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Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

News Menu Button Hayley Westenra

In concert with the
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by Robin Stapleton

With support from Fiona Pears violin

I arrived at the venue twice! As I approached on the first occasion, I could see through a side window into the foyer. There stood Jill! I sped round to the front door, entered, and positioned myself so I was deliberately in her way!

Jill looked round, then came towards me calling, “Hi, Roger”! We must have chatted for about ten minutes before she had to go backstage to Hayley. Jill had only arrived in the UK on one or other of the two previous days - she wasn’t sure which, such were the effects of jetlag!

There were still almost two hours before the concert was due to commence. There was nobody else around at the time and my hotel was only a few minutes’ walk away so I returned there to pass the time. I was watching the news on television when Dave phoned to confirm he was only 20 miles away and that he expected to be at the venue by about 7 o’clock. I returned to the Philharmonic Hall in time to meet him.

Soon after I got there, Lothar, then Keith and finally Dave, arrived. Time flew as we chatted about Hayley and HWI until we eventually took our seats.

I had been fortunate enough to obtain a ticket in the middle of the second row - right in front of Hayley and, by coincidence, next to Lothar. The orchestra opened the concert with ‘Fantasia on Greensleeves’ by Vaughan Williams. No doubt it was a superb performance from this world-class orchestra but was anyone really listening, or was the entire audience eagerly awaiting the moment when Hayley walked on to the stage? We did not have to wait for long.

Hayley began with the almost obligatory ‘Pokarekare Ana’. I have lost count of how many times I have heard this song but, somehow, every time is special. I suppose the day will come when she no longer performs it. I only hope that day is still a long way off.

Hayley then made an announcement which I am sure everyone present from HWI found very moving. None more so than Keith, for she dedicated her next song to him. She then gave an amazing performance of ‘Brasilieras Bachianas No 5’ from Odyssey.

Hayley left the stage having handed over to Fiona Pears who frequently accompanies her. Fiona is a superb violinist and composer from Christchurch, New Zealand. She performed ‘Gypsy Lament’ and ‘Memories of Martin and Mary’ both of which were self-written and the latter of which I particularly remember from her performances throughout Hayley’s UK tour last year. When Fiona plays, she likes to dance around the stage but, on this occasion, there was no room. What a pity. There is always so much energy and excitement in Fiona’s perfomances yet, during the quieter passages, her playing is melancholy and almost mournful.

The orchestra then played the ‘Intermezzo’ from Carmen. This beautiful work was a perfect screen between Fiona’s frantic fiddle playing and the soothing tones from Hayley whose next set included ‘Wiegenlied’, Bridal Ballad’, and ‘Amazing Grace’. All three were performed with great feeling and left me unable to believe that the first half of the concert was already concluded.

During the short interval, Keith, Dave, Lothar and I met up with several people who we had seen at previous concerts. It is amazing to discover how many people are prepared to travel considerable distances to see Hayley whenever possible.

During the interval, I also managed to speak at some length to Ian Tilley. He is Hayley’s Musical Director and often accompanies her on the piano. This time, though, because of the presence of the orchestra, he had the night off!

Fiona opened the second half with another of her own compositions, ‘Turkish Fantasie’ which, as ever, was superb. The orchestra then performed the ‘Intermezzo’ from Cavalleria Rusticana before Hayley retuned to the stage.

Cacchini’s ‘Ave Maria’ and Puccini’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ sounded truly amazing. It has been said that Hayley does not have an operatic voice and should therefore not perform works such as these. I defy anyone to say that having heard her sing them live. I would rather hear Hayley’s version than any other. It is her amazing but natural sounding voice that makes her special. I also noticed that the applause which followed ‘O Mio’ was the most enthusiastic of the evening so far and deservedly so.

Hayley left to stage and we were treated to the last orchestral work of the evening, Wagner’s ‘Prelude to Act III’ from Tristan and Isolde. This was followed by Hayley’s final set: ‘May It Be’, ‘In Trutina’ and ‘Hine e Hine’.

As you can see, this was very much a “classical” concert. Although I really appreciate the pop songs that Hayley sings, this was a magnificent programme which seemed to be greatly appreciated by everyone.

We left the auditorium. Jill had mentioned that Hayley hoped to be able to meet people after the concert and so we assembled in the Hall’s café area above the foyer. I say “we”. Just how many people had Jill told? There must have been about two hundred people in the queue!

While we waited for the queue to diminish, we chatted with Jill, Fiona, Ian and our good friend Steve Abbott, and also to a number of other fans who seemed to recognise us from somewhere! Eventually we were able to spend some time with Hayley who, as always, greeted us like friends. During this time, I made Hayley an offer that she couldn’t refuse but, at the same time, didn’t like to accept. And if you want to know what that’s all about, you’ll just have to wait a few more days for my next review!

Oh the suspense!

Roger Mansbridge


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