UNICEF CONCERT - “Strong Women for Strong Women”

Showdate: Tuesday, November 23rd 2004_

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The first time I ever saw Hayley live was at the Amnesty International Concert in Trafalgar Square on 6th December last year. I feel I have now not only come of age because this was the eighteenth occasion that I had seen her, but also come full circle because Canada House just happens to be in Trafalgar Square.

During the course of the evening, we were told that this event had been Hayley’s idea. It was held in aid of the UNICEF campaign “Strong Women for Strong Women” which deals with the issues of gender equality (or inequality) faced by girls and women in developing countries.

The joint hosts of the event were His Excellency the High Commissioner for New Zealand and H.E. the Deputy High Commissioner for Canada. The concert was also attended by the H.E. the Ambassador for Greece.

I met Keith near Canada House and we spoke about our wonderful memories of Hayley’s Winter Tour which had ended the previous night in Manchester. At 7 o’clock, we entered through the impressive doorway. Our names were checked against the guest list and we aimed straight for the waiter holding a tray full of glasses of champagne!

Eventually we made our way to the reception room where guests were gathering. It wasn’t long before my champagne glass was replaced by one containing the best red wine I have ever tasted – it was from New Zealand! We were regularly approached by a waitress who seemed to think we needed feeding but there is not a lot of nourishment in a canapé so it became necessary for the said waitress to return on numerous occasions!

Apart from the VIPs previously named, the concert was also attended by the Chief Executive of Decca and the Chief Executive of Universal UK (who own Decca) and certain other names which shall be revealed in due course.

At 7.45, we were invited to take our seats in the Green Room where the concert was to be held. By now we had been joined by Paul Stillwell who I had originally met at Hayley’s concert in Northampton in March and at the same venue again last week. Last night, the three of us sat together in the fifth row.

The room, by concert standards was very small, only holding a maximum of 110 people and the stage was almost filled by the grand piano. But this was no ordinary concert. This was a particularly intimate event which I felt very honoured to be able to attend.

Following some short speeches, one of which was made by Steve, the programme commenced. Hayley walked onto the stage and, to the accompaniment of the piano played by Martin Neary, she sang “Pokarekare Ana”, “River Of Dreams” and Schubert’s “Ave Maria”. The contrast between these versions with only minimal accompaniment and the versions we had heard the previous night with keyboards, guitars, strings and percussion was enormous. I cannot say which versions I prefer – they are equally delightful but this much rarer arrangement and setting made a very pleasant change.

The piano was played fairly softly throughout which meant that Hayley’s voice could be heard at its best. She always sounds wonderful but last night it seemed more warm and beautiful than ever.

This was followed by Martin Neary’s piano solo – a rendition of “Clair de Lune” by Debussy. Then came an unexpected addition to the programme as Hayley introduced her guest from the recent tour, the Greek tenor, Mario Frangoulis. He sang two songs to great effect and filled the room with his magnificent vocals.

We were then treated to a short performance by a singer of Bermudan/Canadian origin, Heather Nova. Most of her material was performed to piano accompaniment but she played guitar for two of them.

Following the short interval, Hayley commenced the second half. As some of you will know, there is a board on the HWI Forum where one may suggest songs they would like Hayley to perform. I have never made such a suggestion but I once thought of a song that I believed would suit Hayley very well. It was an old Joni Mitchell number called “Both Sides Now”. Imagine my surprise when she began to sing it! This song was performed to the accompaniment of a guitar played by Giles Martin who, of course, produced Pure. The sound was absolutely enchanting.

Next came what must have been a re-enactment of part of Hayley’s programme when she appeared on two occasions in Joe’s Pub in New York. She walked over to the piano and played one note before returning to the centre of the stage. She then sang “Amazing Grace” entirely unaccompanied. Many people have said they would like to hear Hayley sing a complete song a-capella. Now I know why. It was exquisite.

Once the pianist had returned to the piano (and his arrival was a little late causing the programme to be performed a little out of sequence!), Hayley sang “Beat Of Your Heart” which I noticed the pianist was playing from the Pure songbook!

Heather then gave us another two songs before Martin Neary performed another piano solo.

Hayley returned to sing “Wiegenlied”, the enchanting theme from a forthcoming Japanese movie called “Lorelei”. She had sung this throughout the main tour and it was certainly worth hearing again for it is truly delightful.

This was followed by “In Trutina” which I felt worked particularly well in such a small room with only piano accompaniment.

All too soon, we had reached the finale. Hayley, Mario and Heather stood in line and, as I had hoped, performed the incredible arrangement of “Hine e Hine” that we had heard during her tour. Even without the benefit of the orchestra, it sounded sensational.

And so the final song had been sung but the evening was not over yet. Steve had said to us the previous evening that there was to be a bit of a soirée afterwards so we should “stick around”. And so around we duly stuck. I passed the time by partaking of another glass of red wine, sampling a few more canapés and wondering why they couldn’t have provided fish and chips! Never mind. It was all very nice.

Keith, Paul and I had quite a long conversation with Hayley which culminated in us wishing her well for all she does until we see her again. Mmm? Oh, all right. It culminated in a hug and a kiss!

Keith, Paul and I were soon standing outside the door of Canada House saying goodbye to one another and the last we saw of Mario was when he was standing in the middle of the road carrying his suit and shirt that he had worn during the concert in one hand and trying to hail a taxi with the other!

My parting words to Hayley were, “If I could have my way, you’d be back in the UK next week. But you come when you’re ready. We’ll wait for you.”

What a night! What a tour! What a long way home! Oh well, it was worth it.

Roger Mansbridge
24th November 2004


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