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Hayley Westenra
June 2005
biography : factfile : pressquotes


Hayley Westenra's new album ODYSSEY was always going to be a different proposition to PURE, the record-breaking 2003 collection which marked her international debut. A lot has happened to the young New Zealander over the past two or three years - and those changes are clearly reflected by a record which encapsulates her growth from a budding teenage prodigy into a mature young woman.

PURE, made when Hayley was 15, introduced the world to a unique new voice. Poised, angelic and characterised by its breath-taking natural beauty, her voice won the hearts of millions and enabled PURE to reach some notable landmarks. The album, which has sold two million copies to date, topped the UK classical charts and also went Top Ten in the pop equivalent. In her homeland, it is the biggest-selling New Zealand album of all time. In Japan - where Hayley enjoyed a No. 1 single with Amazing Grace – she was the most popular classical artist of 2004 and won two Japanese Grammies.

For the young songbird, such success was life-transforming. From being a schoolgirl living at home with her parents and siblings in Christchurch, she was suddenly thrust onto the global stage. She performed in front of presidents, prime ministers and royalty. She duetted with Andrea Bocelli, José Carreras, Bryn Terfel and Russell Watson. She also sung live at many prestigious sporting events in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia.

Now, at 18, Hayley is ready to show the world how much she has grown up, both as an artist and as an individual. Fans of PURE will be pleasantly surprised by her new album ODYSSEY. Her wonderful voice retains its crystal-clear purity, but Westenra's singing is now richer and more rounded than before. Touring the world and singing in some of its greatest concert venues, such as the Sydney Opera House, Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall, has worked wonders for her confidence. Suitably emboldened, she has embraced an even wider range of musical styles including classical, hymns, folk and pop.

'I was happy with PURE at the time, but I've moved on so much,' says Hayley. 'It's really exciting to have something new out there for people to listen to. I wanted to make a record that represented me as a person. And I think I've improved as a vocalist.’

The stunning worldwide success of PURE has done little to dampen Hayley's hunger or enthusiasm. Punctuating her conversation with infectious laughter, she obviously still loves what she does. She also can't wait to put together a tour combining old and new material.

'It's exciting to have songs that are now part of my own repertoire,' she says. 'It's nice to have a balance between new pieces and tracks that people already know. It would be boring to do a whole album of established songs. It's great to introduce new material to the world.'

Variety is certainly one of the keywords with Hayley's new album. When she first entered a recording studio in New Zealand as a 12-year-old, Westenra restricted herself to classical pieces and show tunes. Now, in addition to impressive takes on classical works, Hayley uses her new album to perform an inspired cover of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now and has arranged and written much of the material. 'I like to push myself, and I'm now confident enough to try different things. I have been much more involved behind the scenes with this album – I wanted to put my individual stamp on each song.'

While Hayley has spent the past few years adding more strings to her bow, the various sonic strands are all unified once more by her distinctive vocal timbre and Giles Martin's sympathetic production. And, whether she's backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra or accompanied solely by Robbie McIntosh's acoustic guitar, Hayley always sounds perfectly natural: hers remains an intuitive talent, one that can't be coached.

'This album just evolved,' she continues. 'The material came from all over the place, but I deliberately chose songs that I could adapt to my own strengths. Adding strings, developing vocal theme, or actually simplifying an arrangement can produce a fresh take on well known songs”.

'Whatever the genre, I try to focus on the lyrics and immerse myself in the music. When I was recording May It Be, a song from The Lord Of The Rings, I pictured the New Zealand landscape around me to help me create the right atmosphere whilst singing.'
ODYSSEY is Hayley’s second international release. It is also, remarkably, her fifth collection overall. Having first been told that she had perfect pitch when she starred in a school play at six, the singer spent her childhood immersing herself in music and theatre. She studied violin, piano and ballet and had appeared in 40 amateur stage musicals in Christchurch by the time she was 11.

Encouraged by her parents, Gerald and Jill Westenra, Hayley also busked locally with her two talented younger siblings, Sophie and Isaac. She recorded some of her favourite songs in a professional studio for the first time, at the age of 12, purely 'as a memento'.

'There wasn't a particular point where I realised that I could sing,' says Hayley. 'But, from about the age of eight, I knew that I wanted to be on the stage. My grandmother was a singer. My grandfather played the piano and piano-accordion. A lot of my fondness for music came from them, and no doubt from their Welsh and Irish ancestry, too. When I reached 12, I finally knew I wanted to be a singer.'

Despite the subsequent conquests of the world's charts, however, Hayley is still very down to earth. Beneath her artistic gifts, she is a relatively normal teenager, albeit one who is developing into a beautiful young woman. 'I find it easy to keep my feet on the ground,' she reflects. 'I'm excited by everything that's going on, but it's only a couple of years ago that I was still going into school every day.'

