imagesHayley Westenra with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra at the NCH, Friday 28th March.

Having not graced our shores for two years, Kiwi soprano Hayley Westenra was greeted by a packed NCH for this the latest instalment of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra’s Signature Series. Considering the huge success she has had since her first international release in 2003, it’s refreshing to witness her humble presence on the Dublin stage. The crowd seem pleased too when she announces her love of the city and its Concert Orchestra.

Those familiar with her must will be aware of her career spanning well over ten years, a large feat for the twenty-six year old. Tonight Westenra is sporting a new look, with her shorter, darker hair and as her newly placed wedding band catches the stage lights the reality that her fans have literally watched her grow up hits home. Her latest release, Hushabye, sees her take on a selection of popular lullabies but tonight’s programme is filled with snippets from all stages of Westenra’s rich career.

Initially her vocals are weak and perhaps this is because this is her first performance for 2014. However, during the chorus of My Heart Belongs to You it’s almost like a switch turns on and her true ability resonates through the NCH. Throughout performances of Scarborough Fair and Let Me Lie, it is clear why Westenra was an obvious choice to join the Celtic Woman line-up for a short stint in 2006. Blessed with a voice that can be crafted to any genre and a youthful, delicate timbre she not only performs the songs but embodies the characteristics of these airy tunes.

A post-interval selection of tunes from her favourite female singers sees Westenra cover more, much loved songs. The highlight of the evening comes with her rendition of the Les Misérables classic, I dreamed a dream. Here her interpretation breathes new life into the well-known lyrics and it’s almost as if you are hearing the song for the first time. The same can be said for her take on You Raise Me Up, one even she admits has been sang by everyone.

Although she may have started out off form, Hayley Westenra redeemed herself early into tonight’s performance. Those who may have struggled with the reason for her huge success must have come to a realisation as she proved her ability this evening. Her unique charm, clever choice of programme and clear talent was a real treat for her fans. Her humble approach was flattered by the ease with which the Concert Orchestra accompanied. Considering what seems to be a warm relationship between the two, it’s easy to see why she is so taken by them.

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