Whispers and Dreams
James Michael Stevens
2020 / James M Stevens
Review by Kathy Parsons
Whispers and Dreams is the fourth (but not last!) full-length solo piano album from James Michael Stevens for 2020 (his fifth is due out on Christmas Eve!). With all of the events of this past year, it isn’t surprising that the tone of this album is a bit more melancholy and introspective than some of Dr. Stevens’ previous releases, but I think it’s one of his best albums that I’ve reviewed so far (this is my sixth plus a few singles). In addition to composing and recording music for piano, Dr. Stevens is the chairman of the Music Department at Welch College in Tennessee and is a remarkably prolific composer of music for choirs as well as a variety of instruments and ensembles. He currently has almost 4700 publications available on Sheet Music Plus! His piano music is not overly complicated or showy, but expresses deep emotions that flow easily from his fingers to the hearts of his listeners. I found it very interesting to learn that Dr. Stevens composes his piano music primarily for others to play rather than for his own performances.
The album begins with the title tune, a warm and softly enchanting daydream of a piece that sets the gentle tone of the album. I love the steady rolling broken-chord rhythm of “The Silent Sea” and the way it makes me think of moonlight reflected on a peaceful ocean. The beautiful “In My Quiet Times” is very slow, open and almost dreamy. “Forgotten Streets” conveys a cool, lonely feeling - kind of like being in a strange place that’s deserted and damp from a recent rain. “Silent Tree” is a favorite. It has additional reverb or some atmospheric keyboard sounds that enhance the haunting quality of the music. “Mellow Moments” lightens the mood considerably with a peaceful, dreamy melody and gentle accompanying chords. “Blackbirds In the Night” is another favorite with its darkly melancholy mood and pensive feeling. “Poetry of Love” beautifully expresses some of the many facets of love from romance and deep contentment to sadness and loss. Another favorite, the piece ends with a happy major chord. Deeply emotional and almost mournful, “Shadows in the April Sky” says so much with profound honesty, reminding me a bit of some of Chopin’s music. Sometimes being lost can be a good thing, as it is in “Lost in a Purple Sunset.” What a lovely dream of a piece to end the album with!
Whispers and Dreams is available to stream or download from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and Spotify. It’s a soothing respite sure to calm and relax! There is a companion sheet music book for Whispers and Dreams available to download from SheetMusicPlus.com. The fourteen individual pieces can also be downloaded in PDF form.
December 22, 2020