2004 Classical Brit Awards
ROYAL ALBERT HALL, LONDON
26th May 2004
I had my
trip to London to see Hayley at the Classical Brit Awards planned
almost like a military operation. I was to leave home at 1pm
for the trip, which would put me in London an hour before the
car park gates opened. This would give me the chance for a break
on the way down and to get something to eat. The car park opened
at 6pm - this would allow me 2 hours before the start of the
awards. So, I had plenty of time. As it worked out, I managed
to leave at 1:48. But, with the safety net of time I had built
in, that was no problem. I was in buoyant mood, and being serenaded
by Hayley on the CD player - and everything was going well.
I was averaging 60mph.
As I was
approaching Birmingham and that famous (or should I say, infamous)
motorway junction known as "spaghetti junction", the
traffic was beginning to build up quite ominously. Get held
up by traffic there and you've got serious problems. Miss a
turning and things get worse by an order of magnitude. I then
passed a gantry sign, which said "M6 Toll Clear".
This is a new section of motorway built by a private consortium
and a toll must be paid to use it. A little further on, I passed
a sign, which told me it was two pounds for cars. "That'll
do for me", I thought. And it certainly did. The road was
almost deserted and, furthermore, it is a fantastic road to
drive on. Even better, it completely bypassed Birmingham and
the heavy traffic. My mood was improving all the time. I rejoined
the main M6 motorway and was still averaging 60mph. This was
great! Then everything collapsed around my ears. Road sign -
"M1 closed between junctions 15 and 14, follow A14 and
A1". No one said it was 43 miles in the wrong direction
to get to the A1, or that to turn onto the A1 would involve
getting tied up in an 8-mile long traffic jam. I was now losing
time at a horrifying rate.
I got through
that, only to get tangled up in two further traffic jams on
the A1 itself. I had planned my route to come off the motorway
into London, and now I wasn't even going to do that. With some
great leaps of faith and some even greater leaps of imagination,
I managed to navigate my way back on course, only then to find
myself in Baker Street - and no sign of Sherlock Holmes when
you need him. Pulling over, I referred to the London street
map I had with me and discovered that I was only half a mile
off course. It was easily corrected and I quickly found my way
to the car park. I pulled into my reserved parking space at
7:48pm - 6 hours at the wheel without a break, and only 12 minutes
before the start of proceedings. Nerves were now severely jangled.
I made it to my seat and managed a few words with Roger, who
was sitting next to me. Looking around, I spotted Dave - another
valued member of the HWI team. Then I spotted Gerald Westenra
at a table just a few yards in front of me. Eventually, he turned
and we caught his eye. He returned our wave with a big smile
on his face. My mood started picking up again and the excitement
of the evening was coming back.
were opened by Vanessa Mae, who virtually set fire to the stage
with her playing of the violin. Her interpretation of the "Sabre
Dance" just has to be heard to be believed. But, whilst
I was enjoying all this, I wasn't there for that. I was there
for Hayley - to hear her perform and to see her win.
We had the
presentation for Young British Classical performer. I didn't
make notes, so can't say who got it. Next on was Bryn Terfel,
who sang "Bugielio'r Gwenith Gwyn". Now it was the
critics' award. This was followed by a performance by the Choir
of King's College, Cambridge. They performed "Panis Angelicus"
but, when you have heard this done in duet by Hayley and Sophie,
this version did not work - well, at least not for me. Then
they sang "Lift Thine Eyes". Next, it was a presentation
for Ensemble/Orchestral Album of the year. Now we were down
to the serious business. It was Hayley next and she gave a superb
rendition of "Pokarekare Ana". You know, I'll say
it again, she gets better every time I hear her sing. By now
I was floating on clouds of sheer enjoyment. Next up, it was
Katherine Jenkins singing "Questo e per te" (This
is for you). Absolutely fabulous but, I had seen her sing it
at Llandudno on March 21st (which was Mother's Day in the UK,
and she dedicated it to her mother who could not be there -
that was the first time she had missed one of Katherine's performances).
was the presentation for "Outstanding Contribution to Music"
which went to Renée Fleming and was the only award announced
in advance. Then Renée sang "O Mio Babbino Caro"
which, in my mind, was not a song she should have sung - especially
when you know the English translation of the title.
