Concert Report By: Andrew Fenning
I couldn't believe it was finally 7.30pm... It was time to start following the ‘River of Dreams’… One felt privileged to be present at this first official Concert of the Tour! The “Raven” string quarlet entered onto the stage, followed by Al Gurr and Andy Moore. The musicians began to tune their instruments as the audience settled in their seats, as we anticipated a spectacular evening of music. Hayley appeared moments later, dressed in a beautiful coral/ peach coloured dress, in the hue of aqua, and blue tinted spotlights which cast an animated cascading waterfall effect onto the curtained backdrop of the stage. Hayley’s Aberdeen audience certainly adored her and applauded her loudly as she took her centre stage position and composed herself to begin. She opened her set with ‘Prayer’
. As she sang: “Let your arms enfold us...”
Hayley drew the whole audience into sharing the emotions of isolation and prayer for protection of night, from the story of: ‘Hansel & Gretel’. There was literally "pin drop silence" in the Hall, when Hayley sang the lyrics: “Hush, lay down your troubled mind...”
Her voice resonated with such clarity and radiance, as Al Gurr complemented Hayley’s smooth vocals with his “floating” arpeggios on the piano. “Raven” conveyed the cold chill of the night wind, with a gentle and harmonious whisper on their strings. The lighting and visual effects looked breath taking, as a subtle mist of dry ice was released onto the stage. This really enhanced the mood of the piece, as Hayley conjured up images of angels watching over us through the night. The audience were thrilled! Hayley thanked and greeted us. She seemed delighted to be in Aberdeen and commented that the Aberdeen Music Hall was such a beautiful Hall to be play in. Hayley expressed excitement for us all, as she told us that this was her very first night of her ‘River of Dreams’ Tour and she was sharing the stage with such a great group of musicians. She introduced her guest musicians to us: on piano – Al Gurr, on guitar – Andy Moore, and on her left of the stage, the "Raven" quartet… Hayley was pleased to tell us that she was sharing the stage with a couple of Scots. She achieved an immediate rapport with her audience by amusing us with her use of Scottish vernacular… She introduced Stephanie, from “Raven” to us as a Scots "Lassie”, much to the appreciation of the audience who responded immediately with enthusiastic applause & laughter! She then drew our attention to Andy Moore, telling us that he was also born in Scotland.
Hayley introduced her second piece to us, explaining that her Nana had once given her the sheet music to the piece when she was quite small. She told us that she didn’t really read music back then and she used to put it on top of the piano. When she eventually looked at it though, it became her favourite version of ‘Ave Maria’ Hayley proceeded to treat us to a stunning rendition of Caccini’s, ‘Ave Maria’
. Hayley’s delivery was so clear – she held our attention throughout this beautiful prayer piece with a performance which was quite moving. She sang straight into a blissful and very rhythmic rendition of ‘Scarborough Fair’
with real vigour! Hayley often emphasised particular words with expressive use of her hands. She occasionally inserted pauses into her pieces for dramatic effect too. One particular example of this, which I thought worked particularly well, was during the last line of, ‘Scarborough Fair’
: “He once was....... (pause as though reflecting in her mind)… a true love of mine”… Hayley then told us there was a possibility that ‘Scarborough Fair’
was based on a Scottish song which originated from the 14th century. It was fascinating to hear a little history behind some of Hayley's music tonight!
Hayley introduced her next number as one which is featured on her album which is due to be released on 27th October. She briefly explained that although this album would be a “Best of” Album, she also wanted to record a few new tracks and include them on the album too. She told us that she had recently recorded her next piece, adding that this beautiful song was one of her favourites which had originally been recorded by: "Fleetwood Mac". ‘Songbird’
took to the air… As a new track, this was the very first time that I had heard Hayley sing this piece. Hayley followed Al Gurr’s beautiful piano introduction with the sweet words: “For you…there will be no crying and the sun will be shining…”
I instantly felt my eyes welling up! (I have no shame in admitting that!) When the “Westenra Songbird” sang we “certainly knew the score!” Well, Hayley… “we loved you like never before!” The audience were elated by the end of this number. An extended period of rapturous applause followed!
