Pure Winter Tour 2004 - Part 1 - Hayley in Birmingham

Showdate: Friday, November 12th 2004

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Hayley Westenra
Hayley in Cardiff

12th November, 2004

WINTER TOUR 2004 - Part 1


The date was Friday 12th November 2004 and I was preparing for the journey to Birmingham to see Hayley Westenra again. I had seen her once before at Hampton Court but I couldn’t wait to see her heading her own concert. Mario Frangoulis was a new name to me and all I knew was that he was (and is!) a Greek Tenor but I decided it was doubtful that Hayley would have someone un-likeable touring with her, and I was looking forward to hearing him.

I met up with Roger and off we went. Apart from a hold up in Reading due to a train cancellation, we had a faultless journey and were in Birmingham in good time. After a couple of hours to relax and get ready, we were off to the Symphony Hall.

My first comment must be a thank you to Roger, what good seats! We were right in the centre just a few rows back. Well done and thank you.

The concert opened with Hayley singing ‘Amazing Grace’ a-cappella. What a way to begin! After the first verse she was joined by the piano and it was apparent that she had been singing very slightly off-key. Like the star she is she immediately corrected herself. The rest of the band gradually joined in and the song continued without further ado. Considering the amount of travelling Hayley has been doing, appearing on TV and concerts, not to mention revision and exams I think we can allow her one teeny-tiny mishap! (Especially since it was hardly noticeable). After ‘Amazing Grace’ she told the audience about how she had only finished her exams the day before and was very happy as they were over. She added that she now had to wait until the results came out in February and was a bit nervous… at that point I had to physically bite my tongue to stop myself from calling out “You’ll be fine!” as I didn’t think it was the most professional thing to do. She got a supportive round of applause and half laugh from the audience who evidently agreed with my unspoken sentiment.

‘River of Dreams’ followed and was truly wonderful as always. ‘Who Painted the Moon Black?’ was next on the menu and one I had been waiting for. While I love all of Hayley’s songs, I had heard ‘River of Dreams’ live at Hampton Court, and since ‘Who Painted the Moon Black?’ is a personal favourite of mine I had been sincerely hoping I wouldn’t have to wait too long to hear it. I wasn’t disappointed. Her performance was breathtaking.

Hayley then introduced Mario Frangoulis and left the stage. This was another moment I had been waiting for, to finally hear Mario sing. He opened with the popular ‘Granada’. Although the first note looked (rather than sounded) slightly strained, he apologised in a break between lines, “I’m sorry, I seem to have about 25 frogs in my throat” and, in that simple sentence, immediately won the audience over. Frogs or not, his voice was astounding and I found myself not being able to wait for his next song.

‘Vincero Perdero’ followed and it was at that point I knew that his 2 released albums would be on my Christmas list. This is a fairly quiet song but it gradually builds up as the song continues and there is a beautiful key change on the last chorus. If you ever listen to this song on CD, there is no way to do it but loudly, as loudly as if you were in concert and he was merely feet away. ‘Here’s to the Heroes’ was Mario’s final song of the first half and the audience quickly learning that we were not going to be disappointed by him. I challenge anyone to sit and listen to this song and not be completely and utterly drawn into it. It begins slowly and calmly with the main focus on the words being sung rather than the music or orchestra behind him. There, once again, was a gradual build during the song with the emotion of it in every word and every expression in Mario’s face.

There was a moment when he tried to replace the microphone onto its stand and it simply wouldn’t go. No worries! Mario simply looked at the audience half shrugged, said; “Nothing goes right today”, put the stand to one side and continued without it. He wasn’t the only one to have problems with the stand either. Hayley also encountered the dreaded stand later, but she battled and won, with the comment; “These things are really hard!” and her well-known giggle.

Hayley then returned to the stage and sang another favourite of mine ‘Mary Did You Know?’ This was truly amazing and as I sat listening to her beautiful voice filling the Symphony Hall I was silently grateful that I would be able to see this fabulous set again the next day in Cardiff. Hayley has stated that this song is one of her favourites and it was evident in the way she sang. As ever, all her effort was poured into the song; into every word, but there was something in her face that plainly said (to me anyway!) “I am really enjoying this and I believe in this song truly”. After this Hayley announced that her re-release of ‘Pure’, not yet released in shops, was actually available in the foyer and had 7 bonus songs, ‘Mary Did You Know?’ included.

‘In Trutina’ was the final song before the interval and it was brilliant. There is that well-known pause in the song and I, like Roger, got worried at this point, but for a different reason. While he was worrying that someone would applaud in the wrong place and thus ruin the effect and the song, I was worried due to the fact that I had forgotten ‘In Trutina’ had a pause and didn’t think anyone was applauding! Luckily I remembered after a second or two and immediately relaxed for the remainder of the song.

