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Hayley Westenra: Brass & Choral Gala Concert

Concert: Brass & Choral Gala Concert
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London, UK
Date: 8th September, 2009
Performers: Hayley Westenra (accompanied by Tim Evans on piano and Kerenza Peacock on violin), Roger Webster, Mnozil Brass, Twyford Gospel Choir, Romford Drum & Trumpet Corps, Enfield Band
Host: Jumoke Fashola

(Rating averaged by all performers)
Set List

Highlights: A Gala Flourish (Romford Drum & Trumpet Corps), Danny Boy (Hayley Westenra), Magic Moments (Mnozil Brass), Never Saw Blue (Hayley Westenra), Caccini's Ave Maria (Hayley Westenra and Mnozil Brass), World Premiere and Bohemian Rhapsody (Mnozil Brass)

The Brass & Choral Gala Concert was put together in aid of the Royal Free Hospital and it threw together a very odd and eclectic programme - two brass bands, a choir, a crossover singer, a solo cornetist, and a comedic brass group. The ensemble was given the privilege to perform in the prestigious Royal Festival Hall, located a couple of hundred yards away from the London Eye.

The show required much stage movement due to so many acts coming on and off of the stage and requiring different equipment. To fill in those time consuming intervals, the audience were entertained by the lively and enthusiastic host Jumoke Fashola who relished interacting with the audience and discussed the respect and admiration she had for the acts with clear and infectious conviction.

The show was kicked off by the Romford Drum & Trumpet Corps, a brass band with a surprising diverse demographic profile, from young children to more mature band members, all dressed in their eye-catching green and yellow uniforms. They played an uplifting and fitting Philip Harper piece, 'A Gala Flourish' bringing a bright atmosphere to the concert. Unfortunately, we were not to hear from them again, as they left only after one piece, and did not return for the second part of the programme.

Half of the Twyford Gospel Choir were up next. It was immediately apparent that the choir had a beautiful and rich sound, but as the choir performed through their first set of three gospel songs, the choir did little to fill out their potential. The songs were repetitive and too long, choosing songs that all had similar lyrics and harmonies. Perhaps it was because the choir conducter, Rev Lloyd Crossfield, found that he only had half of his choir, but he did not take advantage of the differing vocal categories as the vocal arrangements were minimal. The choir members were inconsistent with their enthusiasm, but the group did boast of some excellent soloists, especially from the first number, 'Oh Holy Spirit/Welcome In This Place'. The choir also performed 'Bread of Heaven' and 'Total Praise' in the first half.

Roger Webster, a world leading cornetist, took the third performance of the night, accompanied by the Enfield Band, performing Michel Colombier's 'Emmanuel'. Soon after, Hayley Westenra (left) was introduced to loud cheer and applause. With her usual accompanists absent (Raven String Quartet), Westenra was joined by Tim Evans on the piano and Kerenza Peacock on the solo violin. Her set began with Odyssey's 'Prayer' starting with the usual acapella before the piano and violin quietly joined her. As one comes to expect after seeing Westenra perform live many times, she performs with complete accuracy and ease. Her voice showed no signs of wavering as she breezed through the rest of the first set; 'Scarborough Fair', Fleetwood Mac's 'Songbird' and the well-known celtic favourite 'Danny Boy'. The two latter songs demonstrated Westenra's ability to engage with her audience at an emotional level. Her interpretation of 'Songbird' was particularly mature.

After Westenra had brought the audience into a more tranquil reverie, another brass group, the Austrian Mnozil Brass, appeared on stage. Their first performance was as serious as any other brass band, treating the audience to the prologue of Korngolds 'The Adventures of Robin Hood'. But the unwitting audience were deceived, as after their round of applause, the seven players put down their instruments and stood there in silence for an uncomfortable amount of time. Some giggles invaded the silence every now and again, until the centreman pulled out a recorder, apparently from no where, and started to play 'Magic Moments' with profound glee as if he had never heard a musical note in his life. Their comedy act escalated and had the audience in constant bouts of laughter, leaving behind a very cheerful audience going into the show's interval.

The second interval opened with the Twyford Gospel Choir, performing another set of three, 'In the Sanctuary', 'Solid Rock' and 'How Excellent'. Their second performance continued over the same problems from their first and it was the weakest part of the concert. The Enfield Band performed one last number (Rimmer's 'Punchinello') before joining the audience for the rest of the show.

Westenra entered the stage with a different dress and performed her second set of four songs. She began with her signature song, 'Pokarekare Ana' and then went on to the popular choice of 'Never Saw Blue' from her Odyssey album with the usual vocal clarity and conviction. She performed another celtic standard 'Shenandoah' but finished off with a memorable rendition of Caccini's 'Ave Maria' as Mnozil Brass accompanied her after 'just a day of rehearsals'. The performance went by with no mistakes, and it was a delight to hear a brass backing rather than the usual string and piano.

Mnozil Brass were programmed to finish off the evening. They performed what they called 'World Premiere' which consisted of not much music, but a lot of comic actions, mocking a conductor and an orchestra as the "orchestra" take the "conductor's" hand waving a bit too literally. They then performed a highly original and amusing rendition of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' proving themselves as capable singers and vocal arrangers as well as brass players. They received a standing ovation for the performance, but finished their set off with an elaborate, long and funny act of bowing and introducing each other to the audience (with their instruments, that is, no words were spoken).

The night ended with the Twyford Gospel Choir who sang 'Hallelujah', but were joined by improvisional playing from Mnozil Brass, and some sing-a-long and hand-clapping from Westenra.

The concert was a highly enjoyable experience, thanks to its diversity of performers and music. The excitement of not knowing what came next, and best of all, not to see the comedy side of Mnozil Brass coming, made it an entertaining evening with its mixture of serious, uplifting and relaxing music that kept the audience on their toes. It is a shame that this exact concert was a one off otherwise it would be readily recommended. Instead I advise anyone that has Mnozil Brass playing in a venue near them to book the tickets and go. No appreciation of brass instruments is needed! Westenra is forever touring, and often with different songs to perform each time so one never tires of her flawless performances.


#2 leo kupper 2013-12-08 17:15
Please should you put me in contact with H. Westenra.
Thank you so much
leo kupper
#1 leo kupper 2013-12-08 17:14
Please, could you put me in contact with Hayley Westenra
Email or else.
Best wishes
leo kupper

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