In his second album release, Dan Campolieta demonstrates a personal approach to his music with his piano artistry at the center of every tune. An album of music for solo piano, piano and voice, and clarinet/piano duo, "Poems, Prayers, Images" features nine original compositions and two interpretations ranging from modern classical sacred music, to delicate settings of the poetry of Teasdale and Millay, to whimsical or thought-provoking instrumental compositions. Unlike his debut album which featured two larger, multi-movement works, this is a CD of miniatures. Even with the variety of musical genres and instrumentations throughout, there is a cohesive sound that permeates the entire album. The vocal talents of Campolieta's wife, Christen Hernandez, and soprano Kathryn Guthrie are joined by Campolieta's own voice, as the composer provides the vocals for two original songs and writes original lyrics. The album as a whole is intimate, yet powerful; complex, yet approachable.
Campolieta was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in May of 2017 and in many ways this album is a direct result of his struggle with cancer. However, aside from the original caberet/folk style song "Run," which speaks of the struggle metaphorically, the music is more centered around reflection, and even at times, celebration.
Among the five solo piano tracks on the album, three are original compositions in a classical/jazz crossover style. The opening track, "The Morning Pore Over," is titled after the habitual morning cup of coffee and the creative thoughts that can enter the brain before the main part of the day begins. Midway through the piece, an overdubbed Fender Rhodes splashes into the texture and takes the lead. Campolieta cites this morning, alone time as some of his most productive hours. "Valse False" is a through-composed piece which feels like an isolated movement of a dance suite. This piece highlights Campolieta's approach to harmony, utilizing familiar chords under a singable melody in a fashion unique to his pen. "Anelegie" begins with an introduction featuring musings on the Rhodes and clarinet loops laid down by DC clarinetist Tim Sutfin. The piece molds into a rhythmic elegy that wanders through several keys and colors. Campolieta cites his late mother, Anne, a pianist herself, as an inspiration for this piece. Unlike "...Pore Over," Campolieta does not take an improvised solo on the main body of this piece, but rather the piece vamps and fades to nothing.
The two covers on the album include Cole Porter's well-known standard "So in Love," and the 19th century hymn-tune "Nearer, My God, to Thee." These pieces are perhaps the most jazz-like selections you'll hear on the album. The Porter tune is performed at a speedy clip in a perpetual-motion style in 7/4 time. "Nearer..." functions as an epilogue for the entire album. Campolieta's reharmonization is creative, yet still pays homage to the classic tune which portrays Jacob's dream from the book of Genesis.
In addition to singing on the aforementioned "Run," Campolieta lends his voice to another original, "Sonnet V," a setting of the 14-line poem of the same name by Edna St. Vincent Millay. From her 1921 collection "Second April," the poignant Sonnet is written from the perspective of an individual who has lost his or her lover. Campolieta backs himself with Rhodes, which mimics the sound of "cold sweet water bubbling underground," as referenced in the poem. Another highlight of the album is "Meadowlarks," a setting of a Sara Teasdale poem in the style of a cabaret song. The short poem is augmented by some of Campolieta's original lyrics, and Hernandez's pure tone and flawless interpretation coupled with Campolieta's sensitive playing makes for an emotional musical pairing. Perhaps the most classical-leaning tracks on the album, "Magnificat" and "Nunc dimittis" are English settings of the two age-old prayers often performed in an Episcopalian evensong. The pieces feature rhythmic interplay between piano and voice and are executed with precision and power by soprano Kat Guthrie.
Rounding out the album is a haunting piece for clarinet, "Prière" which has hints of Messiaen's harmonic language, yet could also double as a jazz ballad from the 1960s. Sutfin's lyrical and controlled playing is the highlight of the track.
Though the album is certainly not simply an album about fighting cancer, the life perspective and developed artistry from the encounter is clear in Campolieta's compositions and playing throughout. "Poems, Prayers, Images" is an inspirational and enjoyable album on many levels, for a wide audience.
Music by Dan Campolieta, except where noted
1. The Morning Pore Over
2. Meadowlarks (poetry: Teasdale)
3. So in Love (Cole Porter, Chappell & Co.)
5. Valse False
8. Nunc Dimittis
10. Sonnet V (poetry: Millay)
11. Nearer, My God, to Thee (tune: BETHANY, Lowell Mason)
Dan Campolieta, piano and/or Rhodes (all tracks), voice (4, 10)
Christen Hernandez, voice (2)
Kathryn Guthrie, voice (7, 8)
Tim Sutfin, clarinet (6, 9)
Executive Producer: Dan Campolieta
Engineer/Co-producer: Scott Metcalfe, mindsear.com
Recorded at Peabody Conservatory, Recording Studio A, Baltimore, MD, January 11-13
Graphic Design by Bill Morgan, billmorganmedia.com
