Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Angel Above My Piano

Fiona Joy Hawkins

Little Hartley Music

2006

www.fionajoy.com

 

 

 

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I first came across this exciting Australian pianist via the informative New Age Reporter website. What stood out to the reader amongst the hundreds of CDs reviewed, was that Fiona Joy Hawkins won a NAR award for best Piano album, enjoyed world-wide top spot in the New Age Reporter charts, and (from her website) had been a finalist in several categories in the MusicOz awards. It was at this point I decided to check out her music, and I am very glad that I did- suffice to say that Fiona Joy Hawkins can now add a Piano-Heaven award to her impressive list of accolades!

Angel Above My Piano is Fiona's second album, and is excellent from start to finish. The album is the highly impressive follow up to Portrait of a Waterfall, and comes at a busy time for Fiona, as she releases her highly original album "Ice" and prepares for a project with the legendary Will Ackerman.

"Crystal Desert" opens the CD, and this is a beautiful track. It is part of the ‘Antarctic Interludes’ suite of four tracks. Fiona visited Antarctica in 2006, and her visit was clearly a source of inspiration. The opening track is piano, guitar and light orchestration; her accomplished playing suggesting a place teeming with activity rather than emptiness. Perhaps it really was an empty world, but the artist was so in awe of what lay before her- its unrivalled beauty and unique features- that the ensuing composition had to be bursting with life. Fiona feels the piece captures Antarctica. She explains how she wanted to recreate.... "the atmosphere of majesty, fragility and wilderness- to me this track is Antarctica personified."

 

I love "Dance of the Penguins". I imagine this would be great fun to perform. Fiona spent time observing Adelie penguins as part of her visit, and this piece captures their playfulness. Very uplifting, this piece soon bursts into life. One can almost visualise the penguins' jollity.

 

Track 3, "Flight of the Albatross" is very graceful. The tempo is slowed, and it is as if this beautiful bird has been immortalised forever through Fiona's delicate piano playing. She explains how she was completely mesmerised by the Albatross gliding across the tip of the waves. In Fiona's own words, "He just flew outside the window from the piano- as if he knew I was writing his portrait." Subtle guitar playing by Dieter Kleemann add to the beauty of the composition. This piece could easily accompany a film or documentary, and would make a highly pleasing soundtrack.

 

The impeccable standard continues into the fourth track, after which the CD is named. The piece takes on extra significance when the listener is made aware of the inspiration for the composition. As Fiona explains, "I have a charcoal drawing of an Angel hanging above my piano. Painted by a friend diagnosed with cancer, this is the Angel that came to him in a dream. The angel marks time and signifies the strength we search for in times of need. She looks like someone you know, but no-one you have ever met." It is certainly a lovely, graceful piece extenuated by the brief but hauntingly beautiful violin playing of Rebecca Daniel and Elizabeth Clooney.

 

The ‘Opus for Love’ suite consists of nine tracks, opening with the spirited 1st. Movement, "Love in Winter". The first three pieces were written shortly after the passing of Fiona's Grandmother. Listening to these tracks, I get the feeling that the lady in question led a very full life. As well as the pieces capturing the pain caused by her loss, they very successfully celebrate her life through the upbeat nature of the music. I think my favourite is the 2nd. Movement, "Love Forever"- the title suggests that the music is dedicated to someone who will never be forgotten. The final movement, "Love in Spring", is great fun to listen to and is a very happy piece. I find it very majestic and is a fitting tribute to a lady who was obviously very special to the composer. The cello playing from Trish McMeekin is delightful- I love the magical combination of these two instruments.

 

"Watching the Wind" is the album's eight track, and is another beauty. There is a Japanese tinge to the music, capturing an Acer Japonica amongst the Australian plants in the garden. The source for this (at times) dramatic track was the reflection of Fiona's garden in the glass of The Angel painting on the wall above her piano. It is curious how seemingly insignificant things can actually be a great source of inspiration to a musician.

 

Both "Down the Aisle" (Wedding March 2) and "Thinking of You" are delightful. I particularly like the flute and piano combination from Veronica Kennedy and Fiona in the latter track. The piece is a combination of a melody written originally by her father, and a tune from the pianist herself, and it makes for an impressive end-product.

 

J.S. Bach has clearly been an inspiration to Fiona, and Angel Above My Piano's eleventh track is a nod of gratitude to the master.

 

"The Child's Game" is the penultimate track, although according to the linear notes, this was the piece written first for the album. It's designed to get the listener thinking, and it is certainly interesting... and very short!

 

The final track sees a solo-piano outing for Love Forever (Track 6), which I was delighted to hear again- this time stripped down to its raw beauty.

 

I am extremely impressed with this album. It maintains an exceptionally high standard throughout. This is music full of passion, and straight from the heart. Very accessible, the music is highly melodic. The other instruments embellish the gorgeous piano playing but never allow the piano to leave centre-stage.

I give Angel Above My Piano my highest recommendation. It is pure Piano-Heaven.

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angel Above My Piano

Fiona Joy Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiona Joy Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to

Love Forever (Reprise)-

Piano Solo

Click the piano