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22nd Sept 2005 < you are here
UNICEF Concert

St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London


Picture this. Two members of the Forum meet for the first time. One says to the other, “Are you Roger?”

“No”, says the other, “I’m Richard!”

You see, I hadn’t even arrived yet but that is the story as Richard relayed it to me when I subsequently found him leaning on the railings outside Garfunkels!

It wasn’t long before we were five in number and we entered the afore-mentioned restaurant and started playing with the menus. I felt sorry for the waitress because, every time she took the last of our orders, someone else turned up until there were eventually eleven of us causing havoc! It was going to be one of those nights!

When we were suitably nourished, we adjourned to the churchyard in which there was a very nice cafeteria for those who had only recently arrived and felt in need of sustenance. By now, our numbers had increased to about fifteen. I stopped counting after that but more and more kept appearing whenever we weren’t looking!

Several of us had met Gerald Westenra earlier and he had explained that ‘What You Never Know’ will not be released as a single which apparently explained why he was carrying a boxful of them at the time! Well, I’d lost the plot by then but I bought four of them anyway, justifying my extravagance with the knowledge that the proceeds would be donated to UNICEF.

We entered the church and took a pew. In fact we took several! A few moments later, Steve Abbott walked onto the stage and thanked everyone for coming before introducing Hayley.

Hayley doesn’t make an entrance; she somehow floats gracefully onto the stage. She was wearing a bright scarlet dress and her hair was waived and a little more blonde than it had been when we last saw her. She was a vision of loveliness.

Appropriately, as we were in a church, her opening song was ‘Prayer’. I’m not sure I heard a note of it. I sat there absolutely transfixed by her beauty and a little choked at the sudden realisation that there were now thirty or more friends sitting around me who had journeyed for all over the world. I will not dwell on this but the last few months have not exactly been easy for me and you guys have no idea how much it meant to me to see you all last night.

Hayley spoke briefly of the field trip to Ghana she made in her capacity of UNICEF goodwill ambassador a couple of months ago (as she put it). Actually, Hayley, it was five months ago. How time flies when you’re having fun!

During this concert, Hayley was accompanied by Ian Tilley (piano) and Fiona Pears (violin). I had come to know them during the Winter Tour last November and met up with them again at the Classicalive event at Olympia in March of this year. To hear them as the only backing to Hayley’s incredibly beautiful voice just seemed perfect, especially in a relatively small church (seating only about 400) but with its magnificent acoustics.

Hayley then began to sing ‘What You Never Know’. I’m not sure if anyone else spotted this but I am convinced that Hayley looked very slightly startled just for a split second as she looked around the audience during the second verse. However, this had no affect on her singing. About thirty seconds later, still in full song, she glanced momentarily back towards the same spot which was to my immediate left. I was certain that I had been right in the first place and Hayley was just making sure. I struggled to concentrate on Hayley’s performance because I guessed more or less what was coming. And I was right. At the end of this second song, Hayley made another short speech which was something along these lines…..

“I would like to announce that two people in the audience have flown all the way from New Zealand to be here tonight and I would like to dedicate this next song to them. They are Belinda and Kimberley Hutchison.”

I don’t know why but I think I was more moved by this dedication than they were! At that moment, a feeling of peace and tranquillity came over me and, with tears in my eyes, I became totally absorbed in a song that I have loved since I first heard it - ‘Who Painted the Moon Black?’ It is wonderful to hear Hayley singing the material from her new album but it is still as lovely as ever to hear her performing one or two songs from Pure. I think they will always be special.

Hayley then introduced The Choir Boys. Three boy sopranos who began with ‘Danny Boy’ but with an instrumental section played by Fiona. This took me a little by surprise for suddenly ‘Danny Boy’ developed into ‘Carrickfergus’ which sounded hauntingly beautiful on the lone violin.

The boys performed two more songs before being joined by Hayley who together sang ‘Do You Here What I Hear?’ The only time I had heard Hayley sing this song was on My Gift To You when she was joined by Sophie. I have to admit I closed my eyes and imagined Hayley and Sophie singing it now. With all due respect to the Choir Boys, how I wish Sophie could have been there. And I’m not the only one, am I, Hayley?

The boys then left the stage to Hayley who sang Cacchini’s ‘Ave Maria’ - beautifully. This was followed by her lovely rendition of ‘Wiegenlied’ which I had also heard her sing during the Winter Tour. But, in the few months since then, Hayley’s voice has matured that little bit more and it was never more apparent than now. Her crystal clear voice rang through like I have never quite heard it before. I am still marvelling at it and I can’t believe it was a human voice. It was breathtakingly lovely.

‘Bridal Ballad’ came next which also sounded stunning. By now I was really captivated by everything Hayley was doing. Every note was a work of art. It was utterly blissful.

So it came as a huge shock to learn that we had reached the interval! With so many of us knowing one another, it was impossible to get to talk to everyone but we seemed to split up into small groups and the twenty minute break seemed to pass in two.

Fiona opened the second half with two terrific instrumentals, the first of which she had composed. I have always admired Fiona’s playing and I really like the way she can slip so effortlessly from jazz to blues, and into jigs and reels. But I had never before seen anyone do what she did last night. I asked her about it afterwards. Apparently, half way through one piece, she suddenly decided that she couldn’t dance around the stage in her high heeled shoes so she just kicked them off - while still playing! She told me that’s not the sort of thing you should do when playing in an orchestra - but she does anyway. She then added, “Oh, I don’t care!” Good for you, Fiona, I think you’re brilliant (and Kristyn would be proud of you!)

Hayley now returned wearing a black frock with silvery sequins but looking equally lovely as she had done in red. ‘May It Be’ came next and I think I heard Richard whisper ‘Oh, I like this one’. Well, so do I. I could listen to it all night but, for me, this was the one song of the evening that perhaps lacked the sound of the full orchestra.

Then came one of the slightly more ‘catchy’ numbers from Odyssey - ‘Never Saw Blue’. On the album, this song follows ‘Prayer’ but now following ‘May It Be’, it seemed to have a little more impact. It is becoming one of my favourite tracks from the album and seeing something performed live always adds a new dimension to it.

I remember hearing Joni Mitchell (and others) singing ‘Both Sides Now’ when it first became popular in the sixties. It is a simple little song yet there is something about it that makes it stand out. Hayley’s version is better than any I have ever heard. Truly delightful.

Once again, we were then treated to two very familiar tracks from Pure - ‘In Trutina’ and ‘Hine e Hine’. The latter has almost become a second theme tune for Hayley (after a certain other Maori song!) and I would miss it so much if it were not included.

And so the evening drew to a close…..

Oh no it didn’t! Why do singers go to the trouble of going off? We all know they’re coming back on again! What would we get for an encore? Well, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind. Come on, it’s not difficult to guess, is it?

All together now: Pokarekare Ana
Nga wai o waiapu…

Where were you?

Well, that really was the end of another amazing performance. Many people waited a few minutes before Hayley emerged for a signing session and I think most of us managed to get a few precious minutes with her but, as ever, it was great to talk to Gerald, Steve and Giselle. And this time, to many friends - Belinda, her daughter Kimberley, Taylor and Susan, Holly, Trixie and Craig, and of course, Keith, Simon, Gerrit, Dave, Richard, Barrie, Megan and Katie, Lothar, Holger, Nicola, Chris, Paul, Lewis, TonyB, and any I have failed to mention to whom I apologise. And Dennis, who at least knows who Richard is now! And to those of you who were not able to be with us last night, we know you were with us in spirit. I hope one day, you really will be.

Roger Mansbridge

23 September 2005

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