We were in for yet another treat after the interval when Fiona Pears, 1st Violin, leader of the band and also from Christchurch, New Zealand, took to the stage. She played 2 of her own compositions ‘Turkish Fantasy’ and ‘Memories of Martin and Mary’. It was evident right from the start that the latter was written in, around or for Ireland. The Celtic sound shone through and I was almost expecting the cast of ‘Riverdance’ to appear behind her! What was so brilliant about Fiona’s performance was her obvious enjoyment. She danced around the stage and twice at the height of ‘Memories of Martin and Mary’ she shouted ‘Yeah!’ as played which only added the wonderful performance. I defy anyone who has seen Fiona play and doesn’t have the urge to get up and dance with her. She was just so clearly loving it and having the time of her life. Her spirited performance completely won the hearts of the audience and I am sure I wasn’t the only one left wondering if she had an album available.

After this Hayley re-took the stage and sang ‘Beat of your Heart’. Always a wonderful song, it is even more so when she sings it live. ‘Wiegenlied’ followed. This is the theme from a Japanese film called ‘Lorelei’. Hayley told us that she had had to learn the song not only in German, but also Japanese! Quick as ever to guess what everyone was thinking she hastily added “But I’m only going to sing it in German tonight”. What a shame! I will definitely be keeping my ears and eyes open for a chance of hearing her sing it in Japanese. ‘Wiegenlied’ was a beautiful song and suited Hayley’s voice incredibly well. After finishing, she said, “This is another one from ‘Pure’, I hope you all know it”. I am willing to bet that I wasn’t the only one thinking “She’s finally going to sing Pokarekare Ana”. But no, ‘Never Say Goodbye’ was next on the programme. This is one song that I love, but never seem to listen to that much for some reason. The advantage of this was that I was almost unprepared for the loveliness of it and it was almost as if I was hearing it for the first time.

Mario reappeared after this and sang 2 more songs. ‘Follow your Heart’ was his final rendition and was inspired. This is the title track from his latest CD and was the perfect way for him to finish.

Hayley then took over again and sang ‘Bridal Ballad’ from ‘The Merchant of Venice’. It was so lovely to hear another new song especially in a hall with such exquisite acoustics. ‘Across the Universe of Time’ followed – another favourite (what a surprise!). I always wonder how she will perform this. When I saw this sung on QVC I wondered how she would manage the harmony during the song but with a backing track it was still sustained. When she sang this song earlier in the year, Sophie was there to sing with her, but this time there was no backing and no Sophie. Hayley simply sang half of it high and half of it low. It was a pity that the beautiful harmony was missing, but she still made it sound astounding and I fell in love with the song all over again.

Hayley then announced that the next number was her final one and I prepared, again, for ‘Pokarekare Ana’. But ever one to keep us guessing, she sang Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’. What a wonderful way to supposedly close the show. She ended Hampton Court with this and I no longer expected her to sing any more, although I was a bit confused as to why Mario hadn’t been invited back to the stage for a bow. There was thunderous applause as Hayley finished and she bowed and left the stage. The applause just carried on going…and going…until she re-appeared and finally treated us all to ‘Pokarekare Ana’. Wow. There aren’t many more words to describe what we heard. She sang the vocalise version – by far my favourite – and made every note sound marvellous. She took her bows for the second time and once again left to a huge round of applause that once again just continued on…and on! With a little smile she came back to the stage and began her final song, ‘Hine e Hine’. At the beginning of the second verse we heard Mario sing and he walked back on the stage to join Hayley. They sang the remainder of the song together with Hayley singing some harmonies throughout. What a magnificent way to end the show. After that everyone took their bows and left the stage for the last time. The only thing that disappointed me a little was that ‘Wuthering Heights’ wasn’t sung, but I’m sure there will be other times!

Roger and I sat around talking about it for a little while and then proceeded to where we had been assured Hayley would appear. Sure enough a little while later there she was. Roger and I hung back while she signed and chatted away to the crowd. Roger chatted to Gerald for a little while about the family and America during the wait, a conversation I listened to with much interest not having met Jill, Sophie or Isaac yet. After about 40 minutes it was our turn as everyone else had left. Hayley looked at me first as we stepped forward and had that look of someone who knows they have met someone else before but can’t quite remember where. Half a second later though she looked at Roger and, having met him many times before, exclaimed “Oh wow!!” She then looked back at me and I gave her the key words with which she might remember me (Hampton Court, red coat, video camera, giggly), and she did. How amazing, she meets so many people but she seems to recall everyone she has met before! We talked while she signed a few things for us, my piano music book included. When Hayley she saw this she instantly said “Do you play the piano?” to which I nodded, and she continued “I wish I had more time to practice”, “Me too”, I agreed. Roger then presented her with our present (a glass paperweight with a ballerina inside) and after her thanks she did a half sigh “I really want to dance again now, I haven’t for ages!” We gestured to the ample floor room and said why not, but she declined and we continued talking. We stood around chatting for a while longer in which time I told her how I had wanted to shout out during the concert. She instantly exclaimed, “oh you should have!” to which I replied, “Well, if you give the same speech about your exams and results tomorrow then I will”. She said ok and continued talking. As we emphasised the point by saying that we would see her tomorrow, it suddenly sunk in as she realised we were going to more than one concert. Roger dropped his bombshell that he was going to all of them and she looked amazed (and very happy), “You’ll be sick of me!!” Oh Hayley, that would never happen! At that point she was told that she had to go and we went our separate ways.

On to Cardiff!!

Kirsty Heard
14th November 2004

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