I feel that I have had a very special friendship with Greg Maroney and his music for the past fourteen years or so. The first of his albums that I reviewed was Sentinel
back in early 2002, and I knew I was listening to something special. When I first visited Greg’s website back then, I saw a photo of him playing his piano barefoot and knew we had something in common. Not too long after that, I started proof-reading Greg’s sheet music, and we have been a team at getting his music into print as well as spreading the word about his recordings. We did our first interview in 2005, a second one in 2009, and a third in 2013. (All of those interviews are still available from Greg’s Artist Page
here on MainlyPiano.com.) Since retiring as a trauma nurse a couple of years ago and finding his dream piano, Greg has been creating an amazing amount of new music and trying quite a number of different approaches to his music, so I suggested it was time for an interview update. Enjoy!
KP: Hi Greg! How is everything in Pennsylvania today?
GM: Hi Kathy! Thanks so much for inviting me to do this interview. My wife Linda and I have been working hard on our seven-acre farmette here in south central Pennsylvania, trying to survive the summer heat. It has been a hot and dry summer so far, and sometimes it feels like the sun is only ten miles away!
KP: We have had the opposite here on the Oregon Coast. It has been very hot inland in the Eugene area, so we’re getting lots of heavy wind and pea soup fog. I’ll take the cooler weather to the heat any day!
You have always been a very prolific artist, but you have already released two albums this year! Are you going through an especially creative period?
I think I am. Since I stopped working my “day job” two years ago and became focused on music, it seems like I have an abundance of creative energy and I have the time to make it happen. It was a bit scary giving up that steady income, but I am very thankful it has worked out for us. Music seems to be just flowing out of my fingers!
Click on the album covers to go to Kathy's reviews.
KP: Lucky us! I very recently reviewed your new Hymns - Healing Piano Solos, which was released in June of this year. What was your inspiration or motivation for doing a full album of hymns?
GM: This is a special CD for me. Many of my fans and friends have been asking me to do this CD, and I finally had the time to devote to making the arrangements to some of my favorite hymns as well as some other peaceful and healing classical music that I thought would fit the general feel of the CD.
KP: I love your arrangements of the hymns, but I’m curious about whether the interludes you added were improvisations or pre-composed before you went into the studio.
GM: I did have a basic idea of how I wanted the arrangements to go, but I always left a part of the songs open for improvisation. That provided a spontaneity that I like to have in each song. The downside to that is sometimes the interlude is not quite good enough to keep, but sometimes it is just right. I always do multiple takes of each song and keep the best of the best.
KP: There are literally thousands of hymns out there. How did you choose which ones to include?
GM: Good question. I reached out to people I knew and asked them to write up lists of their favorite hymns. I was able to distill the lists down to the songs that resonated with me and that I felt would be a good fit for my arranging style. I also wanted to arrange a few of the more popular hymns that people were familiar with. I wanted this CD to be “easy” on the ears, and touch people without being complicated or difficult to interpret. I also wanted to include some of my favorite relaxing classical music that fit in with the hymns, such as Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.”
KP: We have joked about how many different versions of “Canon in D” there are, but you came up with a unique arrangement without changing the piece too much. Is that a piece that has a deep personal meaning for you or did you just luck out with creating a different arrangement?
GM: “Canon in D” is familiar to just about everyone. There is something about the melodic line and the simplicity of the chord structure that just resonates with people. I am no different and love the flowing, graceful melody. It is so simple yet so rich. Improvising on the song just seemed a natural extension of these characteristics.
KP: Have you had a lot of requests to record “Canon in D” over the years?
GM: I have. I knew that it has been done by many other artists, so I was a bit reticent to record it. But I just felt that it was time to see what I could do, and I loved playing it so much that it has become a favorite of mine.
KP: “Amazing Grace” has also had countless arrangements and has been recorded in so many musical genres, and yet you came up with something different and that hasn’t been done before. How did you come up with a new interpretation that is different yet is very true to the original song?
