the back of my mind I was aware of my chances,"
rest unfolds like any good rags-to-riches tale should. While
busking in her hometown with her younger siblings (also musically
inclined), she was discovered by a TV reporter. An item on the
nightly news caught the attention of a local concert promoter
who helped usher her towards Decca Records, which gave her an
international recording contract.
was quite fortunate," she says.
producer George Martin helped with several of the arrangements
while his son Giles produced the record, which shows off the
young singer's magnificent vocal range and tone. The duo also
wrote the ballad Beat of Your Heart.
two songs in New Zealand's native Maori gives Westenra an Enya-esque
new-age surreality. More traditional classical repertoire like
Amazing Grace, In Trutina and Benedictus are handled with the
poise and control of a seasoned pro. She improves Kate Bush's
high-pitched shrieks on a rendition of the 1978 hit Wuthering
is the closest the teen gets to popular music, although she
lists the Black Eyed Peas, Nelly Furtado and Alicia Keys among
her listening choices.
inspired by their music but I prefer singing more classical
styles," she says.
the Net: www.hayleywestenra.com
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