Hampton Court Palace Festival 2004
19th June 2004

POSTED: 18:50 p.m. June 26th, 2004

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Richard Wagner
Overture, Die Meistersinger
Frederick Delius
The Walk to the Paradise Garden from A Village Romeo and Juliet
Pokarekare Ana
Hayley Westenra
George Frideric Handel
Zadok the Priest
Edward Elgar
Enigma Variations: Nimrod
Carl Orff
In Trutina from Carmina Burana
Hayley Westenra
George Frideric Handel
Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah
William Walton
Crown Imperial
Ralph Vaughan Williams
The Old Hundredth
Vivaldi / Sarah Class
River Of Dreams
Hayley Westenra
Hubert Parry
I was Glad
Pietro Mascagni
Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana
Princess Te Rangi Pai
Hine e Hine
Hayley Westenra
Alexander Borodin
Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor
Hubert Parry
Thomas Arne
Rule Britannia!
Hayley Westenra
Edward Elgar
Pomp & Circumstance March No 1
Franz Schubert
Ave Maria
Hayley Westenra

Can Hayley raise the roof when there isn't one?

There I was again, sitting on a train going nowhere. This journey had all the hallmarks of the near-disastrous trip I had to Northampton to see Hayley in March. Thankfully, the delay this time was not a long one and, with every passing mile, the excitement of seeing her again was growing.

Despite the initial delay, I arrived at Hampton Court with time to spare. Keith was already lurking in the grounds and claimed that he spotted me before I spotted him! Okay, it is his website I suppose! We spent about an hour exchanging news and views and declaring our undying devotion to you know who. We also managed to have a few words with Gerald and Steve before they disappeared in search of food.

We entered the open-air courtyard where the concert was to take place and were disappointed to find our seats were right at the back. We knew that Dave and his daughter were coming so kept an eye open for them. We were also hoping to meet Kirsty who had been told to look out for anyone wearing an HWI sweatshirt. That plan didn't work so we went off in search of her. Kirsty, if you remember, you posted your seat number to the Discussion Group when you booked it all those months ago. I took a note of it at the time so locating you wasn't difficult!

Dave suddenly materialised but we soon had to return to our seats because, apparently, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra wanted to get on with their concert!

The first half consisted of eight works from the orchestra; two of which were with the Choral Society and two with Hayley, namely, "Pokarekare Ana" and "In Trutina". There seems little point in repeating what I have said so many times before about her voice being gorgeous, her songs being wonderful, Hayley being beautiful, or that I fell in love with her all over again - but it was, they are, she is and I did!

The surprise guests for the evening were a team of ring-necked parakeets, which, from time to time, were seen whizzing about where the rooftop should have been. Their constant calls, it has to be said, were not necessarily in harmony with Hayley. Never mind, they'll get the hang of it!

The interval lasted for seventy-five minutes which allowed the audience time to venture out into the magnificent gardens of Hampton Court Palace to partake of their picnics or, in Keith's case, to go in search of something "alcofrolic"!

Having failed to find either Dave or Kirsty in the gardens, we walked back through the Palace towards the courtyard in search of them. We met Kirsty who said she had just been talking to Hayley who was signing autographs. We quickened our pace but, by the time we arrived, Hayley had disappeared. Here, my grateful thanks go to Gerald who went to retrieve her as soon as he saw us.

During our conversation with Hayley I learned that, despite her frequent need to travel she doesn't like flying. It is not that she has a fear of it as such, but she is concerned about being in an enclosed environment and the dryness of the air which can temporarily affect her voice, and she is particularly anxious about her health for obvious reasons. This led me to ask if she had suffered anything such as a cold since her international career took off and how she manages to deal with it. Yes, she has, and she just has to "sing through it" as best she can!

When you are talking to Hayley, time ceases to have any meaning. I guess we may have had about twenty minutes with her, which, as always, was such a pleasure and a privilege. Hayley always finds time to talk to you, always makes you feel at ease, always answers your questions with complete openness and always expresses her appreciation for the support we are giving her. On this occasion, I was prepared for her words of gratitude. My response was something along these lines:

I never pretend that she needs any help from the likes of us but that wont stop us trying to give it. I also assured her that, for what it's worth, we will always be there for her and she completely floored me and rendered me almost speechless by saying that it really does make a difference and repeated her thanks for it. So, for the first time ever, I will use the expression that was introduced into my vocabulary fairly recently by Hayley. I believe it abbreviates to "OMG"!

As always, our meeting was a real delight and, as I am sure Keith would agree, was enhanced by a couple of kisses and cuddles…. With Hayley - not with each other!

According to the programme, the nine works in the second half would also include two appearances by Hayley. These were "River Of Dreams" which was beautiful and "Hine e Hine" which was delightful and, following the fortissimo, really very rousing. It has often been said that her gorgeous voice can bring grown men to tears. I can confirm that.

At one point, a gentle breeze was caressing Hayley's hair; blowing it back slightly from her shoulders now and then which somehow made her look even more beautiful than ever. But was this really all we would see of her? Of course not!

Hayley returned to sing something that we have never heard her perform before and, believe me, "Rule Britannia" never sounded so good. And, as I said to Keith afterwards, I think it was one of the finest performances that Hayley has ever given. The crowd seemed to thoroughly appreciate this most patriotic of songs and responded with tumultuous applause and the stamping of feet.

A few minutes earlier, I had watched her leave the stage for what the official programme suggested would be the last time. It was hard enough then but to endure it twice was almost unbearable, but following another orchestral piece, Hayley returned yet again for what really was to be the last time. She sang Schubert's "Ave Maria" which was absolutely heavenly.

And so the concert ended. Most of the crowd returned to the gardens to see the firework display but Keith and I ventured out to the street (from where we saw it anyway), still marvelling at the precious gift that is Hayley Westenra. We wondered how long it would be before we would see her again. Whenever and wherever it is, anywhere in the UK, I intend to be there.

So there I was, trying to get home, knowing that it would be impossible until the next morning. Because of the concert, the rail operators kindly provided an additional service from Hampton Court at ten past midnight, which would take people back to London or, in my case, Clapham Junction. This is where I would pick up the connecting service to take me south. Unfortunately, at that time of the night, they only go approximately half way to where I wanted to go. And so it was that I ended up scribbling the first draft of this review from two until five o'clock this morning, ordering cappuccinos at regular intervals throughout the night, somewhere in Gatwick Airport! My next train was at 6:35am and I arrived home at about 7:20. Did I go straight to bed? No. I have been working on these verbal meanderings ever since so I guess I won't bother now! So Hayley, your words of appreciation for what we do may have been justified after all! And was it all worth it?

Oh yes. You bet it was.

Roger Mansbridge



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