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Hayley Westenra To Make U.S. Debut At McCallum

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NEW ZEALAND SINGING SENSATION HAYLEY
WESTENRA TO MAKE U.S. DEBUT AT MCCALLUM

PALM DESERT, CA: What began last Christmas as a casual get-together between two longtime friends, an American theater executive and a New Zealand singer and talent agent, has resulted in announcing the eagerly-anticipated United States debut of 14-year old, platinum-selling singing star Hayley Westenra. She will be taking her first bows before an American audience at the McCallum Theatre on Saturday, February 9, 2002.

Tickets for the 8 p.m. performance are $65, $45, $35 and $25, and may be purchased at the McCallum box office, 73-000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; by telephone at (760) 340-2787; or on the Internet at www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Westenra burst onto the music scene in her native New Zealand last May with a debut album that went triple platinum in just six weeks. A bona fide star there, she is being compared with similarly powerful singers Charlotte Church and Sarah Brightman. Joining Westenra in the concert will be New Zealand-born baritone Max Jarman. A resident of Rancho Mirage, Jarman was a leading singer with the San Francisco opera and is a recording star in his own right, most recently in collaboration on an album with Kronos Quartet.

Westenra’s planned American debut came about when Mitch Gershenfeld, director of presentations at the McCallum Theatre, and Gray Bartlett, the singer’s Auckland-based mentor/agent, spent the holidays together last December. At his home Bartlett played one of Westenra’s recordings for Gershenfeld, and the youngster was booked on the spot.

“Some things you just know instantly,” says Gershenfeld, “and I know that Hayley will rise to become a major international star. We are thrilled to be able to present her at McCallum as she begins that ascent. She is an immense talent.”

Westenra was born in the town of Christchurch. Her biography begins like those of many young women in New Zealand, with a rite of passage known as the annual school show. At one of these, amid the customary scenery tripping, flat notes and forgotten lines, shone Westenra, astonishing even her mother, Jill.

“Her school put on a show called ‘The Littlest Star’,” she recalls. "Hayley was just six, and all she’d said to me was ‘mummy, I need my ballet gear.’ So I went along and found that in fact she was the littlest star, and there she was singing away holding the microphone, and she was note-for-note precise.”

Thereafter her biography reads less like a schoolgirl’s and more like that of a determined, eager star-in-the-making, Hollywood-style: lessons in violin, piano and recorder, learning to read sheet music by age seven, unbridled enthusiasm for practice, and a developing passion for musical theatre which resulted in a remarkable early resume.

By age 11 Hayley had appeared in more 40 productions, including “Annie,” “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs,” “The King and I” and “Alice In Wonderland,” while also appearing on television and in concert. Last year she recorded a demo album for herself, what Westenra describes as a “momento.” From there she soon caught the attention of Bartlett, who arranged a recording contract for Westenra with Universal Music. A sold-out concert tour of New Zealand, promoted by Bartlett’s Pacific Entertainment followed the phenomenal success of the recording.

Although she enjoys listening to pop music, Westenra says her Universal debut features “the sort of music I like to sing,” an eclectic mix of classics such as “All I Ask Of You” and “Mists Of Islay.” The album also includes Andrew Lloyd Webber songs and operatic works by Gounod and Schubert. Currently, Hayley is busy studying French and German at high school.

“It's important for a vocalist to be able to sing in any language,” she says. "I can sing in Italian, although I can't speak it yet.” Though her life is filled with hobbies such as indoor rock climbing, swimming, cross country running and netball, Westenra says music remains her top priority. “Girls voices develop as they get older, so my top range is getting higher and my bottom range is getting lower. It just keeps getting stronger and richer all the time. Who knows where it will take me?”

“To the top,” says Gershenfeld.

###

For more information:

Judi Pofsky
(760) 346-6505, ext 104
jpofsky@mccallum-theatre.org


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