With her career stretching out promisingly before her, Hayley is also keen to continue experimenting. She is still primarily a classical crossover artist but she also wants to keep broadening those musical horizons. Three years after her international debut CD, Hayley Westenra is still pure: she exudes pure quality and she remains pure class – but her musical journey continues with her new album ODYSSEY.

June 2005

Fact File

• Hayley's debut international album PURE went straight in at No.8 in the UK pop album charts and No.1 in Classical Charts. Making her the fastest-selling debut classical artist of all time, ahead of Charlotte Church, Pavarotti, Bocelli and Russell Watson. The album turned GOLD in the UK in one week and has hit DOUBLE PLATINUM with sales in excess of 800K.

• PURE is now the best selling album of all time in New Zealand. It has gone 12x PLATINUM and has stayed in the pop charts at No.1 for 18 weeks.

• Hayley became the biggest selling classical artist in Japan in 2004. Her hit single “Amazing Grace” turned GOLD and was used as the theme tune for a famous Japanese drama series. “Weigenlied” is her second number 1 release in six months, and is the theme for the blockbuster movie `Lorelei’.

• PURE has hit PLATINUM in Australia. It went into the pop charts at No.7 and into the classical charts at No.1.

• PURE has gone GOLD in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. It was No.1 in the HMV Classical Charts and No.6 in the Top 40 pop charts.

• PURE has sold nearly 2 million copies even though the album is yet to be released in over 80% of the world.

• Hayley has performed for Her Majesty the Queen, President Bush and Tony Blair at a private dinner at the US Ambassador’s residence in London. She also performed for the Queen at the prestigious Royal Variety Show and the Remembrance Day ceremony in London.

• Hayley is the youngest ever Ambassador for UNICEF. She has recently been on a field trip to Ghana to publicise a project she is helping fund, raising money for bicycles for young girls to get to school from outlying areas. Hayley has also been an Ambassador for Save the Children, Hong Kong and recently took part in a breast cancer charity awareness campaign in New Zealand.

• Hayley has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, Wembley Arena and the Royal Albert Hall. She has performed in front of 200,000 at Auckland Domain (largest live concert — Christmas in the Park) and Melbourne “Carols by Candelight” (largest TV audience — NZ, Australia and Asia).

• Hayley has duetted with Andrea Bocelli, José Carreras, Bryn Terfel and Russell Watson. She has also appeared as a special guest with the World’s leading orchestra’s including the Moscow Philharmonic, The Boston Pops and the London Philharmonic.

• Hayley has recently recorded film themes for Al Pacino’s “Merchant of Venice”, Fuji’s “Lorelei” as well as Disney’s “Mulan 2” and “Lilo and Stitch 2”.

• In September 2004 Hayley appeared on the season premiere to the hit US drama "American Dreams" where she performed "Who Painted the Moon Black".

• Hayley has performed the relevant national anthems before many sporting events, including The Mercedes World Tennis Championships in L.A., the San Diego Padres , the New York Mets , NASCAR , the All Blacks rugby tour of the UK , and will sing before the FA Cup Final in May , the British Lions Tour of New Zealand against the All Blacks in June and the World Games in July 2005.

Press Quotes

"The next big thing, a 16 year old singing sensation making a big impact on both classical music and pop".
Hello! Magazine, UK

"The Voice of an Angel Takes Flight; A Teenager's Album Tops Britain's Classical Charts".
New York Times, USA

"A ton of star quality".
Newsweek International

"Westenra's voice … is genuinely remarkable".
The Guardian, UK

"The glacial beauty of what is a remarkable voice - the control and purity of her upper registers defy belief - will surely captivate people".
The Times, UK

"A 16 year old girl smashed records today with the fastest-selling debut album in the history of the British classical charts".
Evening Standard, UK

"Hayley Westenra looks and sounds like an angel".
Sunday Times, UK

"Wherever Hayley Westenra goes, etheral adjectives seem to follow: angelic, innocent, pure".
The NZ Listener, New Zealand

"Hayley's performance is flawless - her poise perfect and voice bell-clear".
The Christchurch Press, New Zealand

"She is one in a million".
Singtao Daily, Hong Kong

"A new star is born".
Milk Magazine, Hong Kong

"The voice of Hayley Westenra will bring to mind visions of angels singing, for it is as pure as the title of her debut album proclaims".
TODAY newspaper, Singapore

"Westenra's signatured clear crisp voice has that melancholic, haunting edge that will send shivers down your spine".
The New Paper, Singapore

"The most angelic voice to have recently hit the music world".
The Strait Times, Singapore

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