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10th July, 2005 < you are here
Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre

Horses in Harmony
Opera Gala Concert
Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre
10th July 2005


So there I was, walking down this quiet country lane heading for the peace and tranquillity of a delightful pony centre with children riding in a paddock alongside. What could be nicer on a glorious Sunday afternoon? ….Then I saw Richard and Emmett ahead. Oh well!

The three of us, shortly joined by Paul, passed a pleasant hour. The conversation (and other antics) continued until one of us spotted a car approaching. We had already had several false alarms when approaching cars turned out not to contain Hayley but this time we were in luck. We lined up in front of the main entrance but Steve, who was driving, missed us all by turning into the car park. Better luck next time, Steve!

We strolled nonchalantly towards the car park to make it look as though that’s what we were going to do anyway! Steve, his daughter Hope, Sophie and Hayley emerged from the car and began walking towards us. “Fancy meeting you here”, I said to Hayley as she approached… or was that the previous night?

Hayley spent several minutes with us and I managed to take a photo of her seconds before she had to rush off for her sound check.

The concert was to take place in a barn, the doors of which were wide open and so it wasn’t difficult for us to see and hear everything that was going on. I couldn’t work out what the acoustics would be like in such a place but they sounded fine.

Dave and Chris arrived and the concert began. The pony centre is a riding school for children with special needs. Hope regularly helps there and, when she told Hayley about the gala concert, Hayley offered to go along and sing a couple of songs. The opera singers and the North London Chorus were accompanied by Murray Hipkin and Richard Pierson on the piano. Presumably, due to the short notice that Hayley had of her appearance, there was no time to rehearse with the pianists and so her two songs were performed a capella.

Iain Burnside, who was hosting the concert, gave Hayley an excellent introduction. While he was speaking, Emmett gave me a nudge and indicated that I should look to my right. There, standing just outside the door waiting to make her entrance as the introduction reached its conclusion was Hayley. Was she listening for a cue to start walking? It didn’t look like it to me. She was waiving and smiling at us! OMG!

She came on and sang what must surely be her signature tune ‘Pokarekare Ana’, followed by ‘Amazing Grace’. I have reviewed Hayley’s performances of these two songs many, many times. What more can I add here other than the sound of her voice was absolutely exquisite?

Towards the end of ‘Amazing Grace’, someone from the choir stepped forward and discretely indicated that we must not applaud when the song ended because one of the disabled children was riding around the arena as part of the display, which, from time to time, accompanied the music. The pony may have been frightened by a sudden burst of applause causing injury to its rider. The entire audience therefore sat motionless and in absolute silence whilst the little girl was helped down. When Hayley judged that the time was right, she spontaneously repeated the last two lines of the song, thereby giving the audience its cue to begin the applause. The way she handled what could have been an embarrassing situation was one of the most professional things I have ever seen.

All too soon, Hayley left the stage to the loudest applause of the evening. And the pony, which was still in sight, never flinched. He obviously appreciates good music!

Before the concert began, Steve had told us that Hayley would have to leave as soon as her set was over. It came in the middle of the first half. One song later, Sophie, who was sitting immediately in front of us, discretely slipped outside. They were gone.

I expect my five companions felt as sad as I did to think we would not see Hayley again. Good though it was, I merely endured the remainder of the first half and I decided I would begin my long journey home as soon as the interval arrived.

It was at least another twenty minutes before the first half was concluded. We all stood up and went outside with mixed feelings. We thoroughly enjoyed Hayley’s performance but, for us, the evening had come to a somewhat abrupt end. As we left the barn, I glanced up and was totally stunned by what I saw - Hayley, Sophie and Steve!

“I thought you’d gone!” I exclaimed to any of them who cared to answer.

“Nah,” said Steve, “we were waiting for you guys.” Well, as many of you will know, I have had some wonderful times thanks to Hayley but to think that she, Sophie and Steve actually stood around for twenty-five minutes just for us is unbelievable.

I think we must have spent the best part of half an hour with them, with just the occasional pause while Hayley spoke to other fans. Suddenly cameras were produced and, not for the first time, my camera ended up in Steve’s hands. Well I couldn’t hold it, could I? I had one arm around Hayley and the other around Sophie. He took a shot which made my day but, rather than give my camera back, he moved to a different position and took another one. Thank you so much, Steve.

And so the time came when they had to leave. We waited by the exit until their car pulled out of the car park and into the lane. We stood in line and waved them off. Hayley and Sophie both turned round to wave back to us. Farewell lovely ladies, until next time.

Roger Mansbridge

13th July 2005

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