About the Music . . . Creating this CD was an interesting journey for me. Like all of my albums, the writing came from many emotions and experiences, from feelings of joy and sadness, to gratitude and nostalgia. However, I experienced a new surge of creativity, fueled by my new piano, a Kawai RX-7, with its rich tone and incredible depth of sound, allowing me to express my feelings on the piano with a new freedom. For many, hearing a certain song can remind you of a place or time in your life, recalling memories and stirring emotions. A souvenir is a memento or keepsake, yet the object is only significant to the owner because of the memories attached to it. Each song on this CD has special meaning to me, the songs a memory, feeling or image. Every album I create is a musical journey and the songs are souvenirs . . . I hope the music takes you somewhere memorable! Thank you for listening.
Behind the Songs . . .
1) Rhythm of the Rain - Early one morning, the sky was dark and the clouds looked heavy, it began to rain. I listened to the different layers of sound, the dripping of water from the eaves, the trickling stream from the roof gutters, and the sound of raindrops hitting the ground. I heard layers of sound and rhythms of the water, with the underlying constant drumming of rain. This is one of my favorites to play!
2) Souvenirs - I composed this song after a friend passed, sad that he was gone but knowing he was in a better place. Initially, I named it "Bittersweet Waltz", a rather melancholy song with a simple melody. It felt familiar, like I had heard it somewhere before. Sometimes hearing songs can make you feel that way, take you back to a time or place you remember. That's when the idea of "Souvenirs" came to me. Souvenirs don't necessarily have to be objects, they can be memories of a person you miss and cherish.
3) Shiver - Written nearly 2 years ago, I had a difficult time naming this song. I composed this piece during a transitional period in my life, with a son off to college, and the other one graduating soon. I experienced a whirlwind of emotions with the pending change. I performed it a few times and asked the audience for their feedback. People had visions of a storm, darkness and cold, a windy night, a change of seasons. Many titles surfaced, but I thought it would be "cool" to name it after what this would feel like, rather than look like. I came up with the perfect title, "Frozen", but heard it was already taken, ha-ha! I had to "Let it Go" and decided to call it "Shiver" - brrr!
4) Prelude to Sunrise - I often compose first thing in the morning. I hear the sounds of birds in song, the quietness before the neighborhood bustle, feeling a sense of calm, beauty and gratitude for another day. Other titles were "Before the Sun Rises", "First Breath" and "Morning Awakening", (Morning Breath was quickly dismissed!) Because the music is really about the sounds of morning as the sun rises, it became a Prelude to Sunrise!
5) Chasing the Moon - An upbeat, fun and light song, this was inspired by a gorgeous harvest moon, bright and golden yellow, hanging in the sky. My son and I were driving home on a crisp, autumn evening at dusk and opened our "moon" roof to view this incredible sight on our way, chasing the moon!
6) Aqua Abyss - The ocean is so beautifully calm and yet so powerful at the same time. When I began writing this song it immediately reminded me of diving into the deep blue sea. I envisioned serene images under water, sinking gently, spiraling downward into the unknown, dark and mysterious, yet peaceful and beautiful.
7) Silver Lining - The early stages of this composition sounded a little intense and mysterious, but it transformed into this rather fast-moving, fun piece. It reminded me that sometimes a difficult challenge can be a blessing in disguise, and every cloud has a silver lining. Though not my intention, this piece turned out to have an unexpected positive and energetic feeling.
8) Silhouette - One of the first songs I composed on my new piano, this piece feels very cinematic, like an old classic movie theme song. I explored the delicate touch of the instrument, the many dynamics and the rich deep bass notes, creating this rather sultry yet classical piece. I envisioned shadows, a silhouette of a mysterious figure, dark and majestic, like my piano.
9) Traveling Dreams - This has a sort of rambling feel, reminding me of a train ride across country, with a dreamy, lazy vibe to it. We took a train ride to the Grand Canyon with our boys when they were young, witnessing the awe and grandeur of the canyon, and it snowed a bit on the way, so mesmerizing!
10) The Hour Glass - This song is reflective, conveying the unstoppable passage of time. As I watch our boys becoming young men, I want time to stand still, but how quickly it passes, like watching the grains of sand in an hour glass.
