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Sapient: A Cantata of Peace by Steven Chesne
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 2/19/2018
An album to bring peace & unity to the world
The effort, desire and commitment shown by Chesne, has pulled off something in music that the denizens on the planet have failed to do since the birth of time, bring all the faith and belief systems of the world together in one room, and create a musical compilation of peace.
This thought provoking project is amazing and the construction of this release requires an open heart and mind and a willingness to enjoy being part of the experience.
Invocation to the infinite (Kikuyu) this begins our spiritual journey in human form. We start with Africa and the Kikuyu being the largest group in Kenya, this imploring beginning paves our way with fine ethnic vocals to guide our way.
This is an album that weaves its way through cultures and faiths and manifests for our attention the aspect of peace for us to sample. Peace Be with Us by the Kikuyu, adds to the aforementioned Invocation, with the words of the Kikuyu returning in track six with May Peace Reign.
Being one who follows the path of peace, I found the Words of the Buddha (Let a Boundless Love for All Beings Grow inside You) fulfilling in every aspect, it is a composition that completely resonated with me. The smooth but tranquil energy of this piece floated over me, in an almost symphonic way.
A note needs to be made to the world, from the repeating mantra of the Lao Tzu, with the composition; Weapons are Instruments of Fear, a sensitive piece, with a plea that needs no longer to fall on deaf ears. Mariani Shuilan May brings her vocal talent to bear later on within the album with another Lao Tzu composition called Victory is a Funeral.
Words of Mohammed, With Oh God, You are Peace, contains a real sense of the power and glory within its tones and words, but the production adds an essence of mystery and drama too, in what is a compelling song to listen to.
The hairs on the back of my neck literally stood up whilst listening to this next piece, Words of the Jews - Create Peace and Compassion. The vocals of Thomas Segen are some of the most breath taking and emotive I have heard for a few years. The almost ethereal tones of Segen simply blew me away, but Chesne has to one of the finest composers of his day to create a moment of genius like this.
The Words of the Hindu can be heard on the following compositions, May We Ourselves Be Peace and The Nature of the Divine is Peace. This took me back a few years to a release called Monsoon Point by Al Gromer Khan, which had a very similar feel about it, that piece was an hour long and if the mesmerizing vocals of Sudakshina Alagia had of taken us that distance to, I would have not been displeased, truly magnificent indeed.
The longest piece off the release, is the song Words of the Baha‘i, Oneness of Humanity. The principals of the Baha‘i faith are based on unity and of course world peace among other attributes. This is yet another powerful composition by the master composer, enhanced by the incredible voice of Taraneh Sakurai.
Our last Words of the Buddha are offered to us by the Ven. Attidiye Pugnagnarathana, whose solo is so deeply empowering on the piece, Let Your Love Flow Through the Universe. I have taken part in chanting some Buddhist mantras in the past, and I can tell you that the energy that flows from them is incredible, much like this piece, full flowing and undeniably inspiring.
As we move into the latter half of the album we come across the most delicate offering from the release, sung with great intent and emotion by the young Natalie Shtangrud. Words of Jesus - Love Your Enemies. The composition expands on the teaching of Jesus and his desire to see if we learn from those who hurt us the most. Chesne’s work as a composer here is sublime and creates a vast feel to the music that is both imploring and sensitive.
We now have a moment close to my heart; I spent many years working with Native American spiritual leaders, but never met anyone from the Cheyenne nation, so it’s a privilege and an honour to listen to these next three compositions entitled Words of the Cheyenne - Let Us Know Peace Parts 1, through to Part 3. It is also nice to note that an old friend of ours here at One World Music Radio in Steven Rushingwind performs admirably not only on flute, but also on solo vocals. Chesne has manifested something special here; one can feel the essence of the ancients as they call down for us to know peace. The added percussive native drum added a further dimension to this simply outstanding trio of arrangements.
A masterful performance can be found on Words of the Sikhs - Recognize Humanity as One Family. The creation of composition by Steven Chesne creates a truly balanced and harmonic resonating opus of a track and partnered supremely by the ever so talented Bhai Jaswant Singh Zira, brings us a piece that is not just good, its truly liberating.
