Pure Winter Tour 2004 - Overview by Keith S.

Reviewdate: Saturday, November 20th 2004_

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Hayley Westenra
Hayley in Cardiff



The last time I saw Hayley was at Hampton Court Palace on 19th June. An occasion which was superb and thoroughly enjoyable. A chat with good friends, as well as with Hayley, Gerald and Steve. I made sure that I enjoyed that (which where Hayley is concerned is guaranteed anyway), because I didn’t know when I would see Hayley again. As it turns out, they announced a Winter Tour for November. This was a whole FIVE MONTHS without Hayley and her wonderful voice (well, live that is because I play PURE at least once every day). That works out to 146 days, or 3,500 hours (etcetera). As soon as the tickets for this tour became available, I booked for Llandudno. Through Simon, plans were made for a block booking at Cardiff. And then, much subterfuge was planned. But, that’s another story.

Time seemed to drag, each day more like a month. Would it ever pass and November arrive? Well, yes, obviously it did. I busied myself with as much work about the house as I could – that helped. And then, just a few days left to go and much to get done. Suddenly, I wondered if I had enough time to do everything. Finally, Saturday 13th November arrived and I was off to Cardiff. Boy, was I keyed up! I had waited so long and, at last, I was going to see Hayley. The drive down was uneventful. The weather quite pleasant. But don’t mention Newport to me.

Our little group gathered for a pre-concert get together, during which a presentation was made to our wonderful Holly Holyoake. Just a little something to express our love and support for her. Then it was time to set out for the theatre. My excitement was building as I looked forward to the evening and being wafted to paradise on the wings of Hayley’s glorious voice. We found our seats and settled down to enjoy what turned out to be the best concert I had ever seen Hayley perform – and I’ve seen a few. As Hayley walked on stage, she was greeted by a round of warm and appreciative applause, and the concert began.

Amazing Grace was the first offering and, as we have come to expect from Hayley, this was better than all the other times I had seen her sing it. The audience were immediately spellbound. None more so than me. The rest of the audience just melted away as I was bathed in the wonderful sound coming to me from the stage. The only thing that could have made it any better was for Hayley to be looking directly at me as she sang. But, somehow, I think she seems to do that for everyone in the audience. It really is as though she is singing just to you. When you experience something like that, it is amazing just how quickly the time goes and the song ends. The audience were entirely under Hayley’s control immediately. They loved it, and it showed. To start on such a high note and then get better is another of Hayley’s amazing abilities. And this is what we got in full measure.

Hayley said how pleased she was to be back at St David’s Hall in Cardiff. That’s when I realised, it was eight months since I had seen her there last.

It was now time for the second song, which was River of Dreams. If Amazing Grace had not taken over your very being, this song is guaranteed to do so. As you listen to this song, a river of pure pleasure washes over you, taking you to ever-greater heights of enjoyment. And this time, being accompanied by a small orchestra, takes it to a new level. It was fabulous! No, it was more than that! It was to a level unique to Hayley – far beyond the ability of any superlative in the English language to express. By the end of this song, I was totally gone. Gone into a world of my own, which knows no bounds. A world in which I can enjoy Hayley and her music to a level beyond the imagination.

Then, Hayley told us that she was pleased to have finally completed her GCSE exams. Amazingly, she completed them last Thursday in London and celebrated by performing in concert in Birmingham the following day, Friday. She followed that with the Cardiff concert on the very next day. Wow. What a schedule!

Who Painted The Moon Black was the next offering. Hayley explained that the song had been written by a Namibian girl after sitting watching an eclipse had inspired her. I can well believe it and, having heard the original by Nianell, I have to say that Hayley’s cover of it is by far the better. This is a song which, like Hayley’s incredible ability, always gives you something new. Something personal. Something unique for every individual. Oh boy!! This was one great concert. This had to be the pinnacle. It couldn’t possibly get any better. Could it? Oh yes it could. And it did.

Now, Hayley introduced her guest artist, Mario Frangoulis. An incredible tenor from Greece. The moment he sang his first song, “Granada”, it became obvious that this is a young man of whom many great things will come to pass. And, he had an incredible rapport with the audience. In that first few minutes, he had established himself in the hearts and minds of the audience. Exactly what the others were, I am not too sure. Other than him singing the song which became so well known during the televising of the Athens Olympics earlier this year, “Here’s To The Heroes”, which he dedicated to the unsung heroes of everyday life. The ordinary people of this world.

When Mario finished his first set of songs, Hayley returned to the stage and gave us Mary Did You Know. And, she did it again. It was better than I had ever heard her perform previously. This girl is beyond amazing. As I have said before, she is the first I have ever known who can improve on perfection. Next, it was In Trutina. A truly beautiful song with a gorgeous melody. Knowing the song well, I was aware of the pause in the middle but, were the rest of the audience? It turned out they must have been, because there was not a sound during the pause. For that I was thankful. If they had started to applaud, it would have ruined the piece.

