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10th Sept 2005 < you are here
Proms in The Park
Heaton Park - Manchester

Well, what a night that was! I was cold and wet and accused of being a Mancunian! Never mind, it was more than worth it.

As soon as I arrived at the venue, I met Keith, Emmett, Lothar and Holger. We strode across the grass to stake our claim on the area of ground nearest to the stage. Although the main concert wasn't due to begin until 7.30, there was pre-concert entertainment which included a set by Duel. I had seen them once before at the Classic Response concert but they sounded even more impressive last night. They ended with a very Celtic set of jigs and reels which would have had the entire audience dancing in the aisles..... except there weren't any aisles and most of the audience were yet to arrive. Pity, they missed something really good.

The skies were clouding over and looked ominous. I thought of Natasha with her fingers crossed for us!

The concert began with several pieces played by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Steven Bell. I have to admit that I wasn't really paying too much attention as my only reason for being there was Hayley. Eventually she was introduced.

The orchestra began to play the introduction to 'May It Be' which seemed to last forever. There was no sign of Hayley. I was looking for her to appear from the left as others had done but she caught everybody out by entering from the right! Immediately, the rain began to fall. Typical! Eventually we heard her gorgeous voice...... or rather we didn't because someone had forgotten to turn her microphone on! We could see her singing away and I could just about catch her voice here and there but the 10,000 people behind me had no chance. The song was nearly half over when the necessary technical adjustment was made which still only allowed us to hear a couple of notes before a mighty cheer erupted from the audience. When that died down we could, at last, listen to her amazing voice.

Hayley announced that her second song would be 'Ave Maria'. I heard someone in the crowd express their delight but I have a feeling they didn't expect it to be the Cacchini version.

These first two songs may have been the first time that many of the audience had heard anything from 'Odyssey' but, for me, they are already familiar pieces in Hayley's repertoire. Somehow, that made them all the more pleasing to see them being performed live.

During the interval, highlights were shown from around the regions and it was a huge bonus to see Katherine Jenkins in Swansea singing 'Music Of The Night'.

Early in the second half, Hayley returned to the stage to sing 'O Mio Babbino Caro'. I heard her debut performance of this at Kenwood House a few weeks ago and was very impressed. Last night, it sounded better than ever.

Before the concert began, we got talking to a group of ladies, one of whom asked me what the song was that Hayley "always sings"! I named several likely candidates but each one was dismissed in turn. Eventually, one of her friends thought I had named the correct one in the first place and then asked how it went! And so it was that I made my debut appearance at the Proms In The Park singing the first line of 'Pokarekare Ana'!

"Oooh yes, that's the one", they responded in five part harmony, thereby sparing me the embarrassment of having to sing the second line!

As you can imagine, Hayley's version was significantly better than mine had been and I stood there, just a few feet in front of her, totally spellbound.

Her final song of the evening was 'Hine e Hine'. Although I have always liked this song, it always seemed second best after 'Pokarekare Ana' but, in recent months, I have come to recognise its true beauty and now appreciate them both equally.

All too soon, Hayley left the stage for the last time and we knew that she would be leaving the venue immediately because she was to return to London that night. However, it wasn't long before the giant screens on either side of the stage showed that we had linked up with the main event of the evening - the Last Night of the Proms from the Royal Albert Hall in London. From then on, all five Proms in the Park (Swansea, Glasgow, Belfast, Manchester and Hyde Park in London) were linked and performed as one. It was a remarkable occasion and the atmosphere was fantastic. All the usual pieces were played - 'Land of Hope and Glory', 'Rule Britannia', 'Jerusalem' and the 'National Anthem'. Crowd participation was tremendous and the flag waving must have showed on television screens around the country as a sea of red, white and blue.

So despite the cold and the rain, it was an evening I shall never forget. Thank you Hayley and thank you all - all 10,000 people for making it a joyous and spectacular evening.

Roger Mansbridge

11th September 2005

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