Jersey Performing Arts Center - Monday
had been three months since my last brief visit with
Hayley and her wonderful dad in NYC, and though I had
seen her PBS special and been duly impressed, I longed
for her presence once more. I had planned to go to her
appearance with the Boston Pops in Trenton, since it
did not appear that she would be coming to the NJPAC
in Newark, but a call to the Pops office confirmed she
would be there. I swiftly reserved tickets, knowing
that the Pops tend to sell out very quickly. Alas, no
one else from the local "cell" appeared available,
so I offered my parents an early present.
picking them up we made our way down to Newark, about
20 minutes from my house, arriving about a half-hour
before the show was to begin. The New Jersey Performing
Arts Center was already filling up fast, all four tiers
and the floor loaded to groaning. In the milling about
beforehand, I discovered a sign saying Keith Lockhart
and Hayley would be signing CDs afterward, so I grabbed
up a copy of Pure and one of Sleigh Ride, the new Boston
Pops CD. By then it was time to take our seats, and
loud applause Maestro Lockhart entered, garbed in a
tuxedo with the somewhat unusual addition of a red shirt
and red socks. He swung his baton and the orchestra
and the Holiday Chorus blared out "Joy to the World-
A Fanfare For Christmas Day," which is essentially
the carol as we know it, all four verses, with the addition
of many loud trumpet figures between them. It was a
strong, full-blooded beginning to this great evening.
The Hallelujah Chorus, from Handel's Messiah was next,
one of those pieces that never grow old no matter how
many times you hear them, or, in the case of those of
us who are experienced choral singers, sing them.
Lockhart then addressed the audience, thanking them
for having his group there and recalling how last year
they had to plow through eight inches of slush to get
there. He also remarked on this being the time of year
when this world reaches for the next, and began to conduct
the opening of the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria. Hayley appeared
rather surprisingly at the top of the chorus risers,
dressed in a long white gown, with lighting that only
partially revealed her form and face, making her look
otherworldly, even, dare I use the word, angelic. There
was no mistaking her clear voice as she began the familiar
piece, hitting all the high notes with not a problem,
no mean feat since she'd already done one concert that
day. She followed with a strongly orchestrated version
of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" with the chorus
that pair of songs, the orchestra played the 'Christmas
Scherzo" and a medley starting with "Bring
A Torch, Jeanette Isabella." Keith Lockhart then
addressed the audience again, directing their attention
to "that angelic presence in the back." He
told of Hayley's origins in New Zealand and the fact
that she was only 17 (which got a big gasp from the
audience) and how she was just now starting to be well-known
on these shores. She in the meantime resumed her place
up top and the ensemble began Katherine Davis' famous
"Little Drummer Boy," with Hayley sounding
very boy-choirish over the famous ostinato accompaniment.
They then began another medley called "Songs From
the Hill Folk" which Hayley began with "I
Wonder as I Wander," then left it to the chorus
to finish with "The Seven Joys of Mary," the
rough-hewn "Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head,"
the countryeqsue "Kentucky Wassail" and the
spiritual "Go Tell It On the Mountain."
a brief intermission, the second, slightly less formal
part of the program began with the jazzy "Happy
Holiday" by orchestra and chorus. Keith Lockhart
again addressed the crowd, joking about his garb, saying
that "red socks are pretty popular in Boston these
days." However, he received so many boos and cat-calls
from the audience composed mostly of Yankee fans that
he quickly asked "what happened to peace on earth,
good will to men?" Amid the laughter that followed
he threw out a few statements about how all cultures
celebrate light right about this time. He then led the
orchestra in the "Chanukah Overture," which
combined fairly well-known tunes associated with that
celebration such as the "Dreidel Song" with
music that I can best describe as sounding like "Fiddler
on the Roof."
