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Hayley Westenra: Classicallive - Olympia

Hayley’s Workshop
Olympia, London
20th March 2005

I arrived at Olympia at about 11 o’clock and, one by one, met numerous members of the HWI team. There were twelve of us in all – the biggest gathering yet!

Fortune must have favoured me because I happened to be very close to the main entrance when Hayley and Jill arrived so I was right there to greet them as if I owned the place! A little later, Hayley signed a copy of her biography during a scheduled signing session. At the time, the book had not been published in the UK but Hayley was not surprised when she saw I had it! I get the feeling she knows me!

In due course, we all made our way into the arena where Hayley was to hold a workshop. As I have said on the forum, the twelve of us were sitting in the centre block of the front row (thanks to Steve and Giselle) so we all had a wonderful unobstructed view of Hayley’s performance. The audience was relatively small as there were many other things going on in the main exhibition hall. So, sitting where I was with my friends from HWI and Hayley singing just a few feet in front of me, I could almost imagine it taking place in my lounge at home

Hayley began by explaining how a song is taken from a CD and arranged for a live performance using ‘Pokarekare Ana’ as an example. Fiona Pears (violin) and Ian Tilley (piano and Hayley’s musical director) contributed by describing their own involvement. We were then treated to one of those really special moments – Hayley singing ‘Pokarekare Ana’, the first verse of which was unaccompanied. Beautiful.

Hayley then spoke about how she selects material to perform in any particular concert, how she looks after her voice and her health in general, and the logistical difficulties that can arise through constant travelling. Much of it seemed fairly obvious when she said it but they were things that most of her fans wouldn’t really think about so it was a fascinating insight into an important part of her life which, for her, is normal.

Hayley casually stepped down from the stage with a microphone in her hand and walked amongst the audience inviting them to ask questions. I have never seen anyone do anything quite like that but it was typical of Hayley’s kind and friendly nature.

Once the final question had been answered, Hayley resumed her position on the stage and treated us to five more songs. I won’t name then for good reason but one of them will appear on her next album! Needless to say, her performance was as delightful as ever. Okay, I will name one of them because, for me, this was the loveliest version of ‘Hine e Hine’ ever. Fiona delighted us with a beautiful instrumental mid-way through which was basically some delightful, almost ethereal variations on a theme. Then during the final verse, Hayley’s vocal line deviated from the original melody and was very similar to the harmony she sang when Mario Frangoulis sang the lead during the Winter Tour. Here, the effect was sublime. All in all, it was an inspirational performance as always and an emotional experience for us all. But it was not over yet!

As the audience dispersed, we gathered around Hayley and, on behalf of HWI, Barrie made a speech and gave Hayley the birthday presents that we had been organising for about three months. Her birthday wasn’t for another three weeks and so we didn’t get to see her open them but her eventual response can be seen in an entry she made in our Guestbook a few days later.

Finally, I would like to say an enormous thank you to Kirsty whose wonderful video of the entire workshop is now available here!

Enjoy. We did!

Roger Mansbridge



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