logo HWI overlay
homepagebiographiesHAyley's Concert Appearancesconcerts scheduleaudio multimediagalleriesnews
albumsmedia scansRadio HWIradio & tvreviewsVideo Player 2005wallpapers
Hayley Westenra
In concert at Quays Theatre, The Lowry, Manchester

It has just gone eight o’clock and we are informed via P.A. announcement, that this evening’s concert will follow a format of two parts. Hayley is introduced, and gracefully enters from the left wing onto a candle lit stage, to enthusiastic applause. She is the portrait of sheer elegance and composure, in a peacock blue dress and silver high heels.

The opening number, ‘Pokarekare Ana’ is very emotive and the audience is lulled into silence. Hayley’s voice is crystal clear as she demonstrates a smooth tonal range, through some beautiful crescendos. Hayley explains that this popular signature piece from ‘Pure’, conveys the story of a Maori sailor separated at sea, from his loved one. This is followed by a moving rendition of Caccini’s ‘Ave Maria’. I am sure, I am not alone… I can feel my eyes welling up!

The stage set effects are very appropriate. Approximately 10 candles light each half of the stage, adding an advent/ cathedral theme to the front of the stage. Behind, is a black curtained backdrop. Tonight we are being entertained by Hayley and her two guest musicians, in the absence of a supporting orchestra. The sound quality is good, with apparently only a small degree of reverb added via the sound desk. In comparison to the larger venues selected for the ‘Pure Tour’ and ‘Winter Tour’ of last year, this smaller venue adds a more personal element to tonight’s show. Truly, it feels a privilege to be here.

Hayley introduces the third number of her repertoire, ‘Who Painted the Moon Black’ as, “one from Pure, which I still love to sing”. Hayley’s performance justifies this statement. She remains self-assured and delivers this rhythmic piece with enthusiasm. In contrast to renditions of this piece on previous tours, there is no percussion to accompany the piece. The song is however, delivered with a strong pulse and the piece flows. Hayley is the focal point, with excellent stage presence. She maintains a good rapport with the audience and her special guests throughout the evening, with a selection of songs from both of her recent studio albums, ‘Pure’ and ‘Odyssey’.

Hayley introduces her special guests, who remain on stage throughout the set. She smiles and presents pianist Ian Tilley, from London and violinist Fiona Pears, from her home town of Christchurch, NZ with “happy giggles” which are very endearing. Vibes of camaraderie are evident between the musicians at this point, with lots of smiling.

“Virtuoso” is the term used to describe Fiona Pears within the current Concert Tour Programme. This seems an apt description for Fiona, as she recites two unique violin solos. Fiona’s performance is polished, as she delivers a warm mellow sound, with high tones as sweet as honey. The first piece, ’Gypsy Lament’ is a very reflective solo, selected from her first solo album, entitled, ‘Las Sayas’.  Fiona explains that this was written two years previously, during her transition period of moving to the UK, from NZ. She informs that this was quite an emotional time for her. ‘Turkish Fantasy’ follows as the second solo and features on her second solo album entitled, ‘Doorways to Distant Lands’. This is a very charismatic piece, interspersed with very vigorous bowing and rapid pizzicato. The latter is skilfully used to mirror Ian Tilley’s ingenious and dexterous piano playing. The effects are delightful!

Hayley returns to the stage with ‘Bridal Ballad’ and explains that this song is from Al Pacino’s film ‘The Merchant of Venice’, released last year. Her voice ascends into the night with this very haunting piece. Whilst Ian provides a steady tempo, Fiona contributes with accents of slurred bowing and strong vibrato. The set continues with ‘What You Never Know’, the first song co-written by Hayley. Huge applause follows and Hayley responds with the comment that Manchester always has a ‘good crowd’. Hayley introduces the final piece of the first half of the concert, as a dedication to “Bill, in Row ‘E’ from Jean”. Hayley’s consideration for individual members of her audience, is typical to her. We are treated to a breath-taking recital of ‘Amazing Grace’ which opens the gates of heaven. I couldn’t speak to anyone for several minutes afterwards!   

During the interval, I referred to a copy of the theatre seating plan and ticket sales. This revealed that 92% of tickets within the stalls seating area were sold, with only of 16 seats out of 189, remaining unoccupied (excluding a row of 4 seats in Row ‘H’ 1 - 4 which were reserved as, ‘House Seats’). The stalls tiers plan, indicated that approx. 51% of tickets were sold, with 44 seats out of 90, remaining unoccupied. Apparently, the upper tier level seats were unavailable to the public, since they had been reserved exclusively for Company members. In total, approx. 78% of tickets available to the public were sold, with 219 tickets out of a total of 279.

It is approx. 9.10pm and the second half of the concert commences. Fiona Pears introduces another violin solo, which I believe, is, ‘The Zoo Keeper’ from her second solo album. The influence for this piece was a period of time, which Fiona had spent in the South Island of NZ. Fiona describes the music as, “peaceful and hippyish” and “all about eating muffins”, much to the amusement of the audience. She follows this up with a very energetic rendition of ‘Dark Eyes’, written by herself on the basis of an old Russian folk tune. During Fiona’s passionate playing of this solo, her violin bow shows signs of stress with fraying at both ends!

Hayley returns and refers to Fiona’s excellent performance with the comment, “How can you follow that?” The audience responds with more applause for Fiona. Hayley proceeds to introduce her next piece, ‘Prayer’ as one which is based on the story of Hansel and Gretel, praying in the forest whilst they were lost. Ian and Fiona continue to provide some very absorbing harmonies for Hayley.  

‘May it Be’ is next on the itinerary. Hayley reveals that this very powerful piece, has special significance to her, since it was taken from the film ‘Lord of the Rings’, which was filmed in NZ. She paints pictures in our minds of beautiful NZ scenery, before proceeding to take us on a journey through this magnificent soundscape, to realms of beauty. From here, Ian plays straight into ‘Never Saw Blue’ and the audience remain transfixed on Hayley.

Hayley introduces ‘In Trutina’ from Carmina Burana. We are rooted to the spot, motionless and in awe. The slow tempo of this very hallowed piece, seems to convey authority and grandeur. Hayley’s solo is like a prayer, or a lament. My only criticism would be that somehow it is impossible to improvise for the lack of an orchestra in this piece. Having said that, I don’t think an orchestra would fit onto the stage!

Hayley dedicates ‘Hine E Hine’ to a little boy called “Ewan” and announces that this is the final piece of the evening. At this point, the sound of hearts sinking is audible. None of us want to leave! Hayley soothes our souls with a gentle rendition of the lullaby. On previous tours, Hayley has performed this piece as a duet at the climax of the show. Tonight however, a duet is not mandatory. The musicians take their customary bows and leave the stage. Rapturous applause brings the musicians back out for an encore piece, in the form of Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’. Indeed, this graceful piece seems perfect for rounding off a fantastic set. Hayley and her special guests smile as they leave the stage, to huge, enthusiastic applause.

Andrew Fenning

7th December, 2005

Top Of Page
~ Hayley Westenra's own little shop-on-the-web ~ HWI supports

HW ShopUNICEFbikes for GhanaUNICEF

An Independent Online Store UNICEF NZ