GM: Well, thanks, I am glad that the song stands out on its own. There have been so many arrangements of it! I tried to make sure that I stated the main theme, but then put my signature sound (or as my wife calls it “Gregacized” it) with my own particular style of composition. I think it worked and that the improvisation and arrangement complimented the song very well.
KP: I do, too! The Schubert “Ave Maria” is another rather iconoclastic piece, although I dearly love it. There are several places in that piece where you changed some of the harmonies. At a little over seven minutes, it’s the longest piece on the album. Why did you decide to end the album with that one? It’s perfect but I’m curious to know why you chose to end with that.
GM: I thought to end the album with this piece for a couple different reasons. First, I love the song. Second, I wanted the last song to leave an impression on the listener as they finished listening to the CD. It is something that they can take away with them and will stay in their minds. Since the song is so long, I had to come up with different arrangements of three verses. Throwing in some harmonic change ups keeps the song interesting.
KP: You also released Quiet Piano Improvisations, Volume 1 earlier this year, which I love. Since that was “Volume 1,” I assume there is at least one sequel on the horizon?
Yes, I have Quiet Piano Improvisations, Volume 2
already recorded and ready for release. I just did not want to release too many CDs all at once. This has been an incredibly prolific time for me and music is pouring out of my fingers! I have to be patient, which is not always easy for me!
KP: I can understand that! Did you have some musical sketches done for that album before you went into the studio or was it totally off the top of your head?
GM: Quiet Piano Volume 1 was off the top of my head. It is rather a funny story how both of the Quiet Piano CDs came about. I was working on the Hymns CD, and when I needed a break, I would improvise something. Since I already had the recording equipment set up to record the Hymns CD, it was easy to hit the record button and start playing. I think I played about fifty improvs, of which about twenty-five were good enough to turn into Quiet Piano Improvisations Volume 1 and Volume 2. I really had not thought I would do a improv CD, but I came up with two!
KP: It sounds like one of those interesting quirks in life that can lead to something incredible! Are you planning to do a songbook for that album? I love so much of that music, although I’m sure it will be much harder to transcribe than your more composed music.
I am, although as you mentioned it will be a bit more difficult. It is easier to transcribe a song that sticks to a certain format or has a known melodic line. The improvs are, well, improvs. That means they were made up on the spot. Some are similar to a “normal” composition, others are less structured and seem to just go as in a stream of consciousness. I tried to capture a certain mood, just playing as I felt, and not trying to put any restraints or a specific form on them. This makes transcribing more challenging, although not out of the question.
Kathy Parsons, Greg Maroney, and Wayne Gratz in Florence, OR 2011
KP: What about the Hymns album? Are you going to transcribe that?
GM: Definitely. That will probably be my next sheet music project. I have been busy transcribing some of my older material. As a matter of fact, I just finished transcribing my first CD, Songs of the Water Rose, which is over twenty years old. I will probably put the older songs on hold for this winter and work on the Hymns CD. It is much easier to work inside on the computer when the weather outside is cold. The warmth of the summer months makes me wander outside more often then I really should.
KP: Do you plan to release any more albums this year?
GM: Yes, I have lots of new projects going. I plan on doing a “Best Of” CD to include my most popular songs, rerecorded on my Steinway D, and of course there is Quiet Piano Improvisations, Volume 2 that will come out later this year.
KP: What is your next project?
I am glad that you asked this question. I am doing something quite different for my next project. I am creating an ambient CD that will stray a bit from the solo piano format. It will have some piano, but it will also have lots of strings, pads, cello, bass, and some voice. It is being made for Yoga, massage, sleep, and promoting “alpha waves.” There is also an emotional depth to it that will shine through. I can’t wait for it to be done! Hopefully it will be ready in the fall.
Stained glass by Linda Maroney
KP: Wow! That really will be different! Since our last interview (2013), you retired from being a trauma nurse. Do you just sit around the house watching soaps and eating bonbons now? (LOL!!!)