11) Morning Grace - I composed this song the morning after a big performance. Playing for this event was a huge honor, and I was so excited but nervous to play for an audience that included many of my peers and colleagues. Afterwards, I was so inspired and so grateful for the evening, the music, and being able to share my passion for piano.
12) Stepping Stones - This song reflects upon happy memories of life's milestones, birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, etc. They are all stepping stones on life's path. This song just has a joyful feeling that reminds me of childhood and great memories with my family!
13) Guardian Angel - This was written for my brave sister who courageously survived a terrible cancer diagnosis. I prayed a guardian angel would help guide her through this challenging time. I like to believe that we all have someone above looking out for us.
14) Cashmere Clouds - Usually we are looking up to the clouds, and they are so beautiful! Once on a flight home, the clouds below were like a solid white field, resembling a soft, endless cashmere blanket. It was so dreamy and serene, I composed this lullaby.
The Album Artwork . . . I never really have a visual concept of the image I want for the album until I am actually finished recording. When I began looking at images, I wanted the concept to reflect nostalgia - travels, memories and souvenirs while also conveying the musical aspect. I liked these images of vintage suitcases and had the idea of adding old music manuscript sheets. My graphic designer, Matt Strieby of New Leaf Design, was able to capture my idea perfectly! Deciding to keep the CD graphics simple, the first proof was a solid black CD with just my name and title. Seeing the disc in black reminded me of my old records, so we designed it to look like a 45 record, which tied the vintage feel with my idea of music as a souvenir perfectly! Even though digital music diminishes the need for a physical CD copy, I feel that artwork is a big part of the album. An artistic package that conveys the music is so important. I hope you enjoy it!
Reviews of Souvenirs
One World Music
I have heard compositions by Christine Brown before, but on her latest release she really has raised the bar, Souvenirs is an album that has such a depth of emotion held within, it is going to be a landmark album for her career in the solo piano genre.
Take a listen to the opening track called Rhythm of the Rain. The power and passion are right in the block from the off and this is a composition that builds to perfection and holds that intensity until the end, a real rain felt track played with a good deal of style and purpose.
The next track for a second took me back in time to the solo piano piece performed by the pianist Dennis McCarthy, on the ending theme of the Incredible Hulk series from the 70’s. Brown has again produced an arrangement of pure magic here, which also has an element of the classical contained within, and yes, of course I am referring to the title track, Souvenir’s.This is such an addictive composition I have now played it at least five times and it won’t stop there, there Is so much in this track, a little European feel as well and a deep felt sense of remembrance, an absolutely outstanding piece indeed.
Dear reader, the depth of performance on this album is quite immense, as it also was in this composition, which I may add was one of my favourites, called Shiver.You can see a fine example of that quality of depth in the style of playing and the creative narrative contained within this piece was fabulous. Slight, but pertinent changes of tempo and power make this track outstanding in my view.
The promise of something special in the next offering called Prelude to Sunrise was vast, but Browns skill on the piano did not let her down. I have heard many tracks over the years based on the subject of either sunrise or first light and some were good, others not so, but this arrangement from Brown is top notch, I wondered if Jill Haley had joined her on horn here, what might have been the outcome, but never the less, she has done the subject matter justice, with a clever and thoughtful performance.
Chasing the Moon is not only a beautiful title, but an absolutely delightful track as well. The mood is lightened here and one could easily imagine watching a moonrise with this piece. The fluency of this composition is also something to enjoy, the melody just flows like moonbeams around a night filled room.
Now we move to the curious titled Aqua Abyss. The slow tempo of this track is appealing, but there is a certain vastness about this piece that needs to be appreciated in more depth. The performance is superb and flows in and out like a tide, there is almost a sense of wonder built in here as well, and I loved the subtle use of power in this most pleasing of arrangements.
At the half way point we find that Browns gift to us dear listener is called Silver Lining. We’re told that each cloud has one and that got me thinking, this album let alone this track would be ideal for cloud watching. The repeating segment in this piece is light and that lightness is created brilliantly by infusing it with a happy motif, so you’re left with a track that you can’t help but like.
The second longest piece on Souvenirs is called Silhouette. Once more there is an element of classical here and the piece has a level of progression in it that is both careful and positive, but the composition retains its light filled quality, I must add that on this track, Christine Browns professionalism and great skill is evident here in abundance.
