South African Soprano and recording artist, Haylea Heyns, is finally leading the life she’s always dreamed of. Having returned from a nine-month global tour as a leading lady in London’s West End production, The Sound of Music she’s enjoying summer in the city, celebrating her birthday and officially launching her debut EP.
When Haylea opens the door to the gorgeous Essenwood home she shares with her husband, Rogan, there’s a long list of lovely things to take in. Haylea, for one, is the definition of poise. The way she walks, talks and carries herself, is fluid and gentle, yet strong and purposeful – a far cry from the arrogance and snobbery she portrays in her role as antagonist, Baroness Schraeder.
The newest addition to the Heyn’s home, Salsa the Cocker Spaniel, offers us an energetic welcome and skids across the floor as he ushers us to his adorable companion and real-life rabbit, Rue. The décor is tasteful – a reflection of love and joy and everything that makes a home feel like home. Surprisingly, there is very little that tells of a career in music and theatre, but that’s because Haylea keeps it tidy – she likes a little structure. She’s not loud and doesn’t boast unless encouraged to share the things she is most proud of. In spite of her profession, she’s also not the type to serenade her husband on special occasions, belt it out at friendly gatherings or the first to take to the karaoke stage when the opportunity arises. Instead, when she’s not performing on stage or doing takes for TV commercials or teaching vocals to young aspiring singers, she prefers to keep the music in her heart, and let it out on long drives in her car or in the comforts of home when there’s nobody else around.
“I’ve never really wanted to do anything else in life but sing, so I didn’t give much airtime to other career options when I was younger. However, if I was blessed with any other kind of passion or skill, I think I would have liked to have worked with animals. But, this is me… gifted with words and music, and blessed with a husband who supports my career choice and has never stood in my way.”
As a Biokineticist, Rogan thrives in a very different world to Haylea by day, but outside of work, they’re a team, best friends, and soul mates. “We lead a healthy lifestyle and I love to cook, so I enjoy welcoming Rogan home after a long day of work with a hug and a yummy home-cooked meal, something I believe is important all year round, not just on Valentine’s Day, which is usually pretty low key for us. Between November and February, amongst other things, we celebrate our anniversary, my husband’s birthday and my birthday, so we prefer to make the most out of these special occasions by spending quality time with each other and celebrating with those nearest and dearest to us.”
With a vocal range that spans several octaves, it might come as a surprise that a career in music was not always on the cards for Haylea, who excelled at singing and drama during her school years. Even then her classical voice talent was identified by her music teacher at Girls’ High in Pietermaritzburg, Helen Vermaak.
“My mom and dad are very practical people and wanted me to pursue a career that would be more financially stable. It makes sense to want the best for your children, but for me that involved singing.”
When it came to her studies, Haylea was discouraged from anything to do with music or singing, so she did a course in Media and Marketing, and then began working as a copywriter. Still clinging to her dream, she spent evenings and weekends singing at upmarket functions and weddings.
“My parents thought it would be a passing phase, but I just couldn’t let it go, so I went back to university, did a BA at UKZN in Music & Drama Performance, and graduated Cum Laude, which opened the door for me to get into musical theatre. I joined a jazz band, played guitar and auditioned for KickstArt, one of Durban’s foremost independent theatre companies. The more experience I gained, the bigger the productions were that came my way.”
Now specialising in Light Classical and Adult Contemporary Music, Haylea is signed to David Gresham Records. Her debut EP, My Heart Belongs in Africa is currently available on all digital music platforms including iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Amazon Music and Deezer.
‘There are four songs to the EP – 3am, Whole and Gaining Ground are all a reflection of pivotal moments in my life, or things I want to inspire in others. The title track – My Heart Belongs in Africa – came from a voice note I recorded in my kitchen, and is inspired by my return to SA after travelling. I’d missed home, my family and friends, and I think the song was just a way of expressing my love for home, Durban, and my country. We have a lovely lifestyle here, we have the beach, sublime weather, and so much to draw inspiration from. ‘
The official EP launch is something different. Haylea will be performing during a three-course brunch at 9am on 15 February at Shoots & Leaves in Umhlanga. A percentage of ticket sales will be donated to Umduduzi Hospice Care for Children, a cause close to Haylea’s heart. If brunch is not your thing, you can catch her at 7pm that evening at St Clements on Musgrave Road.
While Haylea has dreams of performing in the West End (she’d love a lead role in a Mary Poppins Musical, and has her heart set on finding her way to the stage of the sensational long-running musical The Phantom of the Opera), she was recently part of history in the making in Sri Lanka as part of the cast of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian production of The Sound of Music, which performed the first Broadway Theatre production to be staged in the country. The nine-month tour also included the Philippines, Singapore, China, Macau, Colombo and South Africa.
“I played Baroness Elsa Schraeder, fiancée of the widowed Captain von Trapp, who eventually went off with the governess, Maria. I got dumped every night, but it’s the kind of dumping you can take over and over again. What an amazing experience – having a personal dresser, no expenses spared, and so rewarding to perform for such passionate audiences.”
Other noteworthy performances by Haylea include the title role in KickstArts’ family pantomime, Sleeping Beauty (2017), where she played Princess Rose, and the principal role of Cinderella in Pieter Toerien’s, Into The Woods (2019). Even having performed from the Philippines to Sri Lanka and China to Singapore, Haylea has not yet set foot in Britain, but there’s no stopping her now.
“The music industry has its highs and lows, but so does every career, and I’d rather have lows in a line of work I totally love than highs in a career I’m not so happy in. At the end of the day, I know my passion chose me. If you ever have a desire in you that never goes away, drop everything and go after it. I did, and I don’t regret it for a moment. I’ll never give up on my dreams. I’ve learnt not to. I’m inspired daily by theatre goddess Julie Andrews and classical-crossover singer Katherine Jenkins, and on my Bucket List or Vision Board as I call it, is still to sing for the Royal Family. I wake up every day and tell myself that one day it won’t just be a dream anymore.”
Tickets for both of Haylea’s EP Launch performances can be booked via [email protected] or will be available at the door. Check out @hayleaheyns on Instagram or Facebook for more details.