GM: Well, no. I have been busier now then I was when I worked a day job. I devote a lot of time to playing the piano, composing, recording, and transcribing. Also, we have a seven-acre farmette that keeps both Linda and me very busy. We grow a lot of our own food and the grounds keep us busy trying to make it our living utopia. There do not seem to be enough hours in the day, but at the end of the day, I am glad that it is bedtime because I am tired!
KP: You and your wife, Linda, have been growing most of your own food for quite some time. Are you doing even more of that now?
GM: We are. I have two large vegetable gardens and when harvest time arrives we are overflowing with tomatoes, squash, berries, raspberries, winter squash, cucumbers, peppers, and lots of other fresh vegetables and fruits. Linda cans or freezes a lot of the extra produce and we savor it through the winter months. We get to have bit of summer goodness in the snowy cold winters.
KP: Linda is very much an artist in her own right and has done some amazing work. I have one of her gorgeous stained glass pieces . I understand that she does the layout for your sheet music books and a lot of the design for your CDs as well. Tell us a bit about her.
Linda is a wonderful and versatile artist. She is great at graphic art and stained glass. She has also done some very interesting and complex woodworking, and together we have built or remodeled two houses. She also does all the graphics and layout for my albums as well as the song books. She is the other half of the music business.
Greg Maroney and Michael Dulin in Florence, OR 4/15
KP: You have played in three house concerts at my house: with Wayne Gratz in 2011 and with Michael Dulin in 2014 and 2015 - all of them wonderful! You also do a house concert series in your own home. Who are some of the artists who have come to play there?
GM: I have been hosting house concerts here at our home in Pennsylvania for about 15 years. We have had quite a few Whisperings artists come through here including David Nevue, Wayne Gratz, Joe Bongiorno, Louis Landon, Robin Spielberg, Doug Hammer and Philip Wesley to name a few. As you know, these concerts are great fun! You get to hear the music up close and personal as well as hear the artists tell the stories behind the compositions. We even have people lay under the piano during a song! It is like being immersed in sound. Plus, there are always great snacks and cookies, of which I am particularly fond.
Ha ha! Yes, the goodies at intermission seem to be part of the draw! What do you see as the advantages of performing in house concerts rather in more traditional venues?
Tim Neumark, Kathy Parsons, and Greg Maroney at the Whisperings All-Star Concert and Awards Show 1/15
GM: House concerts are very good for this intimate style of music. There is very little overhead, except tuning the piano and a few bottles of wine. And, we can seat about thirty people per performance. They are easy to organize, and you do not have to try to fill a big hall. Our style of music draws dedicated fans, but filling a large performance space is difficult to do. The audience gets to meet the artist and hear the stories behind the songs. It is a very enjoyable way to spend an evening or afternoon.
KP: I agree!
You played at the Enlightened Piano Radio concert at Carnegie Hall last fall. What was it like to play in such an iconic place?
GM: It was quite a milestone for me. To actually play at Carnegie Hall was a dream come true. Plus all the excitement of traveling to New York, driving around and sightseeing. It was quite an adventure. Fortunately, I was happy that my performance went well, it could have gone south so easily….
KP: Somehow I doubt that!
If you could have any three wishes, what would they be?
GM: One of my wishes is that we would remember the importance of Love and Respect and to treat each other with the kindness we deserve. An end to war and the resulting suffering. That our first reaction to each other would be consideration for others rather than thinking only of the self.
KP: I knew you’d come up with something special! Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about?
GM: I am in a very creative time in my musical life, producing more music than I ever have. I am also branching out. My next album will be an ambient CD for relaxation and massage. It will be quite different from anything I have done in the past. This creative freedom as well as the new piano should lead to lots of new and exciting music!
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Kathy. I truly appreciate it!
KP: Thank you, Greg! It’s always a pleasure and I hope you can come out our way again next year!
For more information about Greg Maroney and his music, be sure to visit his website
and his Artist Page
here on MainlyPiano.com.