Hayley Westenra & Jonathan Ansell at the Palladium Theatre
Hayley Westenra and Jonathan Ansell Concert
The Valentines Tour
At about 7pm I found myself in the Palladium Theatre. I do not really have many preferences regarding venues, but this place gets its stamp of approval from me for simply having more than three cubicles in the toilets – I think it had about twenty! In an unprecedented event in London, I was able to go into the Ladies, straight to the toilet, straight to a sink, and walk back out again. I was shocked to the core. Men will probably not understand how amazing that is, but take it from me: it is amazing.
Enough about the toilets though. But really. A sincere highlight to the evening. That’s the PAL-LA-DI-UM TH-EA-TRE, with the fantastic toilet facilities, ladies. You must go and see with your own eyes!
Going into the main theatre, I was called over by the blue jumpers (otherwise known as the Hayley Westenra International team, HWI for short). These people are extremely scary people that remember every single concert date, exactly every single person that was there, exactly what you look like though they have only seen you for two seconds in their entire lives and seem to remember every single word you have ever written on their forums. Truly frightening. I was introduced to what seemed like a score of people, all names blazing (which I promptly forgot, no matter how much I tried to remember). It was a genuine treat to see Roger (big boss man of HWI) again, and to talk to Richard properly. There were many I had a good conversation with, but their names slipped through the sieve that is my brain, I am ashamed to say. Ashamed.
But the actual concert? It started with ‘Un Giorno Per Noi’, a song I feel nothing for, but it was notable for me as it was the first time I had heard Hayley sing live in over three years. I noticed the difference instantly. I was quite convinced that Jonathan Ansell would drown out Hayley, but it was an unfounded fear. Hayley could belt. I did not know that she could belt. It was a revelation, to say the least. She was wearing an extremely pretty red dress. Jonathan was wearing a hoodie, three quarter length trousers, knee length socks and sandals*.
Hayley and Jonathan alternated on stage whilst performing a duet every now and again. Twice we were treated to the excellent string group Raven Quartet. Their first set really got me into the mood for the concert as they performed a medley from Vivaldi‘s Four Seasons and then graced us with Ennio Morricone‘s stunning ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’. It was a great pleasure to hear the instrumental live; I am so fed up with the song version ‘Nella Fantasia’ which pops up everywhere. Everywhere. Apart from their set, the first half of the concert passed by pleasant enough and nothing stood out for me other than enjoying the obvious growth and strength in Hayley’s voice.
It was the second half that touched me and would not let go. It started with Hayley introducing Eva Cassidy‘s ‘I Know You By Heart’ which has always been my favourite song of Eva’s but always seemed forgotten. Hayley wondered before she began if she could do it justice and I was screaming “YES!” in my head as she sang with such conviction and grace. The tears flowed, and my dignity went downhill from there.
Jonathan came out and sang ‘Canto Della Terra’. I know the song well due to Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli‘s recording. I love their arrangement of the song as it had a symphonic metal hint to it. Other than that, I never cared much for the song, but I felt like Jonathan had slapped me round the face with his rendition. The sheer effort and power that went into those long notes were astonishing. He then went on to sing Daniel Bedingfield‘s ‘If You’re Not The One’. I inwardly cringed as I remembered him straining for the high notes on his CD recording. Yet again, I was to be surprised. It was delightful, and better still, seemed so effortless to him. Jonathan also sang one of the most emotive songs there is ‘To Where You Are’ which I also know well thanks to Josh Groban. My tears started up again as he sang with such emotion, I thought that he might cry. Actually, he might have done, I could not tell. I believed every word he sang and I was a flood again.
The highlight duets for me were three songs originated by the ever trustworthy Sarah Brightman, but which Hayley sang with clear superiority. Hayley’s childhood passion for musicals became clear as she sang Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s ‘All I Ask of You’ from The Phantom of the Opera. Again, real conviction, real power, real elegence. ‘Amigos Para Siempre’ was performed as the finale which I thoroughly enjoyed and marvelled at the breath control of them both. Their encore was ‘Time To Say Goodbye’. I started to cry again as the song that introduced me to classical music eight years ago started to play and which Hayley not only gave great justice, but had performed the best rendition of the song I had ever heard. And that end note! I did not know it was in her! Stunning!
The second half of the concert made me extremely happy and made me appreciate Hayley more than I ever have done. I was on such a high after the concert that my best friend could not make out my behaviour and told me that I was acting wide eyed and crazy. Whatever that means. I was hoping to meet Hayley after and gush at her about her performances and making her promise to record ‘I Know You By Heart’ but she had an after party to attend, and I could not wait around for more than thirty minutes. My friend had work and still had a long drive home even after travelling on the tube, and I did not particularly want to miss any last buses or trains either. It was with regret that I took leave, as my usual unsociable self actually felt like socialising and talking about the performances of the night for several hours to get it out of my system.
I am eagerly awaiting her next tour and will hopefully approach any new albums with a new sense of wonder.
* Okay, okay, I lied. He was wearing a suit! Of course he was!
Mark Dowe’s blog has a video of the two performing.
Check out Hayley’s Realm or her Windows Live Profile for more articles on Hayley.
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Both Hayley and Jonathan have profiles on ClassicalX