Next, we had the interval. A chance to gather our wits, have a drink and a chat, and prepare for the second half. Out in the foyer, I noticed a sign which said that Hayley would be in the foyer after the performance to sign programmes and inserts from the re-release of Pure (with the bonus CD), which was also on sale.

The second half opened with a violin solo for two pieces, given to us by Fiona Pears, violinist sans comparison. These were thoroughly enjoyable footstompers in Cardiff but, in Llandudno, they were taken to a much higher level, especially in the second piece, when the audience began clapping in time to the music. The North Wales Theatre was absolutely bouncing. When Fiona finished the second piece, Hayley returned to the stage and told us that Fiona was also from Christchurch in New Zealand and, she had written both those pieces. Here is yet another performer I believe we are going to hear much more of in the future.

Hayley went straight into Beat Of Your Heart. Once again, all the stops were pulled out with a most beautiful rendition of this great song, which is definitely one of my favourites from the album. This concert tour most certainly has proved to be the finest stage appearance of Hayley that I have yet seen.

Next, Hayley introduced a song, which was completely new to me, as I am sure it was to just about everyone in the audience (with the exception of Roger and Kirsty, who had seen Hayley perform it the night before in Birmingham). Hayley told us that it was a German song called Wiegenlied, which was the theme song for a Japanese film called Lorelei. For the film, she had recorded it in Japanese but, tonight, she was going to sing it in the original German. This is an absolutely gorgeous song, which sounds as though it was written with Hayley in mind. All I can say about this song is “WOW!” I love it. I do so hope it is on the new album.

With such amazing treats as this, I was pleased to return to something I was familiar with. Wiegenlied turned out to be a song that fired my enthusiasm, and I needed a little time to come back down almost to earth. Hayley’s next song was Never Say Goodbye, a song that has great appeal to me. Again, it was better than ever. I was in seventh heaven. Hayley was taking me to a higher level of sheer enjoyment than anything I had ever experienced.

Mario came back for his last set of the concert. At first, I was thankful for the respite. But, Mario Frangoulis is a great tenor, who has the ability of stirring the soul with his wonderful songs and great personality. So, my respite was incredibly short lived. Somewhere in that set, we were treated to La Luna Rossa and Follow Your Heart. Trouble is, I can’t remember which order they were in. I was enjoying the whole thing so much information like that just got jumbled up in my mind.

Hayley came back to the stage for her final set of the night. I was already quite breathless by this stage, and completely overcome with the sheer beauty of the entire concert so far. And then Hayley delivered the coup de gras. Hayley introduced her next song. It was the title track to a new Al Pacino film, The Merchant Of Venice, and it was the Bridal Ballad. If I loved Wiegenlied, I don’t know quite how to classify this one. It is absolutely fabulous. Again, Hayley’s voice singing this song is a perfect pairing and, half way through, her mellifluous melisma was reminiscent of nothing short of a heavenly host of angels. I resolved there and then, I will be buying this film when it is released on DVD, if only for the chance of hearing the song in the context of the film.

Next, we were treated to Across The Universe Of Time, which was written by Sarah Class during a recording session. A beautiful song, from which greater enjoyment can be gained each time you hear it, and this concert was no exception to that. I knew we were drawing towards the end of the concert. I desperately wanted the clock to turn back to the beginning of the evening, so that we could enjoy the whole thing again. And yet, I hadn’t heard the rest of what I had come for. Oh, what a war was going on in my mind.

Ave Maria (Schubert) was the last song of the concert. Hayley delivered it with such depth and feeling. It was glorious, and deeply moving. When it ended, Hayley turned and left the stage. I was on my feet like a shot, but someone else (who shall remain nameless) beat me to it. Then, our entire group were on their feet, followed closely by the entire audience, to give Hayley the standing ovation she richly deserved. Someone shouted out “encore”, which seemed to spark the audience to increase the volume of their applause.

Once again, Hayley returned to the stage and had to wait until the applause subsided before delivering what has become accepted as her “signature tune”, Pokarekare Ana. As she started to sing it, another round of very appreciative applause erupted from the audience. Obviously, there are a great many people in the UK who now love this song as much as they love Hayley. As Hayley finished, the audience erupted again. There was no holding them. They were not prepared to accept that as being the end. Mario joined Hayley on stage and, between them, they gave us a fabulous duet of Hine e Hine. What a way to finish a concert. The night started on a high and just got steadily better all the way through to the very end. When Hayley and Mario left the stage, the audience erupted again into what was probably the most enthusiastic round of applause of the evening. It continued, and Hayley came back onto the stage, but this time only to take a final bow. It was over and I was shell-shocked.

In the five months that had elapsed since I last saw Hayley, there had been very noticeable improvements in vocal technique and stage craft. Clearly, much work had gone in to develop her skills. And all on top of a gruelling schedule of travel and promotion in the US, plus being in concert with Andrea Bocelli in both New Zealand and Australia.