then introduced Hayley once more "up close and
personal now," and she entered next to him, wearing
a pink, sequinned, sleeveless dress and matching iridescent
sandal heels. She launched into "The Little Road
to Bethlehem," an Irish Christmas carol I was familiar
with since Irish singer Claire Halligan had mentioned
it to me. She handled it very well, easily following
the walking tempo and painting the picture of the heartwarming
tinkling of the sheep's bells on the road to the place
where Christ was born.
this point Keith Lockhart said he was going to tell
a story about Hayley, with whom he'd had a nice long
working relationship - two weeks - and he hoped he wouldn't
embarass her. Apparently when they'd first got together
he asked her if she knew "Walking In the Air"
from "The Snowman." She had said she did,
in fact it was kind of her signature song in NZ when
her first album came out "ages and ages ago."
Ages and ages translated to four years. This got a big
laugh, of course, but Hayley duly launched into her
signature song and handled it with her usual authority.
that came a piece called the Winter Weather Medley,
which was kind of forgettable, but then came the reading
of the famous old editorial "Yes, Virginia, There
is a Santa Claus," by Shon Gable of CBS news, with
a cute little 9-year-old girl named Daisy Carnelia reading
Virginia's famous question.
variation on "Jingle Bells" led into a choral
version of "The Night Before Christmas" complete
with descending scales as St. Nicholas comes down the
chimney and then whistles to the reindeer. Sleigh bells
heralded the beginning of the song "Santa Claus
is Comin' To Town," duly marked by the arrival
of the saint himself, sack of toys and all. He and Keith
Lockhart indulged in some silly banter about Rudolph
possibly not leading the sleigh because he didn't want
to miss his place in the flu shot line and the best
Christmas tree decorator being on "extended vacation,"
namely Martha Stewart.
official program finished with a sing-along, consisting
of "Jingle Bells," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed
Reindeer," "The Chipmunk Song," "Holly
Jolly Christmas," "Deck the Halls," "Frosty
the Snowman," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
course that was not the end, as a Pops concert never
ends there. Hayley returned to the stage to loud applause
and, in her best singing of the evening, gave a jazzy
rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,"
and the orchestra gave a slightly schmaltzy, but not
syrupy rendition of "White Christmas."
bowed, and we dispersed. Alas, somewhere during the
concert someone had decided that there would be no signing
session afterward, leading to some grumbling as people
departed, some going over to what is supposedly the
stage door, but is really a decoy. I was going to be
blasted if I was going to just walk away, though, and
I knew where the real door was.
my parents to indulge me for 15 minutes or so I tramped
around back through the "preferred parking"
lot. For whatever reason, the Pops buses were already
pulling away, but the thin figure loading a nearby town
car was easily recognizable. "Gerald?" I called.
Hayley's father looked up and shook hands, saying he
was glad to see me, and that if I wanted to see Hayley
she was inside. Marching over to the door, I saw Hayley,
dressed in her coat that she wore for the Thanksgiving
Day Parade. Her jaw literally dropped, I guess she was
glad to see a familiar and friendly face. Mine dropped
too, I was very happy to see her. Talking fast, because
I knew she had to be off, I told her it was a great
show, too bad Keith Lockhart couldn't stick around,
and, most importantly, that what she did for Holly Holyoake,
letting her duet with her, was an act of supreme kindness,
and if they gave medals for generous hearts, she deserved
one. She thanked me and, blushing slightly, said she
thought Holly was a lovely person, and she liked to
help lovely people. She will of course get no argument
from me on that point. I also told her the other local
people wished her well, though they couldn't be there.
I snapped two pictures, one of her and her dad and one
just of her waving and saying "Merry Christmas,"
which I should be sending momentarily. She graciously
signed my programme and the CD, which I promised to
pass on to "some worthy." We embraced warmly
and wished each other merry Christmas, and I said I'd
be looking forward to seeing her in the spring when
a big grin stamped on my face, I rejoined my parents,
and we were away into the night. Thank you, Hayley,
for making this Christmas extra merry, and for being
there for your fans even when others decide to change
12th December 2004