Wrapped in Light
2021 / Coranglais
Review by Kathy Parsons
Over the past eleven years, Jill Haley has created an incredible series of recordings inspired by National Parks and Monuments. She is also well-known as a studio musician (mostly oboe and English horn) - especially in recordings produced by Will Ackerman - but when the pandemic shut everything down last year, her world changed drastically. Quoting Jill in a recent interview we did:
"Like so many of us, I felt angry, frightened, unsure of anything, bored and frustrated when our world as we knew it came to a halt in March 2020. So many parts of my life that bring joy were halted such as travel and playing in orchestra and chamber ensembles. Once I was able to wrap my head around the fact that feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to help me get through this, I decided to read the Book of Psalms and create musical ideas based on the lovely imagery in these writings. I decided to add electronic synthesizers to many of the piano tracks to create a feeling of smoothness. Calmness and simplicity seemed to be an essential part of this project - probably born out of my feeling so out of control....I doubt this recording would have been made if we had not gone through these tumultuous times."
And what a shame that would have been! Wrapped in Light is an exceptionally beautiful example of the power of music to soothe, uplift, heal and remind us of the wonders all around us. In addition to composing the ten tracks, Jill plays oboe, English horn, piano and synthesizers; her husband, David Cullen joins her on guitar and bass, and their son, Graham adds his beautiful cello playing to the mix.
Wrapped in Light begins with the title track, a shimmering piece for piano, synthesizer, English horn and cello. Warm, smooth and very graceful, it sets the peaceful tone of the album. "Clouds Rise" is mostly a guitar and English horn duet, but also includes bass, piano, and synth. It could be interpreted as the slow, easy movement of puffy white clouds on a bright blue sky, or it could be the feeling of effortlessly floating on one of those clouds. "Unfolding" is a graceful duet for English horn and piano that has many of Jill's signature touches - a favorite! "The Mountains Rose" could be from a soundtrack - possibly a scene depicting the majesty of mountains rising just beyond a beautiful meadow - serenity set to music! "Wings of Dawn" begins with a cello and synth introduction before the piano enters and takes the lead. Gentle and freely flowing, it beautifully suggests the warmth and promise of a new day. My favorite track on the album is "Springs Gush Forth," written for piano, English horn and cello. The music is more flowing than "gushing," but definitely creates a feeling of tranquil movement and peacefulness. I love piano and cello together anyway, and the English horn is a graceful addition. "Pools of Water" is a wonderfully calming duet for piano and oboe that brings this beautiful album to a close, leaving the listener refreshed and ready to move forward.
Wrapped in Light is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites like Spotify. I give it my highest recommendation!
October 29, 2021
Review by Kathy Parsons