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Woodland Moons by Marcia Watson Bendo
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/7/2018
An outstanding debut album
There are times when you think you have heard all that there is to hear and then an album of such clarity and beauty hits you straight in the face and demands to be listened to and adored on high, that statement rings true for this new offering by Marcia Watson Bendo, entitled Woodland Moons.
This music journey of splendour starts with the track Fallen Leaves Moon, the sullen and moody composition falls around us like a day in late October, the flute is perfection indeed, but the symphonic backdrop is simply sublime at setting this vast cinematic offering squarely on stage for us all to admire.
It is no wonder to me that fans of contemporary instrumental music are falling in love with this release, it has everything, and on this next piece called Planting Moon we hear even more, we hear the energy build, we feel a sense of excitement through the music, the combination of an uplifting flute, a wonderfully enchanting piano and a sumptuous array of fine orchestrations.
The moon is always a subject of mystery and imagination and throughout my life I have looked up and have been entranced by her beauty. On Strawberry Moon the inclusion of percussion can be found, this comes courtesy of the only other musician on the album in Rafael Pereira, mix this with some startlingly significant piano and the constant narration of the flute, and once more you have a total winner of a track.
It must be said I am struggling to believe that this is a debut album, something of such quality you may find in someone’s collection at about the three album mark, but it’s true, and if you keep an open ear to this next piece called Midsummer Moon you will see why. Midsummer nights are indeed magical and the artist has created that energy right here in this piece that is so redolent of the subject matter, why I could even see Puck himself playing his pipes in the bow of a tree, while I gaze upwards at the midsummer moon and as I do, I repeat the words of Shakespeare “My soul is in the sky.” Musically this even touches the hem of the classical genre and one of the finest performances off the entire album can be found right here!
We are approaching the mid-way marker on our musical voyage of great beauty and as we do so we arrive at a graphic opportunity superbly seized by the artist called Forest Moon. There is a lightness of spirit about this offering that is very appealing, it could easily follow our midsummer night in the woodlands of mystery and magic. Some delicate natural sounds give us the backdrop of a Forest in the light of a new day, and the style and essence almost manifest a first light moment of musical brilliance by the musician on the flute.
Yellow Leaves Moon is our arrival at the fulcrum of the release, once more Watson Bendo conjures up a magical energy, one that sparkles through and into her performance, but then this tranquil fluency drifts over us completely so that we may enjoy this breath taking reverie via the flute and the lush orchestrations completely.
Being one who has studied animal totems for many years, I adored this next piece called Big Bear Moon. Watson Bendo has it down to a tee here. The slow and almost bizarrely delicate energies of the Bear are captured here, in a delightfully fun performance; the chimes and orchestrations just add weight to an already clever arrangement.
One of the most charming offerings on this album comes at this juncture and called Snow Moon. The symbiotic connection between flute and piano are melded here with perfection, a little reflective energy and an imploring performance by the artist go to make this a stunningly pretty, but also remarkably pristine composition, and here one can truly enjoy the attention to detail and the essence of the subject matter with ease.
As we edge ever deeper into this dimension created by Marcia Watson Bendo, we come across a delicate arrangement called Crane Moon. The piano here manifests the open musical threshold for us to crossover and into, the master narrator weaves tones from her flute in a wizardly fashion, one can see the Crane very carefully walk with such softness and exactness, it is exciting to listen to and be enthralled by this offering. A tip of the hat goes to Rafael Pereira for those timely crescendos.
Our journey has been long, and as we near a bend in the road we see the sign for the longest offering on the release, this one is called Maple Sugar Moon. There is a real rich tapestry of musical craft within this piece, one that almost glistens with expectation. The tempo is slow and full and one must say to this point that the piano here and added sounds, all go to manifesting a whole new layer of brilliance already created by the flute.
The penultimate piece off the release is fun and quite charming, Little Bear Moon, at just less than five minutes long it is the shortest track off the album, but that hardly matters as you will find another masterful performance and another one that has a really lively sense of fun within its light-hearted construction.
It is amazing to think that we are now about to open the last doorway to the album and it is a piece rather charmingly called Berry Moon. This is the perfect end of release piece as well, it has a slight elevation in tempo, it has a fluent and crisp melody, one that will raise the energy of the listener enabling them to leave the album fully refreshed, entertained and having enjoyed every second of what is a superb compilation of beautifully crafted arrangements.
Woodland Moons the debut album, yes I did just say that, has to one of the best released so far this year long. The production quality, the splendid orchestrations take us into an almost David Arkenstone styled realm, and through the tremendous performances from Watson Bendo, the listener will feel like they have journeyed far and wide to wonderful musical vistas, and would not hesitate to do so again. Woodland Moons is one of those albums you just cannot fault and as such I can see this going on to being a real listener favourite and a huge chart hit.
