I was just looking down my Hayley concert schedule and I suddenly realised that after my 2 concerts in February, I have a big gap until May So you've guessed it - I have booked for this concert - its only a 40 mile drive and I have managed to get a seat on Row B 12 - must have been a cancellation. Anyway, I look forward to seeing you there Martin & Karsten
6 March – Better late than never, soprano superstar Hayley Westenra will be arriving at Cheltenham Town Hall for her eagerly anticipated River of Dreams Tour this week.
She might have postponed the Cheltenham Town Hall date of her River of Dreams Tour back in November, but fans of Hayley Westenra certainly won’t mind waiting a few months to see the biggest selling classical artist of the 21st century perform on Friday 6 March 2009.
With combined album sales of over 4 million worldwide, Hayley Westenra’s Cheltenham audience at her River of Dreams Tour will be great company, as the soprano has performed for princes, princesses, presidents, prime ministers and even the Dalai Lama, since she shot to fame at 16.
Now aged 21, the classical performer has sung duets with Bocelli, Carreras and Terfel to name a few, but organisers maintain she still continues to be the ‘unaffected down-to-earth girl from Christchurch, New Zealand’.
With such a wide appeal, never mind reputation for captivating live performances, it is surprising that there are any tickets left for her Cheltenham debut.
Event: Hayley Westenra River of Dreams Tour Venue: Cheltenham Town Hall Date: Friday 6 March 2009 Time: From 7.30pm Town Hall Tickets: Cost between £23 and £27.50, from the Cheltenham Town Hall box office on (01242) 227979.
I arrived at Cheltenham Town Hall just after 4.00pm to meet up with Mark, Karsten and Paddy who were eagerly waiting for the arrival of Hayley. The weather was sunny but there was a biting cold wind and we all agreed that meeting with Hayley either before or after the concert was of a lesser priority than her wellbeing so we set our expectations accordingly.
The Town Hall is a magnificent building which was actually built back in 1902 for the main purpose of hosting concerts and grand balls. The centrepiece of the Town Hall is its main hall, distinguished by its Corinthian style columns and coved ceiling, and with a capacity of around 1000. It was later proved that every seat had been sold.
The four of us chatted whilst waiting, waiting, and waiting for the tour bus but it didn’t show. By 4.40pm we were just starting to get a little concerned. Then a car pulled up into the town hall car park and out got Andy and Tim. A few waves were exchanged. Then to out great relief the bus arrived but with a driver that none of us recognized!
Hayley got our first and immediately came over to us to say hello but explained that they had been delayed getting out of London (no surprise for a Friday afternoon) and would need to get on with the sound check. This was fully understood by all so it was just for Mark to hand over an early birthday present. I asked Hayley how she was and the reply was that her throat was still not perfect but the honey remedy was working well. (I believe that one of the Forum members had previously recommended it).
We then walked into the town centre and quickly found a pub/restaurant called “Copa” which I had not heard of before but apparently is part of a chain. Anyway, it proved to be a good choice as we enjoyed a quality meal in a charming and relaxed atmosphere whilst waiting for the highlight of the day week.
At approximately 6.30pm we made our way to the venue and at 6.45pm the doors opened. Inside there was plenty of space for the public with two huge rooms for refreshments and a licensed bar. The merchandise desk was set up near the entrance.
We lost Karsten and Paddy on several occasions, one of which resulted in Paddy taking a photo of the Town Major and wife who had come to the concert!
So, we took our seats in front of a very high stage (must have been 5 feet) and Mark and I both thought that a sore neck was going to be the order of the day!
The lights dimmed and the on-stage sound engineer, who sounded Spanish, warned that all photography and recordings were strictly prohibited. Now, during the interval Mark and I came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that it isn’t the venues on this tour imposing these restrictions but Kennedy Productions themselves. We will never know....
Tim, Andy and Raven appeared to polite applause and took their places. There was then a pause of at least 15 seconds (which seemed like 15 minutes) and then suddenly Hayley, still off stage, sang the first few bars of “Prayer”. The concert had started and my senses became mesmerized.
The concert itself followed a similar format to those previously but, as we have come to expect, with a few variations.
No guest singer this time so Hayley’s first set comprised:
Prayer Scarborough Fair The Water is Wide Songbird
Raven then took centre stage and performed their customary three numbers as mentioned in previous concert reports. They received rapturous applause from the audience which was much appreciated.
Hayley then returned and closed the first half with another four songs but I can only remember three, they were:
Shenandoah (yes, 100 verses, doors closed banter) Amazing Grace …………………… Danny Boy
The interval then lasted 20 minutes and I spent most of the time talking to a friend that I had bumped into by the merchandise desk.
For such a large hall the acoustics were excellent so congratulations again to the sound team for expert set-up.
After the interval Raven performed another two numbers but with a highly amusing anecdote. When introducing “Czardas” Stephanie stated that at every previous concert the audience had clapped in the wrong place (easily done) so we were challenged to better this record!! Then, whilst the girls were composing themselves to play the first note a member of the audience clapped! The audience and the girls just burst into laughter and it took a good while for them to return to the serious matter in hand. In fact Stephanie was laughing so much that I thought at one stage that she was going to have an accident!
It is that sort of ad-hoc event that completely changes the artist/audience relationship and at the end of the piece they received a staggering reception.
The remainder of the second half is now shown below, taken directly from the running order sheet on the stage:
As you can see Raven played another piece mid-set to allow Hayley to change dresses.