had anything to drink since 11am, I was much relieved when they
announced there would now be a 30-minute interval. But, it was
necessary to queue for nearly 20 minutes to get served. I bought
2 bottles of coke, a glass of orange and a small bottle of cider
(not all for me, I was buying for Dave and his daughter, Roger
and myself). I gave the guy a ten pound note and was horrified
when I got one pound thirty pence in change. I only wanted a
drink, not the purchase of the catering franchise. Still, this
was for Hayley, so I was happy enough. I took the opportunity
of studying the programme before the second half started and
discovered that the two presentations I was interested in were
the last of the evening. I grimaced. I was on tenterhooks. I
wanted to see Hayley win. I wanted to be on my feet applauding
and shouting myself hoarse. But, I was going to have to wait.
after, Hayley joined her father at their table and, after a
few seconds during which he must have told her we were there,
she spun round in her seat, a huge smile on her face, spotted
us and waved. That was it. All the hardships of the journey
down, the thumping headache, the raging thirst etc., were all
forgotten. It was now more than worthwhile. At this point, I
will skip over the next part of the proceedings and cut to the
chase. Eventually, it was time for the presentation for "Female
Artist of the Year" and - it went to Cecilia Bartoli. I
was incredulous but, had to accept that they had been saying
for a while that Hayley was an outsider for it, and they were
right. It was the next one I was really interested in. National
Savings and Investments "Album of the Year". This
had to be Hayley's. Sales of classical music had been going
down steadily, year on year. In 2003, they rose by 1,000,000
and Hayley had achieved more that 70% of that on her own in
just three months. She had been at the top of the classical
charts for 34 weeks - almost 9 months. It was not possible for
anyone else to equal that because there are only 52 weeks in
a year anyway. Then they announced "and the winner is………Bryn
Terfel". I was gobsmacked! If my bottom jaw had not been
connected to my upper jaw, this is when it would have hit the
floor. I could not believe it. Don't get me wrong, Bryn Terfel
is superb - and that is an understatement. But, Hayley had wiped
the floor with all-comers since the release of Pure, and that
included him. Eventually, I let out and astounded "WHAT?"
And that was the point where I lost all interest in the rest
of the programme.
I will let
Roger tell you about our meeting with Hayley immediately after
proceedings had finished. Suffice it to say, none of us mentioned
this travesty. Hayley was her usual bubbly, infectious self.
It was during this chat that I found out she is returning to
the USA on Monday and will be going to Boston, Chicago, LA (I
think) and New York, before returning to the UK for the Hampton
Court Festival on June 19th. Then it's back to the USA for Joe's
Pub, New York on June 24th, followed by other promotional work.
This is the point when Steve, Hayley's excellent manager, stated
that it had just been confirmed she would be doing a repeat
appearance at Joe's Pub on August 4th. There will then be a
promotional tour in Germany, I think they said for a couple
of months before Hayley comes back to the UK for her exams in
November. Steve has promised to give me much more information
as soon as he has time to catch his breath.
had to leave as she was due to do a live interview for NZ television.
And the management was trying to throw the remaining members
of the public out so they could lock up - I think they meant
So, we left
the building, Roger made his way to get his train, eventually
Dave and his daughter left us and, that left myself and my good
friend Joe waiting at the stage door. After a while, Hayley
came out and it was more autographs and photos for people. Behind
her came Steve, talking to a gentleman at his side as they exited
the door. He looked up and saw me, turned to the man next to
him and said "there's someone here I would like you to
meet". At which point, he introduced me to Costa Pilavichi
(I do hope I've spelled his name correctly). This is only the
man who flew out to New Zealand to sign Hayley to Decca Classics
personally. We shook hands and chatted for a few minutes. He
asked questions and genuinely listened to my answers. And, it
seems, I am well known in the corridors of Decca - he even thanked
me for the support given to Hayley and, through her, Decca by
Hayley Westenra International. He stated that they were very
grateful indeed. Steve added that after he had told me about
the June 24th event at Joe's Pub and I had put it up on my forum
and some of the lists, the event sold out within 15 minutes.
The demand was so great.
in all, the evening turned out to have it's disappointment but,
it also was a great evening, made all the better for my first
ever meeting with Dave and Joe, and now, capping everything,
meeting Costa - a truly wonderful man with a genuine interest
in people. My total faith in Decca is now greater than ever
and it was very high to begin with.
back was absolutely faultless, taking just four hours. I arrived
back at 3:48am totally exhausted, but comparatively happy with
the overall results of the evening.
26th May 2004