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Album Review: Dear Mary EP
Stephen Akina
Cover image of the album Dear Mary EP by Stephen Akina
Dear Mary EP
Stephen Akina
2022 / Stephen Akina
12 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Dear Mary is a four-piece solo piano EP by Stephen Akina, an artist best-known for his work as a film and television composer. He has scored original music for more than two dozen films, composed production music for more than a hundred television shows world-wide and composed soundtracks for highly-acclaimed video games. As often happens, Stephen started with the piano at a young age and studied music up through college before moving on to other things. "What felt like an unfinished song found me back in the music world where I began graduate work in piano performance." In 2006, Stephen and his wife, Kimberly, founded Special Blend Music, a music production company that services both the film and music industries. Much of that music is electronic, so Dear Mary is something of a return to Stephen's musical roots. The four pieces on the EP were inspired by author J.R.R. Tolkein's faith and the influence it had on his writing. "Each track is named in honor of the titles of Mary that have geographical and cultural meanings." If the music needs to be categorized, "neo-classical" is probably the best fit, but the four tracks are varied and have a very contemporary feel.

Dear Mary begins with "Lady of Light," a very delicate and graceful piece that seems to set feelings of warmth and compassion to music. It starts in the upper octaves of the piano keyboard, giving it a "lightness" that carries over to when the piece moves into the "normal" range closer to the center of the piano. Reverent and humble, it's a lovely opening! "Mystic Rose" also has a very soft-spoken style, expressing itself simply and without any pretense. "Star of the Sea" has the feeling of a warm, easy-going daydream, moving effortlessly and with a sunny smile. This piece makes me visualize pastel colors in the sky and dancing on the surface of the water - I really like this one! "Life Giving Spring" is also very light and fanciful, expressing the beauty and the wonder of spring as new life emerges and nature is renewed after a long winter.

Dear Mary is a lovely introduction to Stephen Akina's music and I hope he will release more piano albums! The EP is available from StephenAkina.com, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. Sheet music is also available from Stephen's site. Check it out!
November 15, 2022