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Spirit moves Kiwi teen


Hayley Westenra is not a household name, not yet anyway, but the 18-year-old singer just might become the biggest cultural export out of New Zealand since The Lord of the Rings.

Thanks to an angelic, ethereal voice and moon-faced beauty, her first album Pure, which she recorded when she was 15, sold two million copies and established her as the biggest classical crossover diva since Sarah Brightman or Charlotte Church.
But she's not letting her early success go to her head. Indeed, in our interview, the teenager is taking it all in stride.
"I'm a very spiritual person," says Westenra between rehearsals for tonight's concert with the National Arts Centre Pops Orchestra. "I'm very in touch with my emotions and the music brings it out of me. I just express how I feel."
Undaunted, and feeling pretty ambitious, I'd say. At her three-night gig with the NACO she'll be performing some of opera's most-loved standards, including Il Trutina from Carmina Burana, O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicci, and Pie Jesu from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem, as well as folk songs she's fond of, including the traditional Maori song Pokarekare Ana and her hit single Amazing Grace.
It's the same ground she covers on the new Enya-esque album Odyssey, a melange of soothing folk tunes and pseudo-religious spirituals that seem to float on air, including She Moves Through The Fair, her hit May It Be from the Lord of the Rings and a cover of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now.
"They're uplifting songs in that they don't have the big beat behind them," the Christchurch native explains. "I feel myself pulled in many different directions. I'm still discovering new styles. It can be very confusing sometimes. Ideally it would make my life a lot easier if I just stuck to one style, but as long as I take care of my voice, I want to keep all my options open, including opera."
She's performed with such artists as Andrea Bocelli and Jose Carreras, before such notables as the Queen and President Bush, but seems unphased by all the attention.
"It has a lot to do with my upbringing which was very wholesome. Christchurch is a lot like Ottawa. It's a beautiful place. I get the same vibe here as I get at home."
She remembers the last time she was here in 2004 to perform May It Be at the NAC, when someone pointed out that the canal was the longest skating rink in the world. "I wanted to bring my skates this time but, being a klutz, I'd fall and hurt myself and would have to cancel the rest of the tour," she laughs.
Westenra is at the NAC tonight through Saturday. Tickets are $34.50 to $92 at the box-office, Ticketmaster outlets, by calling 755-1111 or online at www.nac-cna.ca.

source : Ottawa Sun
credits : jon vosloo
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