A Heritage of Faith
2019 / Sierra Keys Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
A Heritage of Faith is the fifth album from pianist/composer/arranger and former pastor Cathy Oakes. Fifteen of the sixteen tracks are Oakes’ expressive interpretations of favorite hymns, several of which are medleys; the sixteenth track is an improvisation. The album is dedicated to the memory of Oakes’ grandmother who would often rock Oakes while singing hymns to her when she was a child. Nearly all of the hymns in the collection are traditional classics that most Christians know, and several are quite old. Oakes has very effectively brought them up-to-date with her flowing style and heartfelt emotion. Even though she didn’t write the original songs, she has certainly made them her own! The overall feel of the album is one of relaxed contemplation, providing almost an hour of peaceful piano music. Doug Hammer added light orchestration and subtle choral voices to the otherwise solo piano arrangements - a very nice touch! I also want to mention the gorgeous cover artwork by Matt Strieby of New Leaf Design that shows a country church set in the middle of a huge field of red tulips with a piano keyboard pathway leading to the church.
A Heritage of Faith begins with one of my favorite hymns, “In the Garden.” Oakes keeps the simple, poignant melody uncluttered while expressing the beauty of this ageless song. The first medley combines “Amazing Grace” and “Grace Greater Than Our Sin,” a hymn I wasn’t familiar with. The gentle string washes behind the piano add soft tonal colors and give the songs wings. The second medley joins “We Gather Together” with “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” a combination that really works! “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” quietly soothes the soul, as does “My Jesus, I Love Thee” - such beautiful melodies! “Blessed Assurance” is another one of my old favorites, and Oakes’ arrangement really coaxes the piano to sing (without words, of course!). I’ve always loved the warmth and welcoming feel of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and Oakes captures that feeling perfectly. The last pairing is “It Is Well with My Soul” and “Be Still My Soul” - so peaceful and yet so passionate! The closing piece is an improvisation called “Hymn of Thanks,” an eloquent meditation on gratitude and appreciation for the many blessings we are given in our lives.
Whether you are a faithful church-goer or simply enjoy lovely piano music, A Heritage of Faith is sure to please! It is available from CathyOakes.com, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.
May 7, 2019