Hayley Westenra: In Her Own Voice

Posted in Books, Hayley Westenra, Music with tags , , , , , , , on 22 February, 2009 by Nicola

Many would consider Hayley Westenra to not have walked the earth long enough to justify an autobiography (plus the fact that this is her second book; an authorised biography, The World At Her Feet, written by Paul Little was published in 2004) but to dismiss this book on that criteria would be a shame. Of course it does not have the intrigues and knowledgeable voice of someone in their fifties, who has endured love lost and found, career setbacks and so fourth, but this book is not really supposed to be about that. At twenty years old at the time of writing the book, Westenra simply wants to document her young life in its own little chapter. Although Darren Henley helps write the book, it is told in the first person, and Henley succeeds at projecting out Westenra’s personality.

This book’s most appealing trait, perhaps, is the inside look of the music industry, not just from anyone’s eyes, but through the eyes of a child, and later a naive teenager. Hayley documents her journey through the industry with innocent sincerity, and what is so beautiful about it all is that she is still young enough to remember everything with utmost clarity; an advantage she has over older autobiographers. There is something charming about reading about the world through so much naivety and innocence. She will lose this narrative voice when she gets older so I can hardly regret that she has written this autobiography early on in her life. Continue reading

Hayley Westenra & Jonathan Ansell at the Palladium Theatre

Posted in Diary, Hayley Westenra, Jonathan Ansell, Music, Personal Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16 February, 2009 by Nicola

Hayley Westenra and Jonathan Ansell teamed up for The Valentines Tour

Hayley Westenra and Jonathan Ansell Concert
Palladium Theatre
15.02.2009
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. Continue reading

Hayley Westenra’s “Pure”

Posted in Hayley Westenra, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on 13 February, 2009 by Nicola

After Hayley Westenra‘s tremendous success in native New Zealand, she was picked up by Decca and they aimed their new artist towards the international market.  So, this slick, charming and creative album was made.  The quality and amount of effort put into it seems to have exploded from nowhere.  Whilst Westenra’s vocals had matured slightly, she still struggled with injecting any emotion into the songs.  This album could have easily been another repeat of her debut album, but the song selection not only rescues it from such a fate, it also embodies the main strength of the release.

Pure works in a way that her previous album could never have done for two reasons.  First, the tracklisting is quite adventurous.  Any average music lover may have glanced over the tracklist and saw only two or three songs that they were already familiar with (I would guess at ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘In Trutina’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’).  Most crossover albums rely on the majority of their tracklist to act as a security blanket to the buyer: if they know the songs, they know what they are buying.  No risk.  It is a little bit surprising then, that Westenra somehow managed to shift enough CDs in the first week of release that it became the fastest-selling debut classical album in the UK’s history.   How? Continue reading

Hayley Westenra’s “My Gift To You”

Posted in Hayley Westenra, Music with tags , , , , , , on 10 February, 2009 by Nicola

Hayley Westenra‘s second release in New Zealand is not much different from her first.  My Gift To You was rushed out for the Christmas of 2001 after her success of her debut.  Essentially, it is a Christmas album and probably not entirely appropriate to review in February, but it can be listened to anytime due to five neutral tracks.

What makes this album standout next to the debut is the first appearence of ‘Pokarekare Ana’, a traditional Maori song.  Westenra is probably most well known for singing this track and although Hayley went on to re-record it for subsequent albums, this original arrangement sets the premise of her international marketing tool, and that is the purity of her voice.  ‘Pokarekare Ana’ is the perfect song for Westenra.  It does not demand emotional delivery, and has the sweet, mild temperament of its singer.  The version on this album starts off as an acapella, showcasing the bell like clarity of her voice, until a vague arrangement of meek instruments quietly seep through her vocals.  I have always felt that this is the exact treatment this song, and Westenra, deserves, but as she went upmarket with Decca, overproduction ensued. Continue reading

Reading List for February and March

Posted in Books, Diary, Lists, Personal Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 9 February, 2009 by Nicola

I swear I think of a new book to read with every passing day.  In an attempt to keep track, I am going to write them down here.  Once they are under the watchful eye of my readers (because it seems that I have some, apparently) I will be sure to get through them.  Maybe.

I will try to read in this order, then:

The Gunslinger by Stephen King
I have never tried Stephen King.  Well, he is American, so it is not like I am going to pick him out on my own.  No, a colleague at work, who’s judgement I happen to trust, recommended The Dark Tower series to me.  Since I see her everyday, I better deal with her recommendation first.  I have taken out books two and three from the series, anticipating that I will want to continue (as the first book is yet to arrive), so here’s hoping.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
This book was recommended by somebody who reads my blog (that is a nice thing to do in the first place).  Sometimes I will take recommendations seriously, others I will not.  I decided to take this one seriously because I am ignorant of all things China.  I do not like ignorance.  I must remedy it where I can.  Not that this one book will make me an expert, but I would like to know at least something about the country, even if it just the lives or three women that lived there.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
I watched the film yesterday evening and I loved every frame.  I am very curious about its source material and it is with a heavy heart that it is shoved to third place on my list. Continue reading

Stephen Daldry’s “The Reader”

Posted in Film, The Reader with tags , , , , , , , , on 8 February, 2009 by Nicola

I am very self-conscious when it comes to writing film reviews, as I have not a clue what I am talking about, but I can hardly help myself here.  I have a sincere compulsion to gush about the film that I watched yesterday evening and is still on the forefront of my mind when I woke up this morning.  In truth, I wanted to spill out my gushiness as soon as I got home from the cinema, but sleep beckoned.

So.  The Reader is adapted from a novel of the same name by Bernhard Schlink (a novel I have not read, and one I must add to my ever growing reading list), whether it is a faithful adaptation, I cannot say.  Regardless, the film has powerful messages and raises important moral questions which are incredibly difficult to answer.  Continue reading

Hayley Westenra’s Debut Self-Titled Album

Posted in Hayley Westenra, Music with tags , , , , , , , on 6 February, 2009 by Nicola

When I put this album on again after so many years just to write this review, I found myself pleasantly surprised.  After spending so many years insisting that this album was quite poor and was not worthy of any attention I must have lowered my expectations for it considerably, for I now feel quite differently and think that I was wrong to dismiss it so easily.

This album was recorded by Westenra at the tender age of thirteen, though you probably would not have been able to guess that was the case.  It was released only in her native New Zealand, and then Australia in 2001.  It charted extremely well, a kind of success that mirrored that of Charlotte Church over here in the UK.  Of course, at such a young age, and being so unknown, there would have been an issue of what to record.  Her company decided to play it safe, as you only can do with such young singers, and compiled some musical and traditional standards.  Continue reading