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7th to 25th June, 2005 - reviewed 15th June < you are here
Hampton Court Palace FESTIVAL 2005



I arrived at Hampton Court ridiculously early but still I wasn’t the first one there. I saw Richard striding towards me but he almost walked right past! It seems he had spotted Keith who, unbeknown to me, was just a few yards behind me. A few minutes later, the three of us were standing outside the entrance to the Courtyard like Wilson, Kepple and Betty! I’ll leave it to you to work out which of us is which! I commented that we had almost four hours to wait but that time flew by as we chatted about Hayley and…. um…. well, we’ll leave it at that shall we chaps?!

Richard treated us to coffee which at least meant we could sit down while the conversation continued much as before. We then took up our position again near the entrance of the Courtyard.

A car nearly ran me over. I suppose with a capacity crowd of 2,776, Hayley would not miss one of them and certainly neither of my esteemed colleagues noticed but I hope that was only due to the excitement caused by Richard proclaiming the words, “It’s Hayley”. Sure enough, the car pulled up, the rear door opened and Hayley appeared. As you can imagine, the three of us were right alongside that car almost before her feet had touched the ground and we heard those beautiful but familiar words “Oh hi”! Her voice indicated surprise but I reckon by now she would be even more surprised if we had not been there!

Hayley quickly suggested that we may not want to get too close because she now had a chest infection having been suffering with a sore throat for a few days. We took no notice and greeted her in the customary way - with a kiss! We were concerned that she might not be able to perform but she assured us that she would, but that she wasn’t supposed to be talking to preserve her voice. I wish I could preserve it. I’d have it bottled!

So, in she went and it wasn’t long before we could hear her warming up. It sounded wonderful and it gave us several clues as to the songs which she would be performing. Not that we needed any – we had already read the programme but identifying them during the sound check was much more fun.

We still had some time to pass but we were soon joined by Emmett, Lothar, Dave and Paul. With their help, the time passed even faster. It then occurred to me that I felt hungry so I wanted off in search of sustenance as Keith had recently done. I like to follow in the footsteps of the great leaders of this world! There was a choice of sandwiches in the café. Cheese with tomato and lettuce, lettuce and cheese with tomato, and whatever the other permutation happens to be…. I had a cheese salad! In fact I had two of them with two small bottles of orange juice. £10.20! Next time, I’ll take my own. And the lettuce was limp!

So, at last, we entered and the seven of us took our seats in seven different parts of the Courtyard. We really should plan this sort of thing better, chaps! The orchestra took their seats. You see, they managed to sit together so why couldn’t we do it? An amplified but anonymous voice requested that everyone ensured their mobile phones were switched off. Several members of the orchestra deliberately overacted as they tapped each pocket in turn in an attempt to locate their own mobile which clearly was never there in the first place. The guy on the double bass should get an Oscar! We were then reminded that the use of videos and cameras was strictly forbidden. Isn’t it funny how entire audiences become temporarily deaf at that point? Oh well!

Moments later, Jose Carreras stood centre stage and nodded discretely towards the conductor to indicate that he was ready. With the exception of a couple of short orchestral works, he carried the whole of the first half – magnificently, I thought. I had seen him once before at the Royal Albert Hall in December 2003 when Hayley was his guest. I felt that, last night, his performance was even better and his interaction with some of the audience displayed that, despite the seriousness of his singing, he also has a sense of humour. This was apparent very early on as he adjusted his cummerbund and referred to it as a belt! He explained that he had forgotten his own so he had borrowed this one from a kind waiter! He indicated that it was not the most perfect fit as he continued to fiddle about with it! As the conductor, arms aloft, prepared to bring in the orchestra, Jose with deliberate mistiming added, “My reputation’s ruined, I know”! The audience loved it.

Let’s move on swiftly to the interval when the “magnificent seven” from HWI met up again. Someone at the back may have thought we looked more like the seven dwarves but this is my story and I’m sticking to it!

We ventured outside to the lawn and it was suggested that we should all line up for a group photo. So there we were, surrounded by scores of people, not one of whom looked as though they had any desire to press a button on our cameras so that all seven of us could be in shot. Meanwhile, none of us knew how to operate the timer delay thingy and there was no ideal surface on which to place the camera anyway. Eventually, Keith worked it out and placed his camera on the top of a waste bin! Six of us lined up as he set the timer. He nearly got back to his place in the line when the flash went off. So there should be a shot of six of us grinning like Cheshire cats and the back view of Keith looking, understandably, as though he wanted nothing to do with us! I believe his second attempt may have been more successful.

