2004 / Gabriella Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Joy Garden features pianist Lesley Spencer and members of The Chamber Pop Ensemble performing a beautiful selection of Spencer’s original music. The liner notes boast “100% real instruments - no synthesizers used,” and this album gives us the magic of a group of talented musicians working together to create more than an hour of seamless, heartfelt, musical treasures. A little bit pop, a little bit classical, this album sparkles with optimism and joy, as the title implies. Along with the piano, some of the instruments included are strings, flute, clarinet, oboe, English horn, mandolin, and percussion. All of the tracks feature the piano prominently, but there are no strictly solo works. The liner notes call Joy Garden “sonic perfume for the soul,” which may be a little heady, but gives us a good idea of the intention of the album.
Several selections such as “Entre Nous,” “One Last Dance,” and “A Night In Paris” could be themes from romantic movies. “Passionate Journey” has a slightly bittersweet feeling to its lovely, flowing melody, and the clarinet and strings bring out the emotions conveyed. “Daydreams” is much lighter and more wistful. The warm touch on the piano feels so cozy, and the flute parts add an ethereal quality. “Since I Met You” is a touching love song with piano, mandolin, and strings - a graceful slow dance with a loved one. “The Lost Child” is kind of sad, but not desperate. There is more of a feeling of wonder than fear, and the piano and oboe make a lovely duo. “Midnight Rendezvous” is my favorite of this collection - a bit darker and more mysterious with passionate strings and piano - this one really stirs the soul. “Sarah’s Song” is a beautiful ensemble piece full of warmth and love. “Only Yesterday” is another gem that features the oboe and piano - nostalgic with sweet memories. “Epicurean’s Delight” includes most of the ensemble players in a sunny, joyful closing piece.
Joy Garden is a wonderful backdrop for other activities, but is consistently interesting for closer focus on the music. It’s a cozy, warming musical experience for these cold winter days, and a great soundtrack for the warmer ones to come. It is available from cdbaby.com.
January 4, 2005