Living in the Light
2018 / Equity Digital Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Anyone familiar with the artistry of pianist/composer Michael Dulin knows that a new release from him is a musical event. It has been just over three years since he released My Beloved and twenty since the release of his debut, a collection of classical pieces by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Debussy. In between, there have been collections of original music, an album of Gershwin tunes, a Native flute/piano collaboration, arrangements of classical works, and a Christmas album. Dulin’s newest release, Living in the Light, is a collection of fourteen classic hymns arranged for solo piano. In the works for many years, Dulin has transformed these familiar tunes into complex, expressive musical masterpieces as only he can. It truly is amazing how well-worn nuggets like these can take on new meaning with a fresh, updated perspective that comes from someone who loves and understands the songs so well. A Juilliard-trained pianist, there are few others who come close to the level of musicianship Michael Dulin has attained. He can literally do just about anything at the piano and keyboards (with the possible exceptions of yodeling and rap, which really aren’t pianistic in the first place!). Living in the Light is a must for anyone who loves masterful solo piano music as well as anyone who loves traditional hymns.
The album begins with “Be Thou My Vision,” a hymn that has become very popular with pianists over the past several years. Dulin’s arrangement has a smooth, graceful flow that allows the melody to really sing - a lovely start. “Jesus Paid It All” is played at a slow, thoughtful waltz tempo with heartfelt emotion pouring from every note. “Fairest Lord Jesus” is a light, almost breezy expression of joy and praise. The hauntingly beautiful “Oh the Deep Deep Love of Jesus” is much darker, played with passion and deeply-felt emotion. “Shall We Gather At the River” has a rapid sparkling pattern that flows beneath the melody. In the first few verses, the melody is simple and straight-forward, but it gradually builds to a playful ragtime treatment and then quiets to its original simplicity - a favorite. Dulin’s arrangement of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is so vivid and personal that it seems he is telling the story from first-hand experience - breath-taking! “In the Garden” has been my favorite hymn since I was a kid, so I was excited to see that Dulin included it. Told simply and without a lot of embellishment (there are some flourishes here and there), it’s a sweet and gentle arrangement. “Holy, Holy, Holy” begins in a stately manner. After a few verses, there is a quiet, graceful bridge before Dulin expands the arrangement with flowing broken chords that build to a majestic bravado before returning to a quiet simplicity. “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is quiet and prayerful - a gorgeous arrangement! “I Will Arise and Go to Jesus” brings the album to a close with a jazzy gospel rendition and a resounding “hallelujah!”
Living in the Light is one of the best solo piano hymns albums I’ve heard and I highly recommend it!
Living in the Light will be released on April 24, 2018. A companion solo piano songbook is also in the works and will be reviewed on MainlyPiano as soon as it is released.
April 11, 2018