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


At last the day had arrived. As soon as I had everything packed, I unpacked it again to make sure I’d got everything! I set off on a journey which, during the course of the tour, would exceed 2,500 miles – by train! Well, by twenty-seven different trains, actually, the first of which was cancelled! Nevertheless, I managed to get the first twelve miles behind me in time to meet my lovely friend, Kirsty, who would be coming to the first two concerts with me. We arrived in Birmingham a little later than planned but in plenty of time for the concert.

The Symphony Hall has a capacity of 2330 and I was told that, an hour before the event, only about 1500 seats had been sold. It was expected, though, that most of them would be taken up during that final hour. Sure enough, when the time came, I could not see an empty seat in the house.

At the stroke of 7.30, the lights dimmed and a hush descended around the auditorium. Seconds later, Hayley appeared from the right and took up her position centre-stage. All eyes were on her. She was our reason for being there. Then, gently at first, came the opening notes of “Amazing Grace”, the first verse of which, Hayley sang unaccompanied. So often, people have expressed a wish to hear her sing a capella. Now, at least for one verse, they got their wish. It was absolutely lovely and I would happily have listened to that verse being sung over and over again for the rest of the evening. But Hayley had other ideas! When the piano came in at the beginning of the second verse, it immediately became apparent that Hayley had been fractionally off-key. She immediately compensated for this and carried on as though nothing had happened like the true professional that she is.

Unlike her Pure tour in March, Hayley now had a small orchestra on stage throughout her performance. This comprised twelve violins and violas, a cello, timpani, drums, guitar, bass guitar, keyboard and piano. Oh yes, and the conductor!

The string section came in for the final verse of “Amazing Grace” and brought it to its beautiful conclusion. What a start.

It was apparent right from the very first note that Hayley looked totally comfortable at the commencement of her “new” tour and in a venue in which she had not previously played. Her confidence shone through her otherwise naturally beautiful serene image.

When the first song ended, she said how pleased she was to be in Birmingham – a city in which she had not appeared before. She then introduced the second song, “River Of Dreams”.

This was one of the songs from Pure that immediately captivated me. Although I have seen Hayley perform it live on six previous occasions (what a good job I keep a record of such things!), I still find its delightful melody and Hayley’s interpretation, very moving. By now I was almost in a dreamlike trance as the beauty of the occasion flowed over me. Could such emotion have inspired the seemingly appropriate title?

Hayley then told us that she was so pleased to have, at last, completed her exams the previous day which immediately got a round of applause. She added that the hardest part was still to come – waiting for the results in February! Kirsty later told me that she had been sorely tempted to call out “you’ll be fine” but somehow had managed to refrain from so doing! (That can’t have been easy for Kirsty!)

I will continue my observations in my review of the Cardiff concert which took place the following evening.

When the concert was over, Kirsty and I took up our position at the end of the queue of people who were waiting to meet Hayley. It wasn’t long before she appeared and the first few people obtained an autograph and, perhaps, a photo or two. As the queue inched slowly forward, I noticed Gerald (Hayley’s father) standing nearby so I spent about ten minutes chatting with him, largely about their time in America and the rest of the family who are currently back home in New Zealand but who will be meeting up next month when Hayley returns to America. Gerald also said that Hayley had one concert in Australia towards the end of December and the family would then be spending a quiet Christmas at home. I should think so too! Mind you, I can’t see any Christmas being “quiet” in the Westenra household but I suppose all things are relative!

Eventually the queue diminished. Throughout the time we had been waiting, whenever Hayley looked up, I deliberately hid behind the person in front of me so that she couldn’t see me. This devious little plan worked a treat because, when Kirsty and I stepped forward, Hayley saw us for the first time. Her mouth fell open in total disbelief. She looked alternatively at Kirsty and me several times in quick succession and then said, “oh wow!” It was as though she was just as pleased to see us as we were to see her.

Hayley signed two or three items for each of us throughout which time we were chatting away like old friends. During the conversation, Kirsty told Hayley how tempted she had been to call out “you’ll be fine” when Hayley had mentioned her exam results.

“Oh, you should have done!”, Hayley said.

Kirsty said that, if Hayley wouldn’t mind, she would do so the following evening in Cardiff! Hayley’s initial reaction was one of amazement. To confirm that she had understood correctly, she asked if we were really going to Cardiff. We confirmed that we were. Hayley seemed genuinely delighted and it was agreed that Kirsty would call out her “spontaneous” response at the appropriate time.

We then gave Hayley a small gift and a card that Kirsty and I had jointly designed. The gift was a solid glass paperweight with the image of a ballerina etched inside. Hayley said it made her feel like dancing again!

And so the evening was concluded and, after the almost customary kiss, we left. Well, for me, that’s one down and six to go!

Roger Mansbridge
14th November 2004

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