In due course we returned to our seats, now moments away from what we had been waiting for. Hayley.

She stepped onto the stage looking positively radiant in a full-length white and silvery sparkling gown. Keith, we really must get some more female correspondents to do this bit because none of us know what we’re talking about! Never mind, Hayley looked lovely whatever it was. Now, because of the sore throat from which Hayley had been suffering, she had felt it necessary to make a slight adjustment to the programme. ‘Wiegenlied’ was dropped. This was a great shame because it has not been heard quite as much as some of her other material and it certainly deserves to be. However, we were in for a treat. She began to sing ‘Pokarekare Ana’ a capella. I have heard her do this in the past but the orchestra or backing musicians have always come in at the beginning of the second verse. I was aware that she sang the entire song unaccompanied once or twice in America and I was just willing her to do the same now. We reached the point where the orchestra would come in if ever they were going to. There was no pause between verses yet, for me, it seemed to take ages. I scanned the various sections of the orchestra. Not one violin was placed under its owners chin. Not one cello bow was raised. Nobody started licking the reeds of the woodwind. Nobody moved. Then we heard it. Hayley’s lone voice, hauntingly beautiful, soaring across the cool night air. A shiver ran down my spine. I had paid eighty-five pounds for my ticket and it was worth every penny just to hear this.

But the excitement was about to grow. There is a song on Hayley’s DVD which I fell in love with on first hearing. I desperately wanted to hear it sung live. I knew it would happen when I heard the sound check and I could hardly wait. I believe this song could prove as successful for Hayley as ‘Pokarekare Ana’ has been for it is equally lovely. Even the orchestral introduction somehow transports you to the South Sea Island paradise that could only be New Zealand. The song was ‘May It Be’. It’s melody is soft and gentle; its lyric delightful, yet its effect is powerful. And Hayley’s performance is enchanting. Two absolute winners in a row. I heard several members of the audience who clearly did not know Hayley, making very favourable comments about her. She clearly made some new fans last night.

These two gems were followed by ‘In Trutina’ and Cacchini’s ‘Ave Maria’ both of which Hayley had performed at the Classicalive event just twelve weeks ago. There, it was accompanied only by violin and piano. Here, it had a full orchestral backing. Both arrangements are certainly worth hearing. This was a short but truly beautiful little set. Hayley left the stage.

Jose returned and performed his next two songs before Hayley reappeared to sing the first and only duet of the night. It was ‘All I Ask Of You’ from Phantom of the Opera. Once it had been identified from the first few notes of the introduction, someone sitting near me said, “Oh wonderful”. Yes, it was. Jose began and it sounded wonderful but when Hayley started to sing, it was truly beautiful. When they sang together it was quite magical.

Hayley left the stage to Jose who then closed the concert. He left the stage to thunderous applause and it was obvious that we had not seen the last of him. He returned for the first of four encores. After the second of them, Hayley joined him and Jose made a brief announcement: “This is not original but we have rehearsed the Phantom duet so we would like to sing it again”. And so, we got ‘All I Ask Of You’ once more. I don’t know if it was my imagination but it seemed to me that both Hayley and Jose knew they had done the job so now they could relax and enjoy themselves. The result, as far as I’m concerned, sounded better than ever. I mentioned this to Dave shortly after the concert ended and he agreed with me. There was something about this second rendition that raised it to even greater heights of magnificence and beauty.

My thanks go to the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra under the baton of David Gimenez for a superb evening. My enormous thanks to Jose Carreras for his magnificent voice and for his obvious charm which the ladies of the audience clearly appreciated as was demonstrated when they were almost queuing up to hand him flowers! My thanks to everyone from HWI who made the whole evening so much fun. My thanks to Steve for his friendship and the trust he always shows us. But most of all, my eternal thanks go to Hayley for being….. well, just for being Hayley. I am more convinced than ever that she has the loveliest voice this world has even known and is truly the loveliest person I have ever met.

See you at Kenwood House, Hayley. ;-)

Roger Mansbridge
16th June 2005

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