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River Flow: Sanctuary by Catherine Marie Charlton
- posted by Michael Diamond on 4/2/2013
River Flow: Sanctuary
In 2012, Catherine released a re-mastered and re-packaged 10th Anniversary Edition of her best- selling River Dawn: Piano Meditations. A one-hour uninterrupted solo piano performance, the original release debuted at number 3 on the NAR radio charts. Her new album, River Flow: Sanctuary is actually a sequel to this earlier release. This one follows the same format with the music created spontaneously as one continuous 60-minute performance. Although there are track markers sprinkled throughout to reference different sections of the improvisation. It’s an interesting format in that the markers make it seem like there are separate songs each with its own name and inspiration. However, it is as they say, “all one.” Because the music is meant to be experienced as one piece, I’ll refrain from referencing individually named sections as “songs” like I usually would, and will focus on the bigger picture of the album.

I agree with a description of Catherine’s music from a review on her website that says: “Her music ranges from meditative soundscapes to robust sweeping crescendos with hints of the avant-garde and 20th Century classical abstraction.” The “sanctuary” aspect, as reflected in the title, is like a sonic scent that wafts throughout the performance. Given that, I could see this album having wide appeal for its tranquil, yet evocative flow. While I enjoyed actively listening to it for its detail and nuance, it could also create a perfect ambience for massage, yoga, relaxation, an intimate dinner, etc. There is a nurturing quality to her evolving melodies that listeners will resonate with on an emotional level. On this note, perhaps Catherine should have the last word: “My wish for you is that the music becomes your Sanctuary – a safe place to remember to breathe, to release, and to just be.”

Rating: Excellent
Hope for Harmony by Kathryn Toyama
- posted by Michael Diamond on 3/23/2013
Hope For Harmony
Although Kathryn Toyama is a classically trained pianist, in her words: “the ‘feeling’ is foremost and when it comes to me, I find that I must first open my heart, and then the music begins to flow.” In fact, most of the songs on her Hope For Harmony CD were created as improvisations and purely for her own emotional catharsis. The connection between music and spirituality is the cornerstone of Kathryn’s creativity and she firmly believes in the power of consciously created positive music to effect change, both personally and globally.

One of the things I enjoyed about listening to Hope For Harmony is that among the eighteen songs, were a number of shorter vignette-like pieces. Each one reflecting its own emotional color, bringing to mind a necklace with a variety of sparkling gems all strung together by Kathryn’s creativity and focused intention. While there is musical diversity in her songs, the omnipresent ambience is one of serenity, gentleness, and comfort. Although Kathryn’s music could be described in terms of technique, structure, melody, etc. for me it was more about the feelings it evoked. A good example is on one of the shorter pieces entitled “The Light.” Although it is less than two minutes in length, in that short span of time it managed to convey a sense of quiet majesty that had a cinematic atmosphere, a quality also shared with another track entitled “Floating On Dreams.” While this is primarily a solo piano album, the final track brings a surprise in the form of guitar accompaniment by Richard Alan. The pair played beautifully together, with the guitar perfectly complimenting the graceful piano melodies. Kathryn’s CD Baby page recommends Hope For Harmony to fans of George Winston, and I would agree that her music could appeal to listeners of that genre with its graceful blend of new age and neo-classical elements.
Rating: Excellent
Scorpion Moon by Sora
- posted by John Iverson - CKUW 95.9 FM on 3/16/2013
Sora Creates Another Gem!
Creating a new album following the success of her critically acclaimed recording Heartwood was no easy task for Calgary singer and songwriter Sora, but she has managed to conjure up another gem with the release of her latest album Scorpion Moon.

Under the guidance of producer Douglas Romanow, who Sora also worked with on Heartwood, she has continued where Heartwood left off, putting together another collection of songs about myths and legends, children's stories, archetypes and other fascinating subjects. To accomplish this, Sora utilized a diverse assortment of instruments, including some unique ones like the erhu and the charango. I particularly liked the influence of the cello and the harp on the sound, as it makes the music more mystical and magical. But the instruments never overpower Sora's radiant voice, which varies from strong and powerful to light and airy depending on the mood of the song. I am sensing too that Sora's sound is becoming more and more all her own, and less like her core musical influences. Her goal is for her songs to be stories of what it means to be human, and this certainly comes across as you listen to Scorpion Moon.

Of particular note on this recording is the ethereal opening track "Scheherazade", which is subtitled Scorpion Moon. Other notable tracks on the album include "Mermaid Song", "Hold", and "Moving On". However all of the songs on this disc are enjoyable and tie nicely together, showcasing not only the talent of the singer, but of the guest musicians as well. It's difficult to categorize this style of music, as the lines between new age, Celtic, folk, and even classical are blurred, but this blending of styles only serves to make the album appealing to a more diverse group of listeners. You will be left wanting more. Bravo Sora!
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