04 November 2003

Hayley Westenra

I was reading the arts section of the New York Times over lunch today--something I don't do nearly as often as I'd like. There was an article about a 16-year-old singer from New Zealand who has two hit CD's in her native land and now has made the charts in England with her fourth CD, "Pure." When I started reading the article, which had the words "Voice of an Angel" in the headline, all I thought was, "Charlotte Church all over again."
But I checked out her website, and listened to some of the clips. She has a lot of the same material as Miss Church, but I think she does some of it better. From the B-G Ave Maria and Lloyd Webber Pie Jesu tracks, I can confidently say that she should get a diction coach. Her Latin pronunciation needs work. But her English is fine, and she hits the high notes with clarity and precision. She's obviously not pushing her voice, and works well with her young voice, rather than pushing herself to sound older.

Those of you who know me in real life know my loathing of Charlotte Church. Most of it has to do with the comparisions I suffered all through high school. I think she hit it big when I was a freshman. She's a year younger than I am, and since I sing and bear a certain physical resemblence to her, people were constantly coming up to me after I'd sing at Mass and say, "Oh, you remind me so much of that little English soprano!" I'd grumble, "She's Welsh," and nod my thanks. I know they meant well, but at that time I had about four years of vocal training more than she had, much better diction, wasn't trying to sing arias way above my ability level, and for heaven's sake, I didn't sing flat. In other words, I'm better than she is, and she's the one making all the money and doing a Christmas special with Placido Domingo. How does that work?

Ok, Charlotte-bashing over. I was very pleased to find that Hayley Westenra isn't another Charlotte Church. She's better. She does have the voice of an angel (angels don't sing flat!) and she has a much more natural image. The title of her most recent CD, "Pure," seems to fit her pure and almost vibrato-less voice. I might even be induced to buy this CD, since unlike her earlier ones it doesn't seem to contain any Andrew Lloyd Webber dreck, though the lyrics of "Wuthering Heights" are a bit disturbing.

Plus, she shares a last name with one of the characters from Dracula!

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