(16 November 2003) Hayley Westenra has rapidly become one of the world's female singer sensations during 2003. Presently aged only sixteen, her debut international classical crossover album Pure (Decca Music Ltd (UK) 475 330-2, 2003) reached the number three spot in the UK charts only weeks after release and at this writing has exceeded platinum in the UK, 4x platinum in the artist's home country of New Zealand and is about to take Japan by storm. A North American release is expected during spring 2004.
Pure, produced by Giles Martin and arranged by Sarah Class, comes on the heels of Hayley's self-titled album recorded when she was only thirteen and follow-up My Gift To You (a Christmas album recorded at age fourteen) successes in New Zealand. Read all about Hayley's background and the making of the album in our exclusive interview illustrated with Simon Fowler's photographs. Our album review follows below.
As one would expect of work by Giles Martin (son of Sir George Martin), the production and recording quality of Hayley's album is nothing short of superb. A perfect blend of traditional orchestral and modern instrumentation results in wonderfully balanced arrangements that support, never overcome, the singer's crystalline soprano voice. While some might compare the material to that of Charlotte Church, Hayley Westenra is truly a unique recording artist. The majority of the material is evocatively sung in English and only hints of operatic arias remain in the album's thirteen stunning selections. The producer's arrangements more closely approximate the work of Paul Schwartz than those that worked with other classical crossover artists reviewed here.
In the spirit of providing accessible music for everyone, Hayley's album includes selections from contemporary classics as well as modern easy listening and rock-flavoured pieces. Adiemus / Karl Jenkins fans will be delighted with Hayley's treatement of "Benedictus" from The Armed Man. We were thrilled to hear Hayley's brilliant rendition of Ronan Hardiman's "Heaven" and her spine tingling cover of the Kate Bush hit "Wuthering Heights." Hayley's solos emerge in each of the tracks either with self-backing or choirs to add texture where needed to complete the arrangement.
Several traditional pieces were arranged by Sir George Martin for Hayley. These include "Hine e Hine," "Pokarekare Ana" and "Amazing Grace." Hayley's heartfelt delivery is superb. Others were arranged for the album and Hayley's voice by Sara Class. "Beat Of Your Heart," written by George Martin and Giles Martin especially for the singer, is a lush ballad, delivered tremendously, with obvious hit potential.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.co.uk
A link to amazon.com will be provided when the album is released in North America in 2004. Hayley Westenra is a wonderful young female vocalist that is destined to go the musical distance.