||Red Sky Prairie by Sharon Fendrich | Album Review by Dyan Garris
“The love and care that was put into “Red Sky Prairie” is evident in EVERY note. It literally pours out of this album and seeps deeply into our hearts like silken salve for the spirit. And there it remains.”
– Dyan Garris
“Red Sky Prairie” is the extraordinarily beautiful debut album by the extraordinarily talented Sharon Fendrich. Remember that name, because I’m sure you’ll be hearing it a lot now and in the future. Passionate and emotive, I hope I am able to find the right words to effectively describe this work of musical magnificence. It’s THE best album I’ve heard this year, and I have heard a lot of extremely, outrageously beautiful music this year.
“Red Sky Prairie” was recorded in Stein, Netherlands by Arno Op den Camp at Kerani Music Studio. Joining Sharon’s sensitively played piano performances on “Red Sky Prairie” is a roster of also amazingly talented and quite prominent guest artists.
Anna Emelyanova’s voice is incredible. Wilfred Sassen on violin adds heartfelt, vibrant depth as does Joep Willems’ cello performance. Helen Hendriks on flute and Ies Muller on Irish flute bring even more sweetness into the mix by Arno Op den Camp with Sharon Fendrich.
Sharon composed all the pieces and self-produced this album, which was mastered by the renowned Stephen Marsh at Marsh Mastering in Los Angeles. The album includes a stunningly beautiful booklet. The artwork and design is by award-winning graphic designer, Sam Hayles.
The love and care that was put into “Red Sky Prairie” is evident in EVERY note. It literally pours out of this album like silken salve for the aching spirit. It’s hard to believe this is a debut album because it is flawless. Effortless. Impressive. Remarkable.
This may be her first album, however, composer and pianist, Fendrich, is not new to music. She was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, and began her music studies at age three. Later, at Tufts University, she completed advanced studies in piano, choral music, conducting, orchestration and composition. After college, she continued to explore composition while working in marketing, development and production roles for the La Jolla Music Society and the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, in California.
In her compositional process, Sharon relies on her fingers and ears to guide her into crafting a complete solo piano work. Then, she begins to add layers of sound through improvisation. Countermelodies emerge and contribute to a full harmonic palette and tempos full of breathing room. The result is a sonically magical world in which the listener is comfortably immersed in tranquility.
Grounded in the Classical genre and inspired by ambient New Age, the 11 tracks, and almost 1 hour of listening enjoyment are full of lush, passionate melodies that immediately captivate the listener’s heart. Within the music one can hear the influences of Enya, Secret Garden, Ludovico Einaudi, Chopin and Debussy.
Sharon says, “The inspiration for the album came from a daydream I had about a tranquil place filled with red-orange skies after the passing of a storm. A hushed early evening breeze had fallen upon a prairie-scape. I saw myself at various ages residing in a weather-worn white farmhouse, able to feel the emotions of the phases of life. A profound sensation of safety and peace permeated the air in this scene and the feeling has stayed with me ever since.” “Red Sky Prairie” was born.
If I understand correctly, it is her hope that listeners of this album will be able to embrace all the events and emotions that they’ve experienced, and will experience, on their life’s journey, and their soul’s journey – the good and the “bad” – and come to a place of acceptance and deep, heartfelt peace with all. No matter what, keep an open heart, because out of the shadow side of life emerges the light. In my opinion, she succeeds tremendously.
The album opens with the gorgeous, “L’dor Vador” (Generation to Generation). I’ve never heard this more beautifully done. Here Anna Emelyanova’s heavenly vocal washes over you along with Sharon’s outstandingly beautiful piano, like a dual wave of soft, angelic light and you know you’re in for something truly exceptional here. “. . . round and round, on and on, I see my life in yours, hopes and memories wrap me with love.” The mellow strings enter in, adding even more depth, and the magnificence continues throughout the entire album. It’s astounding.
The lyrics, on the five vocal songs on “Red Sky Prairie,” are in different languages, including Esperanto, which is an international language created by Dr. L. L. Zamenhof in the 1800s. The purpose of Esperanto was/is to facilitate easy communication among people from different cultures; a language that would allow people who speak different native languages to effectively communicate. The other languages included for the vocal pieces on “Red Sky Prairie” are: English, Spanish, Yiddish, and Latin.
“A Secret’s Song” is a passionate tribute to “Somewhere Out There” by Jame’s Horner, from the animated feature film, “An American Tail.” Stunningly beautiful piano here, reminiscent of the work of Italian composer, Ludovico Einaudi.
“Within Whispers” is intimate and delicate. We are reminded of how important it is to try to maintain intimacy, even in the face of obstacles.
The title track, “Red Sky Prairie,” is an outstanding soundscape, painting a perfect picture of “Americana.” Violin and cello are perfect here along with the piano.
“Song of the Dove” ( Kanto de la Kolombo) is sung entirely in Esperanto. Again, the vocal by Anna Emelyanova is amazing. Very calming with exquisite harmonies. Violin, piano, and cello all blend together in something beyond perfection. Here we can see and feel the “dove of peace” soaring high, entrusted with its important mission.
The hauntingly beautiful “Never Alone” is sung by Anna in Spanish, English and Yiddish. Sharon wrote this piece in the summer of 2018, at the height of media attention in the United States regarding Latin American refugees entering the country. The lyrics link the story with that of Jewish refugees in World War II. Perhaps we have all been refugees of some sort at some time in our lives. This song reminds us that while we may feel “shut out” at times, we are truly never alone.
A delicate, magical sounding song, “Moonswept” is sweeping, flowing piano, flute, violin and harp. Together these create a romantic soundscape where we feel like we are basking in a peaceful moonlit glow.
Calling up remembrances of long-lost love, the nostalgic, “Bittersweet Memory,” is a sweet flute and piano duet. Sparkling, so lovely, and emotionally stirring.
Grief and sorrow are brought up for closure in, “Last Tears.” This is wistful yet uplifting at the same time. Piano, cello, and violin in perfect harmony jostle our heartstrings and bring peace and balance.
Dedicated to the 88 souls who perished on Alaska Airlines flight 261, “In Memoriam” is sung in Latin and will give you chills. So very angelic. “Dona eis pacem. Volant cum angelis. Amen.” This translates into, “Grant them peace. They fly with the angels.”
Do you remember that September 11, 2001, morning? You might recall that it was such a beautiful day all over the United states that day. Picture perfect. Then everything changes and became something else. Life as we knew it completely morphed into completely uncharted territory. Out of that stunned, stupefying darkness, however, we came together, united as humanity in light, hope, and strength. “That September Day” is sung by Anna Emelyanova so perfectly. Flute, strings, piano, and an astoundingly magnificent vocal, all do the very same on this last track, “That Se