Hayley Westenra

Pure

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On her debut, Hayley Westenra, a 16-year-old singing sensation from New Zealand, endures the inevitable comparisons to Charlotte Church, but it's the impression she's made that's placed her in such lofty company. And not many fledgling artists can boast of having the legendary George Martin contribute songs and arrangements to their album. PURE might be the best description of her singing--crystal clear and devoid of mannerisms. It's not simply the beauty of her voice that impresses, however, but how effectively she uses it.

The precocious soprano demonstrates the poise, versatility, and musical instincts of a seasoned pro. Westenra moves gracefully through a program made up primarily of Euro-pop ballads but also includes arrangements of well-known classical melodies, as well as a pair of Maori songs. Highlights include affecting renditions of "In Trutina" from Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana' and the traditional spiritual "Amazing Grace." And, in what might be an effort to defy easy categorization, she changes direction on the closing track, and lets loose on Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights." Given such eclectic song choices and Westenra's impressive voice, PURE is certain to bring plenty of attention to this talented young artist.

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