9 Dec 2021

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Hayley Westenra


The scene is a performance of a primary school Christmas play. The expectation from adoring parents is for the children to sing flat, fluff their lines and maybe trip over the scenery. Everybody expects a few laughs; no one expects brilliance.

It was at just such a show that New Zealanders Jill and Gerald Westenra first witnessed their daughter Hayley's extraordinary talent. "Her school put on a show called The Littlest Star", Jill says. "Hayley was just six and all she'd said to me was 'Mummy, I need my ballet gear'. So we went along and found that in fact she was the star of the show - the littlest star.".

A teacher approached Jill after the performance and told her that Hayley Westenra was pitch-perfect and suggested that she take up a musical instrument to encourage her talents. So Hayley began violin lessons. It was the beginning of a relationship with music that's been the driving force in her life ever since.

In stark contrast to most children who have to be forced to practise, Hayley took every opportunity to perfect her talents - quickly adding piano and recorder tuition to her violin lessons, and learning to read music by the age of seven. It was also around this time that her passion for Musical Theatre began to take shape. By the age of eleven, Hayley had appeared in over 40 stage productions, sung on TV shows and performed in major concerts. "It's a really great feeling," recalls 16-year-old Hayley, "when you're on stage you are in darkness and then you step out into the lights and it is like you've moved into a different world".

In 2000 Hayley recorded a demo album, mainly as what she called a "memento". This personal souvenir - just 1000 copies were pressed - unlocked the key to her future. On the day the recording of the CD was completed, Hayley and her younger sister Sophie (both vocalists, violinists and pianists while younger brother Isaac plays the flute), busked in their home town, Christchurch. The pair quickly drew an enthusiastic crowd. "A woman asked us if we'd recorded anything." The young busker's fan was a journalist with a local television station and Hayley soon appeared on air. The appearance captured the attention of a leading New Zealand concert promoter Gray Bartlett, and a deal with Universal Music New Zealand soon followed..

Hayley's self-titled debut recording for Universal New Zealand featured an eclectic mix of show music and classical pieces; it went straight in at No.1 in the pop charts (where it remained for four weeks), turned triple platinum and made Hayley the fastest- selling local artist in New Zealand's history. This was soon followed by the Christmas album My Gift To You.

After hearing her sing, New Zealand opera legend Dame Malvina Major offered to give Hayley lessons. Dame Malvina says of Hayley's voice, "It's absolutely musically true. A lot of young singers have beautiful voices but they have to be guided into that sort of clarity. She has it naturally".

The relationship has become close, and invaluable for Hayley. "Dame Malvina has taught me so much," says Hayley. "She's such a lovely person too and helps me in other areas as well - not just technique, but discussing things about my career with me and about performing on stage.".

Hayley smiles easily and her eyes twinkle with enthusiasm as she talks of her passion for singing. "I always dreamed about being a singer but I was quite realistic about what I hoped for. I thought, well, maybe when I'm older I could do part-time professional singing and have a job too. Once I got to the stage of getting a record contract with Universal, that's when things started to get exciting. Now I've got an international contract with the Decca Music Group and I'm doing things like singing with Jose Carreras and Bryn Terfel- it's really exciting!".

"I come from a really musical family", says Hayley. "On my mother's side, my Grandma and Grandfather used to go round performing in pubs - Granddad would play the piano-accordion and piano and nana would sing. On my dad's side, my Grandma used to sing on the radio. I guess I inherited some of that musicality from them." Hayley's strong Celtic roots have also influenced her. Her great grandparents emigrated from Wales and Scotland while her grandmother originated from Ireland. .

"It's important for a vocalist to be able to sing in any language", she says. "To portray the emotion in a song you need to have an understanding of what the song is about", she says. "And if the song is in another language then I try to find a translation." Already studying French and German at school, Hayley is now adding Italian to her repertoire..

"If I could be anyone in the world, I'd actually choose to be me, where I am right now, because I'm so excited about what I'm doing and I'm loving it totally. It's incredible; the opportunities I've been given. I really didn't expect this to happen", she says with wide-eyed wonder. "It is amazing how one thing leads to another.".





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muzic.net.nz Admin

Joined: 17/07/02
Posts: 5489
Location: Manawatu
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Pure UK's Top Classical Seller
Posted: Sat Mar 13, 2004 11:09 am
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has done it’s end-of-year figures and announced that Hayley Westenra’s Pure album was the UK's best-selling classical album in 2003.

It also makes Hayley the fastest-selling classical artist in UK history.
Since the record's release last year, it has sold over a million copies worldwide. It has so far achieved 10x platinum status in New Zealand, 2x platinum in the UK, platinum in Australia and gold in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Pure is set for release in the US and Canada this April.


Joined: 11/12/02
Posts: 15
Location: Hawke's Bay
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RE: Hayley Westenra breaks the 1 million mark
Posted: Sat Jan 10, 2004 2:17 pm
I think that Bic runga or scribe will be the next artists to achieve this.

muzic.net.nz Admin

Joined: 17/07/02
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Hayley Westenra breaks the 1 million mark
Posted: Fri Jan 9, 2004 10:28 am
Hayley Westenra's star continues to shine, with news in that her album Pure has now sold in excess of 1 million units worldwide. Hayley's been quoted as saying … "It's like, wow. Overwhelming." Fair enough. On her recent UK promo tour she sang for the Queen three times and performed in front of United States President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The 16-year-old also had a one-off performance with tenor legend Jose Carreras.

With this achievement, Westenra has now reached the heights of Crowded House, the only other 'homegrown' act to have sold more than one million copies of an album.


Joined: 27/12/03
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Hayley ROCKS!
Posted: Sat Dec 27, 2003 3:24 am
Ok Hayley Rocks! Im not one to listen to the kind of muzic she sings but have heard afew and she ROCKS!

muzic.net.nz Admin

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Hayley Album Climbing Aussie Album Chart
Posted: Wed Aug 6, 2003 6:39 pm
In at #1 on the New Zealand Albums chart for a second week today, Hayley Westenra is doing almost as well on the other side of the Tasman. Having entered the Australian chart at #17 last week, Pure jumps 10 spots to #7 this week.

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