Hayley then introduced "Raven" to us… She reminded us that they were very talented musicians and told us that she would like to let "Raven" take centre stage, so that they could “show off a bit!” for a few numbers. Hayley then encouraged us to give a warm round of applause to "Raven"… The audience were more than happy to oblige! “Raven” played straight into their own set , initially with an arrangement of: ‘Vivaldi’s Four Seasons’
, which was quite spectacular! Stephanie told us that “Raven” were delighted to be present in Aberdeen, and acknowledged that Scotland was indeed her home country. She explained that Natalie had composed the arrangement for their particular rendition of 'Vivialdi’s Four Seasons'
and that we would probably recognise the pieces which were to follow: 'Gabriel’s Oboe'
, taken from the film entitled: ‘The Mission’ and ‘Danse Macabre’
, taken from the theme tune to the: ‘Jonathan Creek’ TV series. “Raven” basked in glory after completing their set, as the audience responded heartily!
Hayley returned to perform her last number for the first half of the evening… ‘Now Is The Hour’
, which is another new track included on her, ‘River of Dreams’ album. Hayley really tugged at our heart strings with this very reflective, spiritual piece! To me, this is a song of hope. She followed this up with ‘Never Saw Blue’
, which left us all feeling quite transfixed and in complete awe! Hayley then jested that she about to start singing a song with 100 verses… The audience laughed. “What’s wrong with that?”
Hayley asked. “We have all night… so we’ll spend the rest of the whole evening singing them…”,
she retorted. A very majestic rendition of ‘Shenandoah’
Hayley explained to us that the next song which she was about to sing was one which she held very close to my heart. She told us again how her Nana used to be a singer herself and how she would sing this song to her when she was much younger. Hayley continued to unfold her story, telling us how her Grandad was also very musical and an all round great entertainer. He would play almost any instrument by ear… the piano accordion, piano, violin… often performing on the west coast of the South Island of NZ. She reflected on large family gatherings which she enjoyed with her family, which were quite often very musical events. Hayley concluded her story by telling us that her next number was one of the songs she used to sing with her family… There can’t have been a dry eye in the house after her very moving rendition of 'Danny Boy'
. I thought that perhaps the most touching words of the whole song are the words included in the last line of the song: “And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me…”
Rapturous applause followed before Hayley thanked the audience and left the stage with her guest musicians, to conclude the first half of the Concert. This piece had a really powerful impact on the audience… I heard a number of people discussing Hayley’s wonderful rendition of this song in particular, during the 20 minute interval of the performance which followed.
"Raven" returned to the stage at at 8.40pm. Stephanie introduced, their next piece to us as a Scottish piece which her sister, Nicola had played as a duet with Ali Bain at the New Year’s celebrations, a few years earlier. Stephanie recounted how much she had loved it. Kirsty, the other violinist of "Raven" had arranged it for the quartet to play as a result. The quartet then shared a very lively performance of this piece with us. The piece is often referred to as: ‘Mrs Jamieson's Favourite’.
Stephanie, Kirsty, Rachel and Natalie then played ‘Tango Jalousie’
for us, before completing their own set with the Spanish piece, entitled: ‘Ritual Fire Dance’
from 'El Amor Brujo', amidst an attractive array of orange and blue coloured spotlights. The audience responded with loud applause.
Al Gurr and Andy Moore returned to the stage. Hayley followed, dressed in a bright, sparkley lime green dress. She opened up the second half of the Concert with 'The Mummer's Dance'
, which is one of those songs which you just know
that Hayley loves to sing! Hayley thanked the audience and then asked how many of us had visited NZ. She asked for a show of hands! After a only few positive responses from the audience, Hayley recommended that more of us should go to visit NZ. She continued to reflect on her thoughts of NZ, by introducing her next song as one from a favourite film of hers, which had been filmed in NZ… As soon as she mentioned that the film she was thinking about was a trilogy, the audience burst into applause! Hayley remarked: “Oh there are some fans in the audience!”
