It’s been a charmed career so far for Hayley Westenra. At the age of 16, her crossover album Pure became the fastest selling album in the history of the classical charts, fuelled by Westenra’s blend of choirgirl voice and angelic looks. That was 2003, this is now, and the 23-year-old Westenra, after a stint with crossover hotties Celtic Woman, has scored an astonishing coup in getting Ennio Morricone to provide new bespoke arrangements for an album of his songs.
The classic theme from The Mission has been given lyrics for the first time (penned by Westenra), reemerging as Whispers in a Dream alongside tracks freshly squeezed from Cinema Paradiso, Once Upon a Time in the West etc. All these arrangements are conducted by Morricone with his 120-piece orchestra, the Sinfonietta di Roma – no synthesized strings here. Westenra’s voice has retained all its fabled choirgirl purity; and although it’s far from smooth across its range, she is always pitch-perfect, which is all you need for melodies that basically sell themselves. The final result is as schmaltzy as all get-out, but Westenra deserves plaudits for pushing the boundaries of the crossover canon beyond Danny Boy and You Raise Me Up.