The concert came to an end with “Wuthering Heights” which shocked two ladies sat next to Mark but I will leave it to him to explain. By this stage the audience wanted more and more so the encore Hine E Hine was provided but as you can see from the song sheet the provision of a second encore never materialized. This was a bit surprising since the audience applause got louder and louder with shouts for more. Raven, Andy and Tim had left the stage as indeed Hayley and then she returned alone obviously aware of the audience expectation. But alas, there was no second encore but just Hayley thanking everyone again for their kind and generous reception. I thought at the time that another song then would have been a step too far for Hayley’s throat but perhaps the real reason was the surprise awaiting us - a signing which we never expected.
As the audience was leaving Tim came on stage to collect a few items (no, not his piano!) so we had a quick chat. Unknown to me he said is joining Hayley for the Japan tour and then he told us that both Hayley and Raven were about to do a signing. Without prompting we followed the remainder of the audience out.
The signing was being held in the large meeting room which doubled up as the bar. Within ten minutes of the concert ending the signing commenced and a queue of at least 50 concert goers diligently waited their turn. Mark, Paddy and I just stood back knowing that we would see Hayley for a few brief moments after the queue had subsided. Meanwhile Karsten took a large number of photos, the best of which I am sure will be posted in due course. Paddy also took quite a few.
Whilst we were waiting I went and spoke to Hannah from Bedlam who I had not met before. She was very interested in HWI and liked the sweatshirt! At that point Karsten took a photo of her and, shocked, she said laughingly “You are not going to put that on the Forum are you?” I winked at Mark who was stood next to me. However, I asked her if she would mind and she said no.
The queue was then gone so we had those few special moments with Hayley who was in great form and re-iterated again that the honey remedy was working well. We said our goodbyes and wished her a successful tour in Japan which she leaves for this weekend accompanied by Steve A.
Regarding the tour Hayley said, with a wink in her eye, that “they” (presumably, the tour promoters) had just added another two dates to the tour without her knowing. But it didn’t seem to bother her.
So, that was that. The last concert here in the UK for two and a half months and we now hand over the reigns to our friends in Japan and New Zealand.
At that point we lost Karsten again but only to then find him chatting up the lady in the foyer. Well, he got his evil way and I laughed when I saw her dismantling a poster frame so that he could have the contents - the new ROD poster with the revised dates.
We waited outside the venue to give a final wave but after 20 minutes we agreed it was time to go our different ways. Thank you Mark, Karsten and Paddy for your company and just demonstrating again how International we have become.
Minutes later I was driving past the end of the town hall car park and could see the girls climbing into the tour bus. I, myself, set my car to auto pilot and somehow got back home whilst reliving the concert.
This was another fairly easy to get to concert for me - just an hours drive door to door, although the sat nav took me over a route that I hadn't been before. The first part of the journey is the same route that I had taken to see Hayley in Cardiff just 2 weeks ago and I found myself re-living that evening in my mind as I was driving.
Having met up with Karsten after walking around the entire building looking for the stage door, I eventually found it. We were soon approached by theatre security (oh no I thought, Its Cardiff all over again) but I needn't have worried, as when I explained that we were waiting for Hayley to arrive, he was quite happy for us to hang around.
As Martin mentioned, the tour bus didn't arrive until 4.45pm. We stood well back, as we knew that Hayley would want to get on with the sound check. However, she was first out of the bus and came straight over to speak to us. We were desperate not to hold her up but I took the decision to give her an early birthday card and small gift at that point, just incase we were not able to see her afterwards. The gift bag also contained an extra gift from our very own Drew - delivered safely Drew . As it happened we did get to see Hayley after the show as she unexpectedly did a full indoor signing session, so I was able to explain my present !!
After a very good and relaxing meal we made our way to the venue. I was impressed by the spaciousness of the building and its 'grandness'. It wasn't long before we took our seats. I was sitting on the second row back, centre stage. As the stage was high, I had a perfect view and was in Hayley's range of sight during the performance. Just before the lights went down, I spotted Hannah, from Bedlam, who was sitting up in the balcony right above the stage with a sound engineer (I think). Despite having met me only once before a few weeks ago, she told me later that she had spotted me in the audience - once seen never forgotten I guess i21.photobucket.com/albums/b294/hdjoespics/EEjdKsU.gif
Although the audience was very appreciative, It wasn't until the second half that they really got warmed up. Never the less, Hayley was in top form right from the start though and the missing song Martin, was 'The Mummers Dance'.
After waiting for the best part of two years to hear Hayley sing my all time favourite song again, I am now being totally spoilt with her singing it for every concert. Once again, she introduced the song telling the story of the songwriter coming into the studio whilst she was recording Odyssey. I am of course talking about 'Never saw Blue'. Just as in Cardiff, I felt that she was singing the song just for me and then as the audience started to applause - was it wishful thinking, or did she give me a knowing look/nod of the head ??
Thank you Martin for your excellent report and thank you Mark for the first part of yours. It's nice to have a report to read for a change, although I always enjoy writing mine.
I know the tour isn't over yet, but I've enjoyed the experience so far and it's been an interesting one. I guess I, like most, expected each concert to follow the same format but the little differences and set list changes have added a tinge of mystery which I have really enjoyed.
I'm looking forward to the rest of your report Mark and to the pictures which will follow later.