UNICEF CONCERT - “Strong Women for Strong Women”

Showdate: Tuesday, November 23rd 2004_

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After a warm and friendly greeting at the door to Canada house I was led to an elegant room for free wine and champagne before the concert.  An invited crowd of around 100 distinguished people had gathered and enjoyed the atmosphere before being called into the concert room for the performance.
The room itself was small and intimate, the stage being as wide as the room and the 100 or more people filled the seats.
After speeches from the relevant dignitaries and also Hayley's manager, the lights dimmed and Hayley entered through a side door and took centre stage in front of a black grand piano.
As Hayley began to sing, hearing her voice close up and with just the accompaniment of a piano would bring a tear to the eye of the coldest heart.  Her album was entitled 'Pure' for a reason....and this very special evening was a chance to hear that reason.
After 2 songs and leaving the audience breathless, Hayley left the stage and Mario Frangoulis entered.  The pianist was changed and Mario's accompaniment to his first song was as passionate as his singing.  His latest album title  'Follow your heart' reflects his singing, as does Hayley's album title with hers.
Mario sings with power and feeling and superb tone of voice to captivate any audience. Two songs again from Mario and he leaves to the same enthusiastic applause as did Hayley.
Heather Nova was to follow. Her style very much different to Hayley and Mario and provided an interesting contrast to the evening, playing guitar and singing 2 of her songs in an American folk tradition.
A 10-minute interval allowed us to enjoy some more wine, which had been imported from New Zealand and Canada especially for the evening.
Eagerly awaiting Hayley's next performance we return to our seats in the intimate carpeted concert room.  The lights dim, the side door opens and Hayley lights up the room with her dazzling smile and sparkling eyes.  Being so close to the stage it was a wonderful opportunity to see the depth of feeling that pours from Hayley's eyes as she sings.
Her next song was due to be 'Beat of your Heart’.  Hayley introduces the song and tells us a little of its background.  As she is about to begin the pianist has not appeared.  Alone on stage, Hayley simply smiles, turns to the audience, and begins a breathtaking performance of Amazing Grace. No accompaniment, just the purist voice filling a room stunned into silence. Amazing Grace is a pure and intimate hymn and in this perfect setting Hayley captured the hearts and minds of 100 people in an instant. 
I am afraid the next few songs were a blur to me as I was entranced by what I had just seen and heard.  Hayley performed 'Beat of Your Heart' when the pianist returned and there were more heartfelt performances form Heather and Mario.
I gathered my senses for the finale as Hayley returned to the stage together with Mario and Heather to perform the final song.  Completely unrehearsed, Hayley began the first verse of the beautiful Hine e Hine. As the song progressed, Mario and Heather, clutching their Maori song sheet, joined with Hayley to bring the concert to a stunning end.
As the rapturous applause ended, the New Zealand ambassador gave thanks and great praise to the artists and Hayley's manager reminded us all of Hayley's superb work for UNICEF for which this evening's impromptu performance was in aid of.  Hayley will continue to lend her support and time to UNICEF next year when taking a well-deserved break from her tour....
The three artists leave the room and we exit through the rear door, back into the reception room to enjoy more free wine and tasty bites.
At this point the evening became very special as Hayley, Mario and Heather enter the room to meet and mingle with the audience.  I was thrilled that myself, Roger and Keith (from HWI) were able to stand drinking our wine just a few feat from the artist we most admire and our evening was about to become the most memorable as Hayley turned to chat to us.  Her warmth and kindness is continuously felt whoever she is talking to, and if angels walk the earth then I think we have found one.
An hour or so after the concert had ended, the guests slowly depart and we are privileged to say a few parting to words to Hayley before she leaves. 
A wonderful evening and a once in a lifetime opportunity to speak to a beautiful, gifted and very special person.
As we leave, we give thanks to Hayley's management team of Steve and Giselle, whom it was also a delight to meet.  Wonderful hard working people who had given us all a very special evening to remember forever.
A considerable amount of money was raised for UNICEF which I hope will go a long way to supporting their superb work and long may it continue....

Paul Stillwell

23rd November 2004


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