The Christmas Album Review
Sunday, December 5th, 2004

News Menu Button SILENT NIGHT
from “The Christmas Album” by Aled Jones
featuring Hayley Westenra

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Just as “Pokarekare Ana” will always be special to me because it was the first song I ever heard Hayley sing, so will “Silent Night” because that was the first song I ever heard her sing live. It was at the concert for Amnesty International in Trafalgar Square, London – exactly one year ago tomorrow.

I bought Aled’s “The Christmas Album” simply for the third track on which Hayley guests. Many have said that Hayley has the “voice of an angel”. I have avoided that expression – until now. There is simply no other way of describing her exquisite voice as she sings the first verse solo to the gentle accompaniment of a harp. Hayley’s voice is even more crystal clear than ever before and just too lovely for words. Every note is a work of great beauty; so peaceful, so serene – so “pure”. Her expression is perfect throughout and her gentleness and grace shine through constantly.

Between verses, we hear the lilting notes from a flute before Aled takes over the lead for the second verse. His voice is a perfect compliment to Hayley’s. I have always believed that he is, perhaps, the ideal vocal partner for her. They have performed together in the past but this is the first commercially available recording of them together to my knowledge. I now know that I was right. His rich but gentle tone is so majestic, so tranquil, so ideal for Hayley.

Throughout the second verse, more instruments join in; the use of the oboe being particularly effective. Was it planned that the sweetness of the flute is to Hayley what the reedier sound of the oboe is to Aled? Who knows, but the result is magical.

Now backed by the English Session Orchestra (who toured with Hayley during her recent “Winter Tour”), we come to the third verse which you just know is going to feature them both. It does. Aled maintains the lead while Hayley begins with a low and hauntingly beautiful harmony. During the course of the verse, her vocal gradually ascends towards the upper extreme of her register and its beauty is absolutely breathtaking. The overall effect is further enriched by the backing vocals from Libera.

This, perhaps the best loved of all Christmas songs, truly encapsulates the spirit of Christmas. And the memory of that heavenly day when I first saw (and met) Hayley has been captured forever in this gorgeous rendition. This, surely the best ever arrangement and the finest performance of “Silent Night”, is utterly spellbinding. Thank you Hayley; thank you Aled. You have already made my Christmas.

Roger Mansbridge
5th December 2004


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