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Album Review: The Great Room
Alicia Bessette
Cover image of the album The Great Room by Alicia Bessette
The Great Room
Alicia Bessette
2013 / Wachusett Records
54 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Great Room is the third full-length release of original piano solos from composer/author Alicia Bessette and her first acoustic album. Recorded in the “great room” of her home in the wooded hills of New England, Bessette’s goal with this album was the warmth and intimacy of a private concert. The thirteen pieces represent a time when Bessette was trying to “make sense of various heartaches, to extract certainty from doubt and courage from fear. My highest hope is that listeners recognize something of that journey in their own lives, and perhaps are lead to switch on their own inner light that can shine from the darkness.” The music is intensely personal and often expresses a spontaneous outpouring of emotion. Obviously, this is not a bouncy and upbeat album, but the emotions are real and the music is beautiful. Recorded and produced by Benj Lipchak, the piano sound is intimate and very rich.

The Great Room begins with “The Language of Leaving,” a very spare and melancholy prelude that sets the tone of the album. “Loons” is a gorgeous, flowing piece that suggests fog on a lake and beautiful birds floating on the water, shrouded in the mist - definitely a favorite! “For Nora” picks up the tempo and lightens the mood considerably - I really like this one, too! “Hearing Home” is warm and lyrical, conveying the joy of connecting with where you feel you most belong. “Star In Hand (No Hiding)” is a beautiful expression of hope and of gently moving forward, gaining strength as the piece evolves. Love it!!! “What Grace Wrote (A Love Letter)” elegantly conveys deep emotion and love with a minimal number of notes - a lovely example of how less can be more and another favorite. “In the Night Garden” paints a peaceful picture in darker tones and misty washes - very serene. “Snow” is more ambient and still, using the piano pedals to create a feeling of openness and quiet. “Hidden Rooms” is mysterious and tentative without feeling ominous. “Secret Stairs (Claudine’s Fantasy)” ends the album with another favorite. Paired with “Hidden Rooms,” it feels a bit like a favorite children’s story - intriguing and innocent.

If you are familiar with Alicia Bessette’s two previous albums, Reservoir (2002) and Orchard (2008), you’ll be thrilled with The Great Room! If you are new to her music, this is a great place to start! All three albums are available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
December 18, 2013
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