Memories in January
James Michael Stevens
2024 / James M Stevens Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Memories in January is James Michael Stevens' first solo piano release of 2024, and what a beautiful and meaningful collection of ten original piano solos it is! An extremely prolific composer for organ, choirs, ensembles and other instruments as well as for the piano, Dr. Stevens is the Dean of the School of Music at Welch College in Gallatin, TN and is the creator of a very impressive and award-winning body of musical work.
The music for this album was composed in late 2023, shortly before both of James' parents passed away unexpectedly - his father on Christmas morning and his mother on New Year's morning. I was already planning to review the album when James sent me a very special email explaining his feelings about the music and how it could have been an unconscious premonition of the passing of his parents. I asked for and received his permission to share those feelings:
"Even though all these songs were written between Nov. 18 and Dec. 14, as I now look at the titles and hear the music I really believe these were a premonition. I struggled with what to name the album at the time, but somehow after thinking about it for a number of days the title came to mind, even though I didn't have particularly strong memories in January. However, now each of the titles and songs have great meaning to me. I know this may sound a little strange and odd, but I now believe that somehow inside my spirit knew even though I was completely unaware."
Memories in January begins with "When Roses in Winter Are Blue," a dreamy, bittersweet piece with a gentle, graceful flow. "Theme From Whisper Lake" is a favorite. The left hand creates a rippling effect like a breeze blowing across a still body of water while the right hand plays a simple but very expressive melody. "Starlight Beams Across a Silver Sky" is almost hypnotic with its gentle musical magic - very soothing and relaxing. "Cloud Ridge" flows easily and effortlessly - much like fluffy white clouds floating in a bright blue sky. "When Wings Fly Away" seems especially poignant and touches the heart in a very special way - also a favorite. I really like "Ode to a Galacian Twilight," too, an elegant and deeply-felt musical image of a beautiful experience, perhaps far away. "Dreams Drift Away" seems to express disappointment and perhaps a bit of loss. More melancholy than sad, it is very heartfelt. Feeling much like a pleasant daydream, "Memory of a Lullaby" is a warm and tender reflection and brings the album to a peaceful close.
Memories in January is a very special album for both the artist and his listeners and is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming platforms including Spotify.
January 19, 2024