The path has led us finally to the door of the last track which is entitled Nyansapo - The Wisdom Knot, there is also a soft mix to this piece as well, these are a combination of all 10 faiths and tracks, well why not, one world, one voice right? This must have taken Chesne ages to work out; it’s an incredible pastiche of everything we have just heard, proving perhaps that we really are all related.
Sapient is one of the most original and unique albums I have ever heard, this cantata of peace is something that this planet needs and right now, it’s a move in the right direction, but Sapient proves one thing I have been saying all of my life, music is the one truth that unites us all, and this album substantiates that theory. Steven Chesne is a composer and musician of great quality, perhaps even genius in motion, and his Sapient project offers up an opportunity for us all, to finally realise that the beauty of peace can not only be found in music, but within our very hearts as well, this is a must purchase album for the entire world, without doubt.
Rating: Excellent
Lead Me Home by Camille Nelson
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 2/11/2018
As refreshing as a brand new day
Music is the panacea to cure all ills and put the mind at ease, as such Camille Nelson must be pretty proud of her achievement on her latest release entitled Lead Me Home.
Starting with a well-known classic like Amazing Grace is really something to live up to, but here on her version she has created something not only different, but dramatic and inspiring. The symphonic nature and the guitar seem to meld together in a symbiosis of musical cleverness, which makes this a most original arrangement indeed.
The originality of this next piece How Great Thou Art is also remarkable, once more the emotion is there, but a gentle performance style can be felt and heard and through the mix, the reflective and respectful energy of the piece can truly be felt too.
On Nearer My God To Thee, there is a slight tempo shift and arising of the rhythms, one that inspires the narration of the composition to flow like a summer brook. The folk styled performance here adds a whole new dimension to the arrangement as well.
As we move to the piece Be Thou My Vision, we hear a violin at the very beginning that is performed quite admirably by Nelson, this piece also features Alex Sharpe from Celtic Woman. For me this one was always going to be a winner, it seems to have followed me around all of my life, but until now I don’t think I have heard anything quite so beautiful.
Adelia is up next, the meaning of that name is noble and one can feel that through the tones of the song, that was written by Susie Brown. This solo guitar composition has a really light and proud feel to its construction, a moment of musical performance when the sun comes bursting in through your curtains is here in music for you.
Nelson’s uniqueness on guitar is fascinating and on Be Still My Soul we have a piece that seems to float and hover around us. The strings seem to reverberate with the energy of quietness and calm. This is one of the prettiest arrangements on the release without doubt.
On Israel, Israel, God is Calling, you will hear the talents of Dylan Schroer on Pedal Steel Guitar, when you hear the familiar melody you will probably remember it under the name, What A Friend We Have In Jesus. The performance here is light and sparkling and I also detected some rather nice harmonics in their as well, the percussive additions also added a real depth to the piece.
One of my favourites was Come, Come, Ye Saints, which also featured the skills of Steven Sharp Nelson the brother of the artist in the composition. This Mormon Hymn is steeped in a folk style, with an empowering percussive beat and is performed with such style and presentation, but it also has a certain level of power and posture, that makes it for me, the stand out track on the album.
The title track is now upon us, Lead Me Home, this empty canvas is the opportunity for the artist to illustrate their intention. Camille Nelson does this with flair and style and panache and adds a level of subtle intensity to the composition that really adds a wonderful level of charm to the overall arrangement.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing featuring Ryan Shupe on Fiddle and Mandolin is next, the exquisite nature of both stringed instruments adds a new realm of depth to the song. This is a veritable wonderland of stringed instrumentation and a truly fascinating piece to listen quietly too.
The penultimate offering is fascinatingly and called Patterns of Light, this has such a wonderfully warm guitar leading the way, I would also rate this as a personal favourite of mine. As a guitarist myself, this is inspiring to hear, the gentle and careful build is delightful.
So we arrive at the very last port of call and it’s called Count Your Many Blessings, something I have been doing a lot of lately. This features Camille Nelson on piano, the first time it has been used on the album and this creates an opportunity for the multi-instrumentalist to leave us in style, which she does with grace and polish. The artist does herself proud her with the perfect finale to what has been an illuminating release.
Camille Nelson with Lead Me Home has proved me right, that although this is an album, as some may say, of the joys of religious communion, Nelsons music crosses borders that some would fear to tread, and as usual music is the key. There is something in this release for everyone, regardless of religious beliefs or not, if you step into this realm of music, you will be happy to have done so, some of the techniques, performances styles and instrumentation used, are innovative and as refreshing as a brand new day.
