Canvas of My Heart
James Michael Stevens
2021 / James M Stevens Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Canvas of My Heart is a collection of fourteen original piano solos composed and performed by James Michael Stevens, one of the most prolific composers on the planet as well as the Chairman of the Music Department at Welch College in Tennessee. Warm, romantic and dreamy, this is the perfect album for snuggling by the fireplace with the one you love. All of the pieces are gentle and peaceful, creating an atmosphere of quiet grace and optimism - and who couldn't use some more of both? Open and uncomplicated, Stevens relies on the emotional content of his music to reach his listeners rather than a lot of flash and fancy finger work. Fellow pianists need to know that there is a companion solo piano songbook available, too.
Canvas of My Heart begins with "Red Rose of Winter," a tender song-without-words that overflows with happiness and love. The melody of the title song could be suitable for lyrics, but they aren't needed when the depth of expression in the music conveys more than words ever could. "Morning Quietness" beautifully reflects the calm and pastel colors of early morning. "Reflection at Birch Lake" is a favorite with its hypnotic rhythm and haunting melody - so peaceful! "Journey" picks up the tempo and energy level a bit with feelings of anticipation and enthusiasm. "Lost in a Dream of a Winter's Night" is a sweet lullaby for sleepers (on non-sleepers!) of any age. Its gentle motion and calming melody should put just about anyone well on their way to Dreamland! I've never experienced daisies (my favorite flowers!) that aren't silent, but love the piece titled "Silent Daisies" which suggests the quiet nodding motion of the flowers in a gentle breeze. Heartfelt feelings of romance and longing run throughout the lovely "Serenade Amore." "Winter Arioso" is another favorite. Defined as "vocal music that is more melodic than recitative but less formal than an aria," there are strong classical influences with a contemporary temperament in this very melodic and accessible piece. Who hasn't stared out at the ocean and gotten lost in a daydream or a poignant thought? "Look Far Beyond the Sea" describes that experience very well. Relaxed, poignant and dreamy, it's another favorite. "Lost in the Clouds" has a similar vibe with the left hand playing the part of the drifting clouds while the right hand melody "sings" above it - relaxing and very soothing. The album comes to a peaceful close with "Sunsets in the Sky," which is subtitled "Love Lights in Your Eyes I See." Expressive and very romantic, it will likely elicit a very deep sigh of contentment!
Canvas of My Heart is available online to stream and/or download from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify and Pandora. The companion sheet music book is available to download from SheetMusicPlus.com (reviewed separately).
March 15, 2021