Rating: Excellent
Simple Gifts by William Ögmundson
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/7/2018
A solo piano treat
Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple, you know, to take the complications and drama out of life and just enjoy the moment, each breath, each smell and each touch, to really feel life without stress or suffering, well through this album that has perhaps become possible; the artist has manifested for us a compilation of songs to ease our day and smooth out our nights, and entitled it Simple Gifts.
William Ögmundson has created this album to allow us to take a little beauty into our lives, and through this musical voyage we can sample empowering, but confident performances like the opening piece called Belladonna, a piece that leaves you feeling bright and alert at the end of the performance, revitalised completely.
The consistent fluency of this album is a real treat to hear, listen to the title track Simple Gifts, this is that special moment of magic, it is the title header, and here Ögmundson performs with such a warmth and style that we all may become a Lord of the Dance as well.
As we move continually down this river of solo piano we come across a really lively composition called quite appropriately, Forever Drifting. However, I would add when you factor in the happy refrain that this is played with, perhaps drifting with a purpose, or then again, perhaps just drifting for the sheer heck of it, whatever, this is one of the most fun arrangements off the release.
The curiously entitled Pharaoh’s Horses is up now; I found this a fascinating composition. Going from light to dark on the keys at the beginning was equally encapsulating. At six minutes it is the longest offering on the album, but one played with such flair and panache this is easily my favourite composition from the release, I adored the sheer depth of the song and the wonderfully fluent performance by Ögmundson, his style, and it has to be said, is utter genius here, was beyond anything I had heard for quite some time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sojourn within this tracks tonal energies.
As we slide ever onwards towards the fulcrum of the album we come across a gentle and very simple piece indeed called Great Expectations, there is a really charming musical narrative to be found here, there is warmth within the performance that has to be admired here as well. One could imagine this being played just as one is about to depart on a long journey of perhaps many discoveries.
Now we come across a piece that has a little eastern European motif about its energies and called Twilight in Budapest. This is one of those pieces that draws such a topographical picture for us to all enjoy, indeed we can, through the music, actually be with the artist as the sun sinks in the capital city of Hungry; the melody is delightful and allows us to retain a sense of actually having been there in a memory packed opus.
A total change in direction is now upon us as we move to the next offering called Sancta Maria. I’m not sure if I remember Andrea Bocelli singing this piece or not, there is a memory there, somewhere. However this is a presentation that has such charm and style, I am sure you will absolutely fall in love with it.
I was listening to this track just the other day and loved it; its title is Jupiter & Venus, this offering has a narrative that draws some beautiful pictures within my mind’s eye that are vast, and graphic, as the universe can only be, but the mixture of minor and major chords form part of the recital that I find particularly exciting, the tempo and over all upbeat nature of the composition draws for me, comparisons for me with my neighbour David Lanz in style.
There is a real sense of drama about this next offering called Lux Aeterna, Ögmundson’s classy approach to this short form composition is powerful with a sense of a regal posture within it musical matrix.
Heather’s Song is our next musical doorway that we must cross the threshold of; here you will find a track that has a real lightness of soul about its essence. This is a proud arrangement that flows with such a level of subtly and respect.
We now find ourselves at the opening to the penultimate offing of the album, this last but one arrangement is entitled Icarus. This is actually a really moving track that utilises a deep sense of reflection to majestically seal one of the most powerful offerings on the release. Whilst listening to this, one could easily imagine it being part of a movie soundtrack.
The final gift is called Dance of the Fairies. This is a much crafted arrangement; the gentle but purposeful implementation is sublimely placed together with some flamboyant moments of grandeur. The dance elevates to a wonderful sense of heightened energy, then at the very last moment leaves us with an almost simple, but sweet disappearance of the fairies themselves, a very clever piece indeed.
Simple Gifts by William Ögmundson is a solo piano treat; it is a journey that is so well drawn by the artist, that the musician is simply your musical guide along the way. Simple Gifts by William Ögmundson flows with supreme confidence and should with ease satisfy any needs you have been longing to fulfil on a solo piano level, masterfully performed and produced, a real winner of an album.
Rating: Excellent
Quiet Spaces: Flute Meditations for Mindfulness and Relaxation by Ann Licater
- posted by Beth Hilton on 11/5/2018
Quiet Spaces
The full title of this serene album by award-winning recording artist Ann Licater is Quiet Spaces: Flute Meditations for Mindfulness and Relaxation (Cul de Sac Mystic Productions). Discover new realms of inner-peace with relaxing music from world flutist Ann Licater performing on Native American, Native American-style, folk and alto flutes. 15 calming tracks feature soft, deeply reflective solo and duet compositions pristinely recorded in Licater’s signature style for a soothing listening experience. This artful, sonic journey is perfect for mindfulness practices, meditation and well-being. Also recommended for yoga, spa, healing arts, creativity, study, sleep, and overall stress reduction.​ Learn more at Available upon request!
Rating: Excellent
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