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Improvs for Hope Notes

I wanted to post the program notes here for my Improvs for Hope album which was released back in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. When the pandemic hit, my wife asked if it would be possible for me to create some new music that she could use as “prelude” for her streaming worship. The pieces were to be reflective in nature and the idea was they had direct permission for their use.

Improvs for Hope features these piano impressions that are spur-of-the-moment improvisations. For each of these pieces, I sat quietly at the piano and just let my mood dictate where we might go letting images flit across my mind as the music unfolded. This process was similar to my first album, Reflections. Often as this album randomly played on my iPod with a host of other, mostly, film music, it struck me how the pieces could certainly be heard as a scene.

Close Intervals was one of the first quarantine pieces I improvised. I wanted to explore this idea of being sort of stuck together and then what might happen as we move apart. Sometimes the distance creates a bit of dissonance whereas sometimes the nearness can create a rather gorgeous cluster.

Reflecting and Wondering are briefer journeys that contemplate where we are and where me may be headed.

One afternoon I sat down to watch a little television with dinner. I turned on the TV and there was coverage of a mass protest at the White House. I sat in stunned silence, my heart racing, as peaceful protesters were suddenly gassed and fired upon for what would become a photo op. The result of these images coupled with the continual struggles of people of color led to my pondering the song “How Can I Keep From Singing”. In my mind, it felt more like how can we keep on singing with all the things that seem to bombard us in this time. The result is How Can I..., a reflection on how we might work together to create that world of equality for all and sing a new song with voices raised.

I was evidently feeling my own Irish heritage when I sat down one afternoon and created what would become Celtic Dream. This original lilting melody has a decided folkish feel that is reminiscent of my Hymn for Flute and Piano. As with "Close Intervals", so it is with Looking Outward, though this time thinking more about being stuck in one place and trying to see beyond that which is immediately visible. Where Next? is another of these reflective and hopeful pieces inviting us to contemplate what might be on the horizon.

Thinking of You is a little foretaste of an upcoming album of music written for musical theater. I was reading a novel that was sent to me to contemplate whether it would be a possible theatrical project. A scene where a character stares into a mirror and realizes all their dashed hopes and dreams and wishing for something better inspired this piece which seems like a fitting conclusion.

In an age of streaming services and downloads, the notes for the album sort of got lost in the shuffle so at least they can now be "near" the download itself.

Special thanks to Trinity Lutheran Church, Chelmsford, for their invitation to be creative. Thanks to my wife, Erica, for all her support. The beautiful cover art for this album was designed by my godson, Jeremy Wall. Extra special thanks to my long-time friend, Craig Wall, for his extensive work editing, mastering, and preparing these tracks.

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