notes from Narada describe the music on this CD as,
"sparkling piano solos (which) dance with the
natural sounds of the San Juan Islands". These words
capture well the music within this CD.
San Juan Suite
is Michael Gettel's finest outing. He showcases his
amazing piano ability with highly melodic pieces,
each telling their own story. There is some amazing
music to be found here. The nine tracks, totalling
around 49 minutes, bring the islands to life.
below refers to the single album release, but the
more widely available release is the two-CD album:
the original album with the follow-up outing.
In the linear
notes, Michael explains how his music reflects his
impressions of the beautiful San Juan Islands,
located in Puget Sound, which lies between
Washington State and Canada. As well as being
inspired to compose by what he sees around him,
Michael explains another source of inspiration:
"There is always music in the San Juans. Listen
closely and you can hear the splashing seal, otter
and whale. Gulls relentlessly add their own song,
mingled with breezes gentle or strong. And there is
always the sound of the sea; it is the heartbeat of
the San Juans."
Michael goes on
to explain how he used the piano just as a
photographer might use a camera in order to capture
a place at a certain moment in time: "The style of
each song, whether fast and technically challenging,
or gentle and flowing, portrays unique feelings and
memories of time spent and places visited."
of the CD is the third track. It starts innocently
with nature sounds, but then ominous thunder crashes
from the speakers. The piano melody begins with a
solitary note- the first drop of rain. The tempo
increases as the rain-storm intensifies. Thunder and
rain combine to create the most amazing storm. The
piano playing on this piece is nothing short of
sensational, with interesting use of syncopation.
There is tremendous variety in the piece, and it
makes for an enthralling experience. The music ends
as it began, with the thunder gradually becoming
quieter, signalling the passing of the storm.
Michael told me how this piece came about one day
when he was fishing with a friend and they were
caught in the most tremendous storm. Inspired by
what he had witnessed first-hand, he returned to
home to compose his piece.
But Summer Rain
is only one of several highlights within this CD.
Take Whalesong, which combines real sounds of whales
with beautiful piano playing. You can hear the joy
and fun the whales are experiencing. The combination
of whale sounds and the piano melody work
surprisingly well. Most impressive is the opening to
this track, which makes for an incredible listening
experience. I think it captures the energy of the
Sucia / Shallow
Bay are effectively two different pieces merged into
one track. The music soars. Orcas is equally
wonderful as the second cut of the CD. The Straits
is another favourite, with an instantly appealing
melody and more stunning piano playing.
1988, the CD somehow fell out of print for a while,
but Narada finally saw sense and re-released it as
part of a two-CD package, combining the original
with the sequel. In 1998, a decade after the
original CD was released, Michael added two new
compositions, "Watercolours"- inspired by the
composer Eric Satie, and "The Kelpie" which came
about after Michael thought he glimpsed the
equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster (a Kelpie is a
legendary Scottish ‘beastie’ believed to inhabit
Lochs). Both new tracks are a pleasure to listen to.
Suite" is a magical CD of the highest quality.