Rating: Excellent
Piano Sanctuary by Masako
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 2/9/2018
Solo piano brilliance
I had the delight of coming into the world of Masako in 2012, a year of many changes; her music then calmed the soul and brought a new focus to my life. The changes have constantly rang out for me over the past 6 years and in 2018 Masako’s latest release now plays its gentle refrains into my heart and soul, so why not join me on this new musical sojourn, through the works of Piano Sanctuary.
The style and narration and a musical prowess is clear to see, and we are off on an emotive ride with the first offering entitled When You Were Little, a composition that is filled with the light of sweet memory, passion and happiness, the perfect way to open any album.
The piano of Masako is always something worth waiting for and on Ragrima we have a gentle but reflective melody that will be loved for an age. There is something almost timeless about this piece that attracts me, the notes fall from her fingers like, crisp brown leaves from an autumn tree, and with each stroke manifests such a rich tapestry of tone to enjoy.
One of the most picturesque and sensitive arrangements is the very beautiful The Bird And The River. Her performance structure can change with an ease that is hardly noticed, but non the less very evident, and here on this piece one could almost watch a small bird, dip, swoop, and sip from this ever abundant river. Masako has a rare talent to be able to draw wonderful art within each composition she creates, and this one is a fine example of that.
On Midnight Sun, we have a little Jazzy motif that fits so beautifully; this laid back song seems to sparkle in this night sky of radiant music with such a smooth refrain. The confidence in performance here draws an even more elaborate picture for us to enjoy, and once more the magical skills of the artist brings us total peace and harmony.
I stayed over in New York, but didn’t have the time to visit Central Park, but I could see it from above as my plane took off for the Midwest. This is a sublime representation of the area in music and Central Park Retreat is indeed a sanctuary to many, perhaps even a piano sanctuary.
At the mid-way point we come across a charming piece called A Tale of Lonely Otter (Solo Version). There is indeed a sense of remorse and sadness built in here, but as always a tale to tell with the keys and this track seems to wend its way through a nature narrative of happy free times, mixed with moments of reflection and memory.
Time to take a trip across the lakes and seas on Sailing, there is a real energy about this offering that I love; it also has a little Beatles ethic sown in for good measure at the start. The power in this track is very redolent of the subject matter; we could feel at ease as if we are sailing on choppy but sun kissed waters within its construction.
As we move from the waters of Sailing, we come across The Land We Called Hope. Masako seems to be able to change course at will and here on this piece we have a sense of a fresh start and possibilities built into its musical narrative. The style is both confident as well as empowering and brings a new energy to the album that flows so wonderfully.
Something different is on offer on this next piece called The Lost Estate. This composition is intriguing and seems to manifest an essence of grandeur, but one that floats on the energies of past memories. I adored the performance here, at times almost classical, with a hint of Jazz thrown in for good measure, listen also to the elevation of intensity within this piece, this has to be the cleverest track on the album, with ease.
Within the next offering called Koto, we have a piece that could be classed as almost cinematic in parts, it’s has that essence and energy of drama, but seems to also create a narrative of musical quality that is truly addictive.
Frozen Quarry is yet another vista of great musical quality painted by the piano of Masako. The slow tempo, but assured melody draws us a wonderful picture of a frozen wasteland, through each touch of the piano Masako uses a little power, partnered with a gentle touch to illustrate this masterpiece of winter.
Sadly we have now reached the very last gift of musical genius from the artist Masako on her album Piano Sanctuary; this final composition is called Tender Stories. The exit from this her latest project has an energy of empowerment built around a calming and tender refrain, this musical confidence will allow us to leave the album fully aware that we have listened to a truly superb album, and will be very eager to revisit it yet again.
Piano Sanctuary by Masako is another step up for the artist, her skill sets grow and expand constantly, and on this release, she hasn’t only shown what a consummate performer she is, she has revealed to the world, that she is a composer of sublime and cultured music, music that can speak to each and every listener she connects with. This is a truly marvellous release and thoroughly recommended for anyone who wants to hear solo piano, played brilliantly.
Rating: Excellent
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