Apologies it’s taken a little while but thankfully I’m now able to share my thoughts on the concert at Birmingham Town Hall, and once again it was another unforgettable evening of wonderful music by Hayley and other musicians. Hope you enjoy reading!
I arrived into a very wet and windy Birmingham at around 1:20pm, slightly later than planned due to my train being delayed when leaving Edinburgh earlier that morning
. Thankfully my hotel, the Britannia Hotel, was very close to New Street Station so I didn’t have to spend too much time outside walking to the place.
After checking in I went out on a quick walk to find the Town Hall, which again thankfully was not too far from the hotel. By this time the weather was deteriorating further with heavy rain and high winds, so I quickly retreated back to the hotel to get ready for the evening, hoping that the weather would be merciful and improve by the end of the concert.
The concert started on time with three songs performed by guest singer Alexi Calveks (thanks for that Ruth!), the first two songs unfortunately I can’t remember the names of but the final one was “Gira con me”, which I have heard a recording of Josh Groban singing.
After Alexi had finished his songs and left the stage, there was quiet for a minute or so, and then out of nowhere we hear the voice of Hayley, powerful and mesmerising, singing the opening lyrics of Hansel and Gretel’s “Prayer”. Initially she is nowhere to be seen, then out of the darkness we can see her slowly emerging into the light, in a black dress, taking her place on the stage to finish the song.
After some comments regarding the show that the weather had decided to put on for us that day, Hayley then gave another wonderful performance of “Scarborough Fair”. Following this came “The Water is Wide”, then the beautiful “Songbird”, which I’m sure many people in the audience found very moving to listen to.
Hayley then proceeded to introduce the other talented musicians on stage with her, fellow Kiwi Tim Evans on the piano, Andy Moore on the guitar and, once again, the fantastic Raven Quartet, whom Hayley at this point left to take centre stage. They opened with an exuberant performance of the third movement of “Summer” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the beautiful “Gabriel’s Oboe” from the film The Mission, and finally the passionately performed “Ritual Fire Dance”.
With Raven finished Hayley emerged back onto the stage in a new dress, black with blue motif. She opened with another joyful performance of “The Mummer’s Dance”, which has become a firm favourite of mine, then “Amazing Grace”, thankfully performed in the right key for Hayley! Following this was “Shenandoah”, (with the doors firmly locked in advance!), then to finish the first half another moving performance of “Danny Boy”.
During the interval I met up with Paddy, we had both thoroughly enjoyed the evening’s music so far. The time came to take our seats again for the second half, which was opened by Raven with a passionate performance of “Jealousy”. The next piece was “Czardas” fused with the theme from The Godfather, following an introduction from Stephanie Benedetti, who explained that so far not one audience had applauded in the right place; we were sadly not to be the first to do!
Hayley then came back onto the stage, in her Lime Green dress, which one particular member of the audience reacted well to! Her first song was one which I have never heard her sing before, “I know you by heart”. This was an absolutely beautiful song with a powerful and emotional performance by Hayley, and I hope to hear her sing this more in future. After this, there came “Never Saw Blue”, then the old favourite, “Pokarekare Ana”, which Hayley clearly still enjoys singing despite the number of times she has done so. She then performed the namesake of the tour, “River of Dreams”, before moving over to the piano for another wonderful performance of “Sonny”, to me she is becoming increasingly confident on the piano at concerts.
Hayley then left the stage once more for Raven to perform another piece, the name of which eludes me unfortunately, then re-appeared in another dress, black with silver motif. The next piece performed was “Santa Lucia”, for a change this was accompanied not by the piano but by Andy on the guitar and Stephanie on the violin. She then asked who in the audience was a fan of Joni Mitchell, to which only a small number put their hands up, before singing “Both Sides Now”, once again putting her heart and soul into the lyrics of the song.
The band then begins playing “Wuthering Heights”, and once again Hayley gives a powerful and fiery performance of this song which goes down well with the audience, before leaving the stage to rapturous applause. She then came back on for her final song of the evening; the Maori lullaby “Hine E Hine”, as always beautifully performed and a perfect way to end the evening.
With the concert at an end, the weather thankfully had cleared up by then, being thankfully dry and calm although somewhat on the cold side. Paddy and I went round to the stage door where we met with Ruth and a small number of other audience members hoping to see Hayley. She came out and spent some time doing signings and chatting with us, which as always is a real privilege and which I’m very grateful to her for being prepared to do. Eventually the time came for Hayley to head back inside out of the cold and for us all to head our separate ways, with myself and Paddy making the short walk back to the hotel (the same one, as it turned out!) i.postimg.cc/9fYxy370/smilie-big-grin.gif
The following morning, with Paddy heading down to Bournemouth for the concert there that evening, I checked out of my hotel. With the weather thankfully being considerably better than the day before, and having a while to wait before catching my train to Edinburgh, I spent some time walking round the centre of Birmingham and visiting the Museum and Art Gallery.
This was something which I decided very much at the last minute to do but I’m very glad that I was able to go to what was another unforgettable concert - Hayley on top form throughout giving passionate performances in all of her songs, fantastic support from talented musicians and a wonderful audience which I’m sure the performers would’ve drawn great encouragement from. My thanks to Hayley, to Raven and to everyone else involved in making this a memorable evening for everyone there. And thank you Paddy and Ruth for being there as well to share the evening with!
Best wishes all,