The Months of 2021
James Michael Stevens
2021 / James M Stevens
643 pages / 186 songs
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Months of 2021 songbook is a collection of all twelve of the volumes in James Michael Stevens' monumental project of creating a solo piano songbook and a recording for each of the months of 2021. With a total of 186 pieces and 643 pages, there 13-21 pieces in each volume. Since there are pieces for every month of the year, I wondered if the music would be characteristic of each specific month or season, but found that this is more of a musical journal that documents thoughts, dreams and experiences throughout 2021. An unbelievably prolific composer, in addition to the twelve months project, Stevens also recorded and created sheet music for at least five other albums and did arrangements of several cover songs as well.
All of the pieces in The Months of 2021 songbook are at an intermediate to upper-intermediate playing level, and every song is three pages. The vast majority of the pieces are in easy key signatures (0-3 sharps or flats, both major and minor), and most are in 4/4 time. I played the entire songbook before starting this review, so I can easily attest to the consistent range of playing levels throughout the book. I would think that more advanced pianists would appreciate having a fairly easy songbook of relaxing music to sit down with at the piano and enjoy without having to work too hard (a great way to unwind!). The pieces are suitable for pianists at any age, although teens and adults will probably be more appreciative of the romantic, expressive quality of Stevens' music. Most of the pieces are very melodic and the colorful titles give insight into what inspired each piece or what the music is "about." It is interesting to note that Stevens writes out his sheet music first and then records while playing from the sheet music, assuring that the recording and sheet music are an exact match.
The price for the downloaded collection is $99, which might seem expensive, but James Michael Stevens has the numbers figured out: "I know that $99 dollars might seem quite expensive for a book. But it is basically 53 cents a song. Also if someone bought all the books (and some have) it would be around $228 and [buying all of] the individual pieces would be around $742. And if a teacher had students who enjoyed intermediate lyrical, romantic, neoclassical, and new age styles, this might be a good resource to select pieces from."
The cover artwork for the The Months of 2021 songbook shows the cover of each individual album, and within the songbook itself are the original cover artwork and table of contents for each songbook. All of the music includes metronome settings as well as plenty of dynamics and tempo changes, making it easy to play the music expressively.
When I review sheet music books, I usually list each song title, the key(s) the songs are in and the number of pages, but because of the huge number of songs, I'll just repeat that each piece is three pages and most are in relatively easy keys. Most of the timing and rhythms are not complicated. It's a very enjoyable collection and I really enjoyed my time with it!
The Months of 2021 songbook is available from SheetMusicPlus.com and SheetMusicDirect.com as the complete anthology, a songbook for each month separately, and each individual piece. There is also a Spotify playlist of the complete collection so you can sample all of the music before buying the book(s). Enjoy!
January 21, 2022