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Album Review: Afterthoughts
Gary Schmidt
Cover image of the album Afterthoughts by Gary Schmidt
Gary Schmidt
2023 / Heartdance Records
32 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Afterthoughts is an elegant and very beautiful collection of eight piano solos and two piano/cello (Hannah Alkire) duets by Gary Schmidt. Three of the ten pieces are classical piano solos and two of the original compositions appeared on previous albums in somewhat different forms. Two tracks, "Ancient Time Telling" and "Ellen's Song," have been released as singles ahead of the full album release (9/22/2023). This quote from Gary's website explains his approach to his music really well:

"The journey started as focusing mainly on classical piano. However in the past several years I have found myself evolving into diving deeper into the meditative side of music and striving to provide a much needed musical oasis for our times. When I compose I try to reach for something on the 'other side' and then hopefully craft the music into something that will help us move to a different place of calm and regeneration."

And who couldn't use more of that!

Afterthoughts begins with "This New Day," a piece from Gary's Landscapes of the Heart (2016) album. That album was recorded at Imaginary Road Studio with some of the stellar artists that appear on many of Will Ackerman's productions. This arrangement is for solo piano and expresses the joy and anticipation that comes at the dawn of a new day. Warmth, hope and optimism flow throughout the piece and provide a perfect start for the album. "The Stillness of Flow" is a bit darker and more reflective with a very rubato tempo and deeply-felt expression - a favorite! "Ancient Time Telling" is one of the singles from the album and is a piano/cello duet. Inspired by the discovery of cliff drawings on the Tennessee River that were found to be an ancient lunar calendar, Gary did a beautiful job of imagining what it would feel like to be living in those times, contemplating the lunar skies, perhaps while sitting by the river. The first of the classical pieces is one of Franz Liszt's "Transcendental Etudes" - slow, graceful and very beautiful! "Face That Lights My Face" first appeared on Gary's 2018 album, Even For a Moment, as a piano and guitar duet, but I think this solo piano arrangement is even more effective in expressing the simple sincerity of a love song. I wasn't familiar with Jean Sibelius' "Impromptu," but I'll definitely be looking for the sheet music for this one! "Ellen's Song" was the second single released earlier this year, and is a beautiful piano and cello duet that Gary originally wrote for his wedding processional in 2022, adding the introduction and ending more recently. The graceful main theme of the piece expresses both joy and tenderness. The cello brings a smooth, elegant counterpoint to Gary's piano. "Berceuse (Cradle Song)" is a sweet lullaby suitable for kids of any age! "Simply Reflected" expresses a fascinating range of moods and states of mind from pensive and melancholy to somewhat lighter and dreamier, all flowing seamlessly from one to the next - another favorite. The album ends with Robert Schumann's "Dreaming" ("Traumerei"), one of the most popular classical piano pieces out there, and Gary plays it to perfection - a great ending to an excellent album!

Afterthoughts is available from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes as well from streaming platforms including Spotify. Don't miss it!
September 15, 2023