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Music on a Summer Evening

Kenwood House


9th July 2005


It was a warm summer’s afternoon with a gentle breeze; perfect for an outdoor concert in such a beautiful setting. Kenwood House itself is a splendid neo-classical mansion with beautifully landscaped gardens set in rolling parkland at the northern side of Hampstead Heath.

Keith, Lothar and I arrived ridiculously early and had plenty of time for a chat. Well, that was the plan but it didn’t quite work out that way! While Keith was parking the car, Lothar and I walked into the grounds and headed for the café where we arranged Keith would meet us shortly. He didn’t come.

After about a quarter of an hour, I suddenly heard a gorgeous voice drifting across the grounds. For a moment I thought someone had a remarkably good portable CD player! Then the penny dropped. It was Hayley doing her sound check. Lothar and I headed in the direction from which the sound was coming in the belief that Keith would do the same as soon as he heard it. Wrong again!

The stage was on the far side of the lake from where the audience would be sitting. The sound carried across the water very well but visually it was not so good. It would have been fine for a purely orchestra concert but for a solo artist, even the front row was too far away to see the artist.

Steve Abbott was sitting alone in the front row during the sound check so I ventured towards him. As ever, he greeted me as a friend and we spoke for some time. During the conversation he told me one or two things which left me totally unable to contain my excitement. All will be revealed later!

Keith eventually found us and we were soon joined by Paul. When the sound check was over, we walked along a path leading past one of the entrances. At that precise moment, in walked Jill, Gerald, Sophie and Isaac! Even though Steve had told me they were coming, I could scarcely believe my eyes. We couldn’t have planned that meeting better if we had tried.

I approached Jill and then Sophie, giving them both a kiss. By now I was in such a state of euphoria at meeting this wonderful family that I haven’t got a clue what happened next! They had only flown in from Christchurch that morning and were clearly tired after their journey. Isaac had been feeling a little unwell before he left home so by now he looked to be really suffering.

It is amazing what serious topics are discussed at times like these. For example, I found myself having a very meaningful conversation with Gerald about the merits of Green and Black’s dark organic chocolate! It just so happened that free samples were being given out at the venue. We were both familiar with the product, but it would have been impolite to refuse, wouldn’t it?! Actually, we do have a chocolate connoisseur within the HWI team - Belinda, where were you when we needed you?!

The family stayed with us for, perhaps, twenty minutes or so even though they had yet to see Hayley themselves! As ever, the time they all give us was very much appreciated.

In due course, we met up with two friends from HWI World. Several of us had known Andy and Nicola for some time but none of us had ever actually met them. How they have managed to hide away so well at previous events escapes me for the moment but their luck had to run out sooner or later!

We were all standing nearby a large picnic area when we realised that Steve and some of his family and Sophie were sitting nearby - but not Isaac. I didn’t like to disturb them but I really wanted to know if Isaac was alright. I saw a way of approaching Sophie from the side without disturbing the rest of them too much. As soon as she saw me heading in her direction, she gave me a huge smile which, in itself, made my day. I enquired how he was and she told me he was resting but that he would be well enough to come out for the concert. I was about to head towards my seat when I noticed two more familiar faces in their party. Fiona Pears and Ian Tilley who we had last seen accompanying Hayley at the Classicalive event in Olympia. I had already come to know them during Hayley’s ‘Winter Tour’ last November. We quickly said hello and agreed that we were all well, like you do, before I allowed them to get on with their picnic in peace.

Eventually we also met up with Chris and Dave and the concert began.

The programme:

Mozart The Magic Flute - Overture
Trad. Pokarekare Ana
Dvorak Symphony No 9 “From the New World” - Largo
Princess Te Rangi Pai Hine e Hine
J Strauss I Blue Danube Waltz
Schubert Ave Maria
Mendelssohn Midsummer Night’s Dream - Scherzo, Intermezzo &
Wedding March


J Strauss II Die Fledermaus - Overture
Vivaldi River of Dreams
Butterworth The Banks of Green Willow
Puccini O Mio Babbino Caro
Handel Water Music - Bourrée & Hornpipe
Tchaikovsky The Nutcracker - Waltz of the Flowers
Shore May It Be
Bizet Carmen Suite No 1

The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra conducted by Nick Davies opened the programme with the overture from the magic flute. Did anyone actually listen to it or was it just me who was so eagerly awaiting Hayley’s first appearance that I completely missed it?

As you see, Hayley made six separate appearances to sing one song on each occasion. Each of them sounded absolutely beautiful as they always do but, for me, there were two real highlights. The first was ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ because it was Hayley’s debut performance of it. Nevertheless, I had already had a sneak preview of it during her sound check, at the end of which Steve told me it was the first time that even he had heard her sing it. What a privilege to be witness to such an occasion. During the sound check, it sounded fantastic but, during the concert it was utterly spellbinding and was the best I have ever heard it sung. The second highlight was ‘May It Be’ simply because I love it.

When the programme was concluded, someone sitting nearby commented that we had only heard six songs from Hayley and I assured them that she was bound to give us another one as an encore. Well, you can’t always get it right. The only encore was Strauss’s ‘Thunder and Lightning Polka’ and I doubt if even Hayley could sing that!

This final piece was accompanied by a spectacular firework display which just seemed to go on and on until the sky was on fire with dazzling bright lights. And so the evening was over…..

Oh no it wasn’t! The various members of the team and several other people gathered where we had previously met the Westenra family knowing that it was only a question of time before they would appear again, this time with Hayley. During the concert, I had noticed a beautiful ornate bridge which spanned the lake at its left hand end. The lake looked lovely, especially after dark and beneath the cascade of fireworks which reflected on the surface of the water. Earlier we had discussed the possibility of acquiring a canoe so the “magnificent seven” could row across and rescue Hayley but, alas, you can never find a canoe when you want one! Surely that bridge must carry the path along which the performers would have to leave and it led straight to our assembly point. The bridge was illuminated and had a magnificent backdrop of mature trees. It looked a delightfully tranquil setting. I noticed there was a gap in the foliage overhanging the nearside of the bridge, just big enough for five people to look over the side towards us. What a perfect shot that would have made of the family. How could I possibly convey a message to them to stop there on their way over for a quick photo shoot? What a good job I didn’t ask….

You see, I learned yesterday that it is not a bridge at all but merely a façade. Had anyone attempted to walk across it in the dark they would have disappeared over the other side and taken an unexpected swim!

While we were waiting, Fiona and Ian would have passed by had it not been for me waylaying them! We spoke for several minutes during which Fiona said she would soon be returning to New Zealand for a couple of weeks but that would probably all meet up again before too long. I really look forward to that.

Very soon Steve, Hayley, Jill, Gerald, Sophie and Isaac approached. At times like this very little is said for a few minutes because everyone is tied up with all the hugging and kissing going on. Eventually, everyone sorted themselves out and we chatted with them for….. I have no idea how long. As I have said before, time ceases to have any meaning when you are with Hayley and her delightful family.

Oh, what a night. How long would we have to wait before seeing Hayley again? Too long, that’s for sure. All of 24 hours, in fact! See you tomorrow folks!

Roger Mansbridge
11th September 2005

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