Court Festival Finale
I am still
buzzing after a great evening's entertainment at the finale
of the Hampton Court Festival in London. Hayley joined one of
the UK's leading Orchestras and conductors as *the* solo singer
and she superbly overcame the cool and breezy open-air conditions.
the magnificent former home of English Kings, a few thousand
of us packed a large enclosed courtyard, seated opposite the
specially built stage open on three sides. The concert featured
the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Choral Society -
early, with a brass Band playing and picnics on the Palace lawns,
we threaded our way through the length of this huge Palace into
what is known as the Base Court Theatre. It is a large courtyard
enclosed on all sides but open to the sky. The weather was breezy
and cool, with temperatures falling steadily from 15 degrees
C (60F) to 11 (52F) by the end. But fortunately, it did stay
7:30pm the Orchestra burst into life with Wagner's overture
"Die Meistersinger" - this was a full-scale orchestral
concert of popular classical music and Hayley was the star turn!
I looked across to the entrance arches on my right and noticed
Hayley's father Gerald, standing there watchfully. Aha, Hayley
could not be far away. Next was a beautiful orchestral piece
by the English composer Delius then, at last, Hayley appeared
at the side of the courtyard. She started the long walk out
to centre stage, accompanied by increasing applause as more
people caught sight of her.
silent as the conductor Owain Arwel Hughes raised the baton.
Hayley stood there, poised, in her beautiful pink designer dress
and then, she sang Pokarekare Ana. I soon noticed a slightly
richer tone to her voice in places, compared to how I'd heard
her sing earlier in the year. At once, I realised she has taken
yet another step up in the quality of her singing voice, which
sounded better than ever! You lucky Americans who have tickets
to Joes Pub next week are in for a real treat.
continued with music by Handel, Elgar and Walton and in between,
Hayley delighted us with "In Trutina". A tricky one
this, given the conditions and light orchestral accompaniment.
But she carried it off perfectly, with lots of enthusiastic
applause at the end.
At the start
of the long interval, three of my companions headed for the
picnic area but I stayed behind for a few minutes with my youngest
daughter, to look for Keith and Roger whom I had seen briefly
before the concert started. Alas, they were nowhere to be seen
but as I turned to leave, who should I see near Hayley's "entrance"
archway but Gerald and a small crowd of perhaps a dozen people.
We wandered across and there was Hayley, now dressed casually
in jeans, signing a few autographs, chatting and posing for
photos. My daughter was delighted to see her and I was pretty
pleased, too. First we chatted to Gerald and soon we were able
to meet Hayley . In no time at all, my daughter had had a cuddle
and a kiss from Hayley, and we had a photo with her, too (thanks
to a friendly "organised" couple and their camera!).
Not to mention autographs! It was nice, too, to be remembered
from the Royal Albert Hall last month. The Westenras really
are such helpful, friendly people.
later, we'd had our picnic (part 2), viewed some of the magnificent
Palace Staterooms and were back in our seats for the second
half of the concert. We heard orchestral music by Vaughan Williams,
Parry, Mascagni and Borodin. And in between, there was Hayley.
First was River of Dreams and as she made the long walk to the
stage, the audience gasped as it caught sight of her blue, full
length, off-the-shoulder dress, glittering with sequins and
flowing in the breeze. It was full and reminiscent of a beautiful
ball gown - and she looked stunning! Then as the applause died
away, Hayley stood for a moment in the cold air, with her long
hair blowing back in the breeze. We waited in anticipation,
our coats now fastened against the chilly conditions and I was
concerned that it might upset Hayley's singing. But I need not
have worried. As always the true professional, she was again
superb, leaving the stage to loud applause that continued until
the conductor raised his baton for the next piece.
to the programme, Hayley concluded with Hine e Hine and once
again, she sung it so well. After she left the stage and the
applause died down I thought to myself "Oh well, that's
that. No more Hayley". And after some "Prince Igor",
it was time for the three patriotic British songs that are heard
every September at the Last Night of the Proms. First, "Jerusalem"
- and the audience responded, joining in to sing at last - flag
was time for "Rule, Britannia (Britannia Rules the Waves)".
And suddenly, Hayley appeared, striding purposefully towards
centre stage accompanied by roars of approval from all of us.
"Isn't she from NZ?" I heard someone mutter (as if
it mattered!) "It's OK, NZ has the same Queen as us!"
came the reply from a chuckling lady nearby.
sang it... boy how she sang it! Over the years, I've heard dozens
of the World's best Opera stars sing "Rule Britannia"
at the Last Night of the Proms. But none has given me greater
pleasure and enjoyment than THIS performance. Hayley beckoned
for us all to join in the choruses and she sung it really well
- there was more flag waving and it gave me a warm glow inside.
Then, enthusiastic applause and bouquets... and she was gone.
Or so I thought!
piece in the programme was next - "Land of Hope and Glory".
It was played superbly by the orchestra, with the usual patriotic
fervour and flag waving from the audience when it was our turn
to join in. But the final piece? We would have none of it. After
much foot stamping and applause the conductor soon returned
for an orchestral encore whose name escapes me and when this
finished, we wouldn't let 'em escape. "Hayley" I heard
someone yell through the applause and the foot stamping was
louder than before. Soon, we got our wish... back came Hayley
for HER encore and all fell silent. She was still wearing her
off-the-shoulder dress with no shawl and I was again concerned
about the cold conditions. Silly me!
then started singing one of the most beautiful renditions of
Schubert's "Ave Maria" I have ever heard. One of my
party, who had never heard Hayley sing before last night, told
me her eyes filled with tears as Hayley sang it. Many others
would have felt the same as it was simply wonderful. This "Ave
Maria" would be hard to match - let alone better - by anyone,
anywhere. The audience broke into rapturous applause as Hayley
finished what for me, was the the highlight of the evening.
And we continued until she left the stage with more flowers.
But then, it really was all over.
that is, for a spectacular aerial fireworks display to end a
wonderful evening's entertainment, one of the best I've ever
had. It had started around 6pm with picnics and br@ss band music
and ended well over five hours later with fireworks. Well done
Hayley, and all who took part!
by Dave Ludlow