The View From Here
2022 / First Snow Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
After 20 years away from the recording studio, Michael Gettel returns to his solo piano roots with The View From Here, a dazzling, magical collection of twelve piano solos, most of which were inspired by nature and a few that include beautifully-recorded nature sounds. One of the Narada record label's top artists in the 1990s, Michael recorded twelve albums before going on hiatus in 2001. His 1988 debut album, San Juan Suite, is his only other solo piano album and he literally sold hundreds of thousands of copies out of a garage before signing with Narada. Gettel was a music teacher for 36 years at two different private schools - one in Colorado and one in Seattle - before returning to Colorado about five years ago. Inspired by the beauty of the area as well as international backpacking trips with his students, Gettel composed the music for this album over a three week period in April 2021. This is the first time, he has written out all twelve of the tracks by hand (pencil, paper, eraser and ruler!) before playing them, and the results are stunning. With music that ranges from serene and dreamy to upbeat and energetic, Gettel's new work will thrill his longtime fans and bring in many new ones, too. Welcome back, Michael! We missed you!
You will probably notice that I'm not mentioning any "favorites" in this review, and that's because I love them all! The View From Here begins with the title track. The title can taken literally or as a metaphor for "where I am at this point in life," and the music seamlessly weaves together passages that are dreamy, energetic, bold and dramatic, gentle and peaceful - a great start! "Oh, So Many Stars" was inspired by dark winter nights in Colorado when the Milky Way is easy to spot. Delicate trills at the upper end of the piano keyboard beautifully emulate twinkling stars, and the melody is peaceful and soothing! The tempo picks up in the middle of the piece, and then quiets back to the original tempo to the end. "Odile's Garden" begins with the sound of birds chirping happily and was inspired by a French friend's home and gardens in the Loire Valley. The house is built into a cliff and is surrounded by lush gardens and ponds - a bit of heaven captured in music. "Stepping Stones Under Water" has an interesting story inspired by a backpacking trip in the UK. Ancient stepping stones allowed walkers and hikers to cross the river easily, but on one trip there had been so much rain that the stones were submerged, making them too slippery and dangerous to use. The music is quickly-flowing and joyful - obviously, no one was upset about having to take a detour! "Lone Tree" is bigger and more powerful with the sound of a stormy wind weaving in and out of the music. It begins quietly and feels very solitary, but becomes livelier and more intense near the mid-point, tapering off near the end. Beautiful! "Rise" features Seattle pianist/composer Kelsey Lee Cate as a "third hand." According to her parents, Kelsey was born to Michael's San Juan Suite and grew up listening to his music (as well as playing it by ear), so I'm sure creating and recording this piece was an incredible experience for both artists! "The Embrace" was written during a vivid dream and is both joyful and pensive. Some passages are quiet and still, and the middle and ending are almost dance-like. Relaxed and dreamy, "Van Gogh Sky" was also inspired by the night sky in rural Colorado where colors change and snow sparkles on the mountains. "The Parting Glass" is Michael's arrangement of an old Scottish and Irish drinking song and was released as a single, as was "Aerial." Both are reviewed separately and were a wonderful introduction to this outstanding album.
The View From Here is available on Amazon and Apple/iTunes as well as streaming sites such as Spotify. I give the album my highest recommendation!
January 25, 2022