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Hayley Westenra In Concert

Tewkesbury Abbey


With Fiona Pears Violin and Ian Tilley Piano

14th November 2005


I read an article recently that said that Hayley’s guitar was back home in New Zealand and that she had borrowed one whilst in London. I glanced to my left and saw mine looking somewhat unwanted. I used to be a member of two groups and have dabbled in songwriting but that was all a long time ago. I have hardly taken the guitar out of its case for about five years and believed it would be far more use to Hayley than it would be to me. Last week, in Liverpool, I asked her if she would like it. On Saturday, I restrung it and gave it a good polish! And so it was that, when I set out for Tewkesbury yesterday, my guitar came with me.

I realised I would not wish to keep the guitar with me during the concert due to limited space and so, as soon as Dave and I entered Tewkesbury Abbey, I handed it over to Steve and asked him to pass it on to Hayley. I thought that would be the last I ever saw of it but things turned out differently. First of all, though, we had a concert to enjoy…..

The abbey was cold and the wooden seats we not made for comfort! And, to keep this strictly accurate, I have to mention that there was a problem with the sound system, or particularly, with Hayley’s microphone in combination with the acoustics of the abbey. It was fine all the time she was singing but the echo when she spoke made it virtually impossible to hear what she was saying. When Fiona subsequently spoke during her set, the same thing happened. Thankfully, people mentioned this during the interval and Hayley was given a second microphone. From then on, she used one for singing and the other for speaking….. only she forgot and spoke into the wrong one several times. She quickly realised and we witnessed her delightful little giggle as she changed over and began her speech once more. It’s funny, but those giggles sounded lovely through either microphone!

The programme followed a very similar pattern to that of the Liverpool concert but with one or two of her more poppier numbers replacing some of the more classical ones. I felt the result was more typical of Hayley’s repertoire and her ability to sing either style is one of the reasons for her immense popularity. It seams there is no such word as “poppier” but Hayley uses it and, if it’s good enough for her, I’m not going to argue!

Hayley opened with ‘Pokarekare Ana’ and the contrast between this arrangement, with just Ian and Fiona accompanying her, to her performance last week with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra was astonishing. I wouldn’t like to say which I prefer for they are both truly beautiful. This, together with Cacchini’s ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Who Painted the Moon Black’, demonstrated her vocal dexterity to the full - a Maori folk song, a classical number and a poppier(!) song. Everyone was happy.

Fiona then played two solos, namely ‘Winter Flames’ and ‘Turkish Fantasie’ both of which appear on her DVD. Her slightly jazzy style always contrasts well with Hayley’s performance and her lively interpretation of her self-composed works was greatly admired by her audience last night.

Hayley returned to conclude the first half with ‘Bridal Ballad’, ‘What You Never Know’ and ‘Amazing Grace’. During the second of these, of course, came the sequence, “I’m falling for you….”. I found it particularly moving to hear her singing live the part that she had written.

During the interval, Dave and I spoke to Jill for some time. As ever, she was laden with her camera gear but seemed genuinely pleased to see us.

Fiona opened the second half with her own arrangement of ‘My Funny Valentine’ and a Russian folk song, ‘Dark Eyes’. Truly brilliant. I spoke to Fiona afterwards and commented how much I had enjoyed watching her DVD. I hadn’t realised that her part in Hayley’s concert at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester had been recorded but, for me, it was so pleasing to see it on the DVD as it serves as a permanent reminder of such an enjoyable occasion. Ian was also with us and explained that it was he who had recorded it on his camcorder!

Hayley returned to the stage and sang ‘Prayer’ from Odyssey and then ‘May It Be’ and somehow Hayley’s voice sounded better than ever. Every captivating note was a work of great beauty.

She concluded the concert with ‘Never Saw Blue’, ‘In Trutina’ and, yes you’ve guessed, ‘Hine e Hine’, all of which were gorgeous. Following her brief departure, she returned to sing Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ as an encore. The audience reaction was very positive and one or two people stood up in appreciation of her wonderful concert. More and more people followed suit and soon she received a standing ovation from a significant proportion of the audience.

It had been announced that Hayley would be signing CDs, DVDs and programmes after the concert, and it wasn’t long before a queue began to form. Dave and I spent some time chatting with Jill, Fiona, Ian, and Steve while the queue gradually diminished.

We used a few devious ploys to ensure we were the last to see Hayley. I would like to think that we appear to be considerate in letting everyone else see her first but the truth is, if there is nobody else to follow, we tend to get longer with her! Don’t tell anyone! ;)

Hayley signed my programme and, amid the general confusion that prevails on such occasions, I became aware that Dave was attempting to take our picture. Hayley said, “You come and sit here, Roger”. I ended up sitting with Hayley on one side and Jill on the other. I passed my own camera to him to repeat the shot!

I expected we were about to leave but Steve called me over and passed my guitar back to me. “Would you like to make the presentation?” he asked. Presentation? It’s a guitar, not a platinum disc! Anyway, for a few minutes, the guitar was back in my possession. I walked over to Hayley and laid the case on the table beside her. I then realised we had an audience! I heard Steve’s comment, “It’s an Aria - good make”. As he walked away he looked back and said, “I wish you were my friend”! Steve used to play in a group and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has tried Hayley’s guitar by now! Ian was also there and he clearly liked the look of it. That meant a lot coming from Hayley’s musical director. He commented on the new strings. Thanks for noticing, Ian! As for Hayley, well, she seemed pretty pleased! By now she had taken it out of it’s case and was strumming a few chords. I was standing beside her as she did so and was suddenly blinded by the flash. Jill with her camera again!

See you in Banbury on Thursday!

Roger Mansbridge
15th November 2005