National Park Soundscapes
2016 / Jill Haley
Review by Kathy Parsons
2016 is the centennial celebration for the US National Parks, and National Parks Soundscapes is a collection of original pieces by Jill Haley that were inspired by twelve of the parks in the system. It is also a thank you to the Park Service and a reminder that we need to be diligent in ensuring that the parks are preserved for generations to come. Over the past several years, Haley has released Mesa Verde Soundscapes (2014), Zion and Bryce Canyon Soundscapes (2012), and Glacier Soundscapes (2010). Four of the pieces from those three albums appear on this album and the other eight celebrate the beauty and splendor Cuyahoga Valley, Badlands, Acadia, Shenandoah, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Everglades, and Valley Forge National Parks. Haley is probably best-known for her distinctive English horn and oboe playing on many of Will Ackerman’s productions, but she is also an accomplished pianist and composer. In fact, Mesa Verde Soundscapes was awarded “Best Piano Album with Instrumentation” by the Zone Music Reporter in 2014. It is interesting to note that this National Parks series has been something of a family project with Haley’s husband, David Cullen performing on guitar and bass, daughter Dana Cullen on horn, and son Graham Cullen on cello; Tony Deangelis also appears on percussion and snare drum. Haley performs on piano, English horn, and oboe. The CD package also includes a wonderful 15-page full-color booklet with photos Haley took at each of the parks.
National Park Soundscapes begins with “The Ledges,” a tribute to 300 million year old sandstone formations in a hemlock forest. Both graceful and soaring, piano, English horn and light percussion paint a vivid picture of this area of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. “Prairie Grass Dance” is a wonderful duet for English horn and guitar (plus bass) that suggests vast open spaces and the movement of wind through the grasses - I love this one! In “Waters of Acadia,” the piano expresses the flowing movement of water while English horn plays a peaceful melody over the top. “Shenandoah Stillness” is a duet for piano and guitar inspired by the profound quiet of this park - another favorite! “Towers and Kivas,” a spirited trio for guitar, bass, and english horn, was a favorite from the Mesa Verde album. “Mariposa Sanctuary” was inspired by walking among the giant redwoods in Yosemite while sunlight was filtering through the branches - always a magical experience! This piece features Haley on piano, English horn, and oboe. “Sunrift Gorge” (Glacier) picks up the tempo a bit with a joyful trio for English horn, guitar, and bass - and yet another favorite! “A Soldier’s Sacrifice” is quite different from the other pieces. It begins with a solo snare drum that suggests a battlefield. Piano and English horn express the sacrifices made by so many at Valley Forge - a very stirring tribute and memorial!
If you have heard and enjoyed any of Jill Haley’s National Park series, this is a collection that you have to have! If you have enjoyed visiting any of our National Parks, you will love these soundscapes! If neither of those fit your description, then you really need to get this album to discover what you have been missing! National Park Soundscapes is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
July 10, 2016
Review by Kathy Parsons