She explained that ‘The Lord of The Rings’ was filmed in NZ, and the snowcapped mountains, lakes, rivers and the Canterbury Plains, are all featured in the Film. She introduced ‘May It Be’
to us as a song from the Soundtrack to the Film, which conjures up all the beautiful scenic images of NZ. Hayley’ performance was very expressive. One could just imagine the wonderous landscape features of NZ as she sang. If we were not already “in NZ” in our minds by now, we certainly would be after hearing Hayley’s next number, which was, ‘Pokarekare Ana’
. As soon as Hayley started singing the opening bars to this piece alone, the audience burst into applause – which indicated that most people knew the piece very well indeed!
Hayley then introduced her next piece to us, as one based on Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’, and one from her first Album, ‘Pure’ before taking us on a delightful journey down the ‘River of Dreams’
... I was delighted to hear this piece being performed with the the added contribution from "Raven". The "pizzicato" of the cello added a real depth to the piece. One could imagine that the cello sound was an imitation of the sound of “deep water splashing around rocks on a river bed”, whilst Al Gurr’s piano provided the accents for the “fast flowing river sounds”.
Hayley then told us that she had decided to play a number for us on the piano because she thought that it was, “kind of fun...”
. She introduced, ‘Sonny’
as a song which she had recorded for her album, ‘Treasure’… I felt a lump in my throat… as I witnessed Hayley performing this song live for the first time tonight. It was so
beautiful. Hearing the lyrics, “Sonny don’t go away…”
I could feel my eyes welling up again! The audience responded to Hayley with an extended period of enthusiastic applause!
Hayley awaited the return of Al Gurr and Andy Moore on stage before she introduced us to the Neopolitan folk song, ‘Santa Lucia’
. She explained that the lyrics to the song were the words of a boatman as he gazes out across the water, describing what a beautiful evening it is as the boats are bobbing up and down on the water and the moon is high in the sky. Hayley commented: “He’s saying come on my boat, and take a look at Santa Lucia from the water… it’s so much more beautiful!”
We were treated to a wonderful rendition of ‘Santa Lucia’
, which was simply majestic!
As a “huge Joni Mitchell fan” Hayley explained a little bit to us about the next song she was going to sing for us. She added that she particularly liked the lyrics for the tune of, ‘Both Sides Now’
which were so beautifully crafted. … Well no-one could “shake their head and say Hayley has changed” in terms of her consistent excellence on stage. A brief applause followed before Hayley led us straight into, ‘Wuthering Heights’
. Her delivery was quite dramatic… “Electric” seems to be the only word I can think of to convey her very lively performance! She really put her whole heart and soul into it! "Kate Bush" would have been extremely flattered to have heard this rendition – there’s no doubt about that!!! Another long period of applause followed as Hayley stood in her centre stage position amidst a turquoise glow from the stage lights. She asked us, “Would you like another song?”…
The audience responded with the unanimous reply of: “Yes!!!”
and a few loud cheers and whistles could be heard around the auditorium.
Hayley explained that her final piece of the evening would be a Moari lullaby. She explained that the music used to be played as the TV channels transmission would end for the evening back in NZ and telling us about the little cartoon Kiwi bird which would climb onto the rooftop and tuck itself into bed in a satellite dish… Somebody in the upper level of the audience appeared to know exactly what Hayley was referring to, since they shouted out in response! “Ah do we have a New Zealander in the audience?”
Hayley asked. She invited the same member of the audience who had called out to reply… “Well someone knows what I’m talking about!!!”
Hayley joked, before closing her set for the evening, with a very soothing rendition of ‘Hine e Hine’
under purple and pink spotlights. This audience did not
want to go home! A long period of ecstatic applause followed as Hayley and her guest musicians left the stage. We had drifted to the end of Hayley's wonderful 'River of Dreams'... What a superb evening!