When the concert ended, Hayley’s public were waiting for their chance to meet her. There must have been between two and three hundred people lined up. As we had met Hayley many times before, we stood back and left her public to have their chance. During this time, we chatted with Steve and Gerald and, must not forget, a lovely young lady called Giselle, who has recently joined Steve as his assistant in managing Hayley’s career. At this point, I must say, that Steve and now Giselle are doing the most amazing job.

Finally, the line of people had evaporated and, the only ones left were our own happy party. Although obviously tired by now, Hayley was only too pleased to spend time chatting with each of us and pose for yet more photographs. Eventually, I got to speak to Hayley and, during the course of conversation, I asked her if she knew the Bach – Gounod “Ave Maria”, to which she said yes. I then told her about Holly and her association with the song and, biting the bullet, I asked if she would consider singing it in duet with Holly. Others in the group realised that something was happening and they start to drift towards us. Hayley brought Holly over next to her, Gerrit frantically dug out his camcorder and got it ready just in time. Here came, yet again, another example of how you can be carried to an ever-higher level. The duet was delivered from cold. No rehearsal, no warm up for Holly and, both girls had gone through very long and tiring days. And yet, we were treated to a song, which was delivered to near perfection. And Gerrit got it all on video.

Eventually, there was nothing else to do but make my way home. A three and a half hour drive, during which I was serenaded by Hayley on my stereo. Plus, the evening’s songs were playing and replaying in my mind. Thankfully at that time of the night, the roads are somewhat quiet. I got home at 4:10am, utterly shattered but never happier. I now had Llandudno to look forward to.

On Monday evening, I received an Email from Steve, telling me that he and Hayley had been talking on Sunday evening, and Hayley expressed a wish to help Holly if she could. As a result, he asked me if Holly would be up for coming up to Llandudno on Wednesday to repeat the performance, a capella to keep it special, on stage with Hayley during her concert. This resulted in frantic phone calls and emails going the rounds. So much so that I did not get finished until 4am. Of course, I emailed Gerrit straight away to let him know. He had arrived home, in the Netherlands, only a short while earlier. I spent Tuesday frantically completing the arrangements I had to make; Gerrit made all the necessary arrangement to fly back to the UK, so that he could also be in Llandudno and, of course, Roger was there too. Meanwhile, Steve Abbott and James Lawrence (who is considering representing Holly as manager – but that is yet another story) spent much of the day organising how it was going to be handled, and James sorted out publicity especially for this event.

One thing I have noticed before is the difference between audiences at different venues. In North Wales, they tend to be much more animated and, so it was on Wednesday. This gives an even greater enjoyment factor for everyone. After opening with Amazing Grace, and receiving a round of rapturous applause, Hayley responded by saying “Diolch yn Fawr”, which is Welsh for “Thank you very much”. This brought “ooh’s” and “ah’s” from the audience. To which Hayley responded “it’s okay, that’s all I know”. This brought laughter from the audience. The rest of the first half of the concert went as before. Well, no it didn’t. After Mary Did You Know, Hayley introduced Holly and, together, they gave us an emotionally moving version of the Ave Maria. Singing together, the sound they produced was almost like an entire choir of sopranos. It was stunning. Absolutely beautiful. A once in a lifetime’s experience to be present to witness such a thing. And, Gerrit got the video of that, too.

The idea of inviting Holly to appear was Hayley’s and, this just shows yet again what a beautiful and thoughtful person she really is. I have never, in all my life, known any other artist extend such an invitation to new talent. But, Hayley wanted to do it for Holly. And do it she did. The appearance was reported in the press in both South and North Wales. All of this sorted out in a little over twenty-four hours. I could never thank Hayley enough for making such a wonderful gesture. And, although I was totally dedicated to supporting Hayley in any way I can, this sort of thing just makes me all the more determined to do so. Of course, I am also dedicated to the support of Holly so, I had an extra special double delight from the Llandudno concert.

What a night Saturday was. Wednesday was just so much better. And, I still have two more trips to see Hayley on this visit to the UK. I can hardly wait until Monday and my trip to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.

Even though I still have Manchester and the UNICEF concert in London to go, I have been thinking of the rigours of the current tour. Two weeks prior to the tour, Hayley was doing her revision, working up to and sitting her GCSE exams. Her last exam was on Thursday 12th November. Friday, she was in concert in Birmingham, Saturday in Cardiff, Monday in Edinburgh, Wednesday in Llandudno, Thursday in Northampton, Friday in London for Children In need (on which she did not appear until nearly 1:45am), Saturday in Cardiff for the Wales v New Zealand rugby match. Then it is Sunday in Southend, Monday in Manchester, Tuesday in London for the UNICEF concert and, finishing on Wednesday with an appearance on the Des and Mel Show on ITV1. Beside the concerts and appearances, I make this approximately 2000 miles by road between 13th and 23rd November.

Keith S.
Saturday, 20th November 2004

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