I have noted that many of the tracks on this album could easily be used in a movie or two, things don’t change with this piece either, Brown has a way of creating some amazing narrative in her music and with each piece played I feel a separate journey is taken, Traveling Dreams is a perfect example of my statement. The essence of great movement is to be found here, with a feeling of journeying in and out of the real world. This is one of the most chilled tracks on the album and played with such craft as well.
Hour Glass was a piece that I looked forward to hearing; there is so much you can do with the subject and Browns attention to detail is once more in the foreground, a clever melody combined with a fine performance brought a time felt narrative to this composition, the image of a dust filled room, with sun beams filtering shards of light upon an old hour glass, as we watch the sands of time run from its clutches, is fixed in my mind as I listen intently to this piece.
So, let’s slow things down dear constant reader, we have seen the sunrise together, now let’s just take some time and enjoy Morning Grace. Let us watch the magic of a new day begin, the glow of the light of another opportunity to make some magic in your life. Beautifully played and with a real level of proudness, this surely is the soundtrack to a lazy Sunday morning.
Now be careful as we cross the river, but to do so we must use these Stepping Stones. Now that’s one possible narrative, there are bound to be many others, Christine Brown's performance here has almost a sense of fun about it, but layered with a happiness that is quite evident in the positive style of playing, also please note the confidence in this piece, it adds such a weight to the composition.
The penultimate track is now upon us listeners and readers and it’s been a wonderful journey, but we still have time to enjoy Guardian Angel. Browns skill brings forth a respectful but loving arrangement, the gentleness of this piece is so nice to bathe in, and the subtle use of energy when needed is also sublime. One can only assume that Christine Brown's Guardian Angel was with her this journey too.
So it’s time to for us to leave the realm of the artist, but before we leave, she would just like to gift us another track to take with us along our way, and it is called, Cashmere Clouds. Well, seems I got that one right, after saying earlier I would be able to listen to this album while cloud watching and this is perfect to revel in a day where warm summer winds and pearls of white cashmere clouds just float on by.This is a real laid back way of leaving the album, but one that I am sure will be much appreciated, as it is filled with a sense of aerial beauty.
Christine Brown has indeed raised the bar. This in my opinion is her best album by far and contains some absolutely fantastic tracks, that could and more to the point, should be used on the big screen. Her work and skills on this album have not only done her credit, but have placed her on the ladder of success. I can see this one performing extremely well, in the OWMR world 100 chart.
Souvenirs/Music and Media Focus
There’s an old saying: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Although for pianist/ composer Christine Brown, it might be more appropriate to say: “When life gives you lemons, make music.” This is not to say that all of her composing has been inspired by life’s challenges, but the piano has certainly been a place where she could pour her heart out, and in turn, create some of her most evocative music. Back in 1990, her mother passed away, and according to Christine: “I was 28, and I think I wrote more than twenty songs in a matter of months. It was a great comfort to me to be able to express my emotions on the piano, and it was a real turning point for me.” Years later, in 2011, after struggling with a debilitating neuromuscular condition, and even more so, the diagnosis of her son with a serious illness, writing music helped her cope and resulted in an album called The Wishing Well, which was, for her, a chronicle of that difficult period.
In an interview with Music and Media Focus, Christine shared: “ Many things inspire me in my music. Whatever emotions I’m feeling when I sit down at the piano, seems to be re-created through my music, like my mind and heart are connected to my hands. I don’t know how else to describe it. My children, my family, simple pleasures, the beauty of nature – inspiration surrounds me. Some of my most popular songs have come from extreme joy and heartfelt pain, but all are life experiences that I feel the need to express, and I am so happy I can do this through music. It can be as traumatic as the loss of a friend or the challenges that people I love face, or simply the joy and beauty of a sunrise or the falling rain. There is always underlying gratitude for these experiences, even the painful ones, because challenges can make us stronger, reminding us that life is a gift.”
The piano has been a part of Christine’s world since she was only 3 years old, picking out melodies and making up songs on her grandparents upright piano. Here, Christine shares a bit about her musical development: “I started lessons at age 7, and loved learning to read music, it felt like a whole new world opened up to me! Instead of being told to practice more, I was often told to take a break, stop playing! I loved learning a new song and the feeling of accomplishment that it gave me.” She has come a long way from her first composition called “The Flower Ballet” which she wrote when she was around 8 or 9. While her lessons immersed her in the classical music of Chopin, Beethoven, etc. a revelation came later in life when she was exposed to the more new age piano music of George Winston, as well as Peter Kater, who Christine used to see playing in a hotel in Boulder, Colorado where she attended college in the early 1980’s.
Since then she has gone on to become an award winning pianist and composer, with this current album,Souvenirs, her 10th recording, being chosen for “Best Piano Album of 2014” by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio. Her CD was selected from over 100 albums that were voted on by a panel of pianists and composers. A number of her previous albums have also received a variety of nominations and accolades. In addition, Christine has the rare honor of being selected as an official Kawai Piano Artist, representing this esteemed piano company. While being recognized on these levels is certainly an acknowledgement, Christine’s motivations are rooted in more personal soil. In her words: “When a song you’ve poured your heart into connects with another person, it’s truly rewarding! Playing relaxes me, soothes my soul and gives me a way to release my emotions. I never feel I have to play, but I needto play, it’s just a part of me, and always has been. I hope I can reach as many people as possible with my music, and bring calm, comfort, and joy to people’s lives. I really believe being a musician is a gift, and the music comes from another place, through me, and I feel so lucky to be able to share it.” Incidentally, although Christine recently bought a new top of the line Kawai piano, she chose to recordSouvenirs with Joe Bongiorno at his popular Piano Haven Studios in Sedona, Arizona.
I had a nostalgic moment as I opened the CD packaging and saw that the disc was designed to look like the kind of old 45 rpm records I grew up with – a nice touch! Actually, the idea of nostalgia plays into the album’s cover and title. As Christine describes: “When I began looking at images for the album artwork, I wanted the concept to reflect nostalgia – travels, memories, and souvenirs while also conveying the musical aspect.” Hence the images of vintage suitcases and old music manuscript sheets.
The album gets off to an exceptionally strong start, with “Rhythm of the Rain” that blows in like a summer storm, with the first drops falling gently, and eventually building in rhythmic intensity, drenching the listener in liquid arpeggios and soulful chord structure. This is perhaps, my favorite song on the album. Once the storm has passed, we shift into ¾ time for the album’s title track with its more melancholy ambience. This was one of the above-mentioned songs that evolved out of a difficult time in Christine’s life. Originally titled, “Bittersweet Waltz,” it was written to commemorate the passing of a dear friend. According to Christine: “Souvenirs don’t necessarily have to be objects, they can be memories of a person you cherish and miss.” Another composition born out of a time of transition is the unusually named “Shiver.” Also a waltz, I greatly enjoyed its graceful sweeping cadence and cinematic flair.
Both the sun and the moon inspire Christine’s creativity in a lovely pair of songs respectively titled “Prelude to a Sunrise” and “Chasing the Moon,” that celebrate two distinctively different times of day, yet share a lightheartedness in contrast to some of her more wistful tunes. Christine makes perfect use of an appropriately descending chord structure on “Aqua Abyss,” which for me evoked images of a mermaid drifting languidly through the watery depths. A somewhat similar energy is felt on a piece called “Traveling Dreams,” which Christine characterizes as having “a dreamy, lazy vibe to it.” Originally inspired by a cross-country train trip, it captures the mesmerizing reverie one can slip into as the miles go by. And reflecting another kind of movement is a composition entitled “The Hour Glass,” which conveys the unstoppable passage of time. The album draws to a most gentle conclusion with a lullaby called “Cashmere Clouds,” which leaves the listener feeling like they have been tucked in to a soft warm bed and ready to drift off into dreamland.
I can definitely see why Souvenirs was chosen to receive an award like “Best Piano Album of 2014.” It’s a radiant recording that reveals the heart and soul of an immanently talented composer and instrumentalist. While Christine has impeccable technique on the piano, which I greatly enjoyed listening to, what impressed me as much was her writing. If I had to choose one word to describe Christine’s musicality, that word would probably be “expressive.” Each piece tells a story born of personal experience and deep feelings. Christine’s compositions resonate with an emotional eloquence that is profound and moving, whether inspired by life’s challenges or joys. Fans of solo piano with neo-classical and new age influences will certainly want to make Souvenirs a part of their music collection.
- Michael Diamond, Music and Media Focus
Souvenirs/New Age Music Reviews
Christine Brown’s releases go back to 1997.Souvenirs is her tenth proper album.
Right from the first track “Rhythm of the Rain” I could tell that her music would evoke a strong sense of emotions and deep feelings. Although this can be positive or indifferent depending on whom you are, I can honestly say that I believe it will heal you regardless of what emerges while listening. The rhythm she captures is life itself, a heartbeat, a breath of fresh air, or morning dew dripping off a leaf. It is so quiet and delicate yet if you listen very carefully those sounds will surround you in the great outdoors. This album touches upon the beauty and wonder of nature and more.
Christine’s love for the piano started at a very early age and it’s obvious that her love has blossomed into something very special. Her gift is evident on every track of Souvenirs. The combination of classical and new age sets the stage from the outset and what the artist presents is a literal open canvas of life set to music. You are the canvas and her piano paints the broad strokes across the vast horizon of life and emotions.
“Prelude to Sunrise” is as beautiful as the event itself. Christine’s fingers glide across the keys effortlessly as she ushers in a new day full of warmth and light from one of God’s greatest gifts, the giver of life our sun.
“Aqua Abyss” has a dark and pensive side yet it allows the beauty of the music to peak around the corner and invite you in. It is a surprise turn of events on this album and actually sounds like something that could be part of a dramatic stage play like “Phantom of the Opera” or something of that nature. As the track moves on towards the end the abyss turns into a pool of freshly fallen rain. It is one of my favorite tracks because I did not expect that particular pace or harder emotional charge to come forth. The ending was perfect and it brought everything back into balance. Certainly it must have been difficult to play and then the transition towards the end was such a change it really keeps you on your toes!
Every time I hear this type of music it heals me. I was in much need of healing when I listened to this, fighting off a flu that would not go away. It made me focus on the beauty of the music and the powers that are evident in my inner soul. That is not something I think about when I am not well. Healer heal thy self indeed. Thank you for the push in the right direction Chris.
Souvenirs – Mainly Piano Album Review
I’ve been reviewing Christine Brown’s albums since her 1997 release, Winter Tapestry, and she has become one of my very favorite artists. A mixture of passion, exceptional playing chops and an abundance of grace consistently puts her music in a category of its own. Souvenirs is a collection of fourteen breathtaking original piano solos inspired at least in part by the arrival of Brown’s new piano, a Kawai RX-7 grand. The pieces express a wide range of emotions and experiences with depth, sincerity and an elegant touch. Already nominated as “Album of the Year” by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, I’m sure Souvenirs will be on my list of Favorites for the year as well. The album was recorded and mastered by Joe Bongiorno on his Shigeru Kawai at his Piano Haven Studio in Sedona, AZ - as always, impeccable!
Souvenirs begins with “Rhythm of the Rain,” another wonderful example of how well the piano expresses the feeling of rain, be it a wild and crazy storm or a gentle shower. This is somewhere in the middle, flowing gently but steadily with varying levels of intensity. The title track is a beautiful, bittersweet waltz (the original title!) composed after the passing of a close friend to cancer. More reflective than mournful, it’s one of my favorites. I also really love “Shiver,” which went without a title for nearly two years. The piece is in constant motion, sometimes gracefully and sometimes more intense. It makes my fingers itch! “Prelude to Sunrise” is more ambient and descriptive, often using rapidly arpeggiated chords to depict beams of light coming through clouds (my interpretation). “Aqua Abyss” is yet another favorite. Brown says, “I don’t recall what initiated the writing of this song, but it immediately reminded me of falling gently, spiraling downward in the water, dark and mysterious, yet calm and beautiful,” and that’s exactly how it feels. Gorgeous!!! “Silhouette” was the first piece Brown composed on her new piano, exploring the touch and dynamics of the instrument. The resulting piece sounds a bit like a classic movie theme - nostalgic, sentimental, and very beautiful. “The Hour Glass” reflects on the passage of time. Gently but relentlessly flowing, it pauses only occasionally. “Stepping Stones” happily recalls life’s milestones, what Brown refers to as the “stepping stones of life.” “Guardian Angel” is a heartfelt prayer full of love, sincerity and deep emotion. Inspired by the white field of clouds below the airplane on a recent trip, “Cashmere Clouds” is a peaceful lullaby that serenely brings us to the end of this excellent album.
Christine Brown’s tenth album could be her best music yet - truly inspired and from the heart - and I give it my highest recommendation! Souvenirs is available from ChristineBrownPiano.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.