2020 / Marya Stark
Review by Kathy Parsons
Sapphire is a poetic 10-song concept album by Marya Stark in collaboration with award-winning composer Joshua Penman. The songs weave together themes of mystical love, ecstatic grief, glacier melt and the return of Divine Feminine Wisdom (a unique and fascinating combination!). Along with the recording, Stark has created a series of music videos as well as an hour-long visual journey to “immerse in the healing power of creativity.” The songs are passionate - both in the lyrics and in the music itself. It’s a beautiful album with varied musical styles from folk to ethereal to more orchestrated songs that include guest vocalists and musicians performing on strings as well as percussion, esraj, kora, charango, mandolin and pennywhistle. I don’t review very many vocal albums, but I’ve really been enjoying Sapphire!
A native of Arizona, Marya Stark has released several other albums, but this is the first of her music that I’ve heard. Her bio describes her as “a vocalist, composer, performer and multi-instrumentalist” as well as “a discoverer of archetypes, a storyteller, bard and muse.” She studied at the Arizona School For the Arts and Chapman Music Conservatory and graduated with a BA in Music Therapy. She works as a Musical Midwife, a mentor in the art of voice and song craft, and leads “Voice Of My Womb” enrichment workshops globally and online. From her website: “She is a chaser of waterfalls, a lover of bulletproof coffee, and is a huge fan of the Parade Of Flamingos from BBC's Planet Earth II.”
Sapphire begins with “Echo,” a song of love and passion that is both earthy and ethereal. “Echo” melts into “Stargazer,” a colorful and mysterious song with lyrics of pure poetic magic. “In Between” starts with the sound of ocean waves and a gentle acoustic guitar intro before the poignant lyrics. The accompanying instrumentation stays spare throughout the piece - one of my favorites. The lyrics of the title track can be interpreted in a number of ways, with layers of soothing backing vocals, acoustic guitar, drum and percussion, and a variety of lovely instrumental sounds. Another favorite is “Celestial Butterflies,” a joyful Celtic-styled song about butterflies carrying a brand new soul that will soon become a baby and how the butterflies celebrate the new life. “Negra Luz” tells the story of a young woman wondering if it is safe to bring new life into the world. Overflowing with sadness, the lyrics are sung in Spanish. “Crystal Chambers” seems to be a prayer for help and guidance with ethereal voices and strings asking “What happens now / The waters are rising.” Very tender yet tragically sad. “Rose Lineage” brings the album to a close with mysterious lyrics and Middle Eastern-influenced instrumentation. “A rose blooms/ when she is ready/ when she is ready/ and not a moment too soon.”
Marya Stark takes us on an amazing and spiritual musical journey in Sapphire - one to be savored many times. It is available from Amazon, Apple/iTunes, Bandcamp and Spotify.
November 7, 2020