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Highlights: Pokarekare Ana, Who Painted the Moon Black, Benedictus, Dark Waltz, Across the Universe of Time

After Hayley Westenra’s tremendous success in native New Zealand, she was picked up by Decca and they aimed their new artist towards the international market. So, this slick, charming and creative album was made. The quality and amount of effort put into it seems to have exploded from nowhere.

There are some standards on the album, notably ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘In Trutina’, along with traditional Maori songs ‘Pokarekare Ana’ and ‘Hine E Hine’, but there are also some surprises. Fifteen year old Westenra fought tooth and nail with her record company to include Kate Bush’s classic ‘Wuthering Heights’. Then there is an inspired solo arrangement of Karl Jenkins choral piece ‘Benedictus’ which had only been circulating air waves for little over a year when Westenra’s team snapped it up. Then there is the usual crossover trick of taking a classical piece and making it into a song. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons becomes ‘River of Dreams’, whilst Maurice Ravel sees his music turn into ’Never Say Goodbye’.

Among all this is producer George Martin (The Beatles) and composer Sarah Class (composer and producer of the Classical Brit nominated album Aurora) who both stepped in to add original material and arrangements. Their presence is what truly makes a difference to the quality material on offer. Class arranged eight of the songs, among them the albums three standout tracks: ‘Pokarekare Ana’, ‘Dark Waltz’ and ‘Across the Universe of Time’ (also composed by her). Martin also arranges a few tracks and composed ‘Beat of Your Heart’. It is clear that both know exactly what kind of voice they compose, write and arrange for, as the vocal and the material complement one another.

The particular vocal highlight of this album is her performance of ‘Dark Waltz’. Already an extremely haunting and moving piece, Westenra’s vocals oozes poetic innocence that the lyrics suggest, whilst her clear highest notes sends chills down the spine.

Whilst her first two albums had an immature voice, they were actually packed with vibrato. She pushed that tactic to the side for Pure where it is only possible to hear her vibrato if you actually listen out for it with concentration. The omission of vibrato truly made Westenra unique in the field and one of the few vocalists that could actually name their album Pure with any real conviction.

In short, there is a bit of everything on this album. It has the classics for the traditionalists, the unexpected for the more adventurous, and the original for the open-minded. All would be nothing without Westenra’s soothing tones to carry it all through. She is not the epitome of emotion, but the beauty of the melodies and the accuracy of which they are expressed should be more than enough to evoke emotion.

Track Listing
1. Pokarekare Ana
2. Never Say Goodbye
3. Who Painted the Moon Black?
4. River of Dreams
5. Benedictus
6. Hine E Hine
7. Dark Waltz
8. Amazing Grace
9. My Heart and I
10. In Trutina
11. Beat of Your Heart
12. Across the Universe of Time
13. Heaven
14. Wuthering Heights
Other editions include:
Mary Did You Know?
Bridal Ballad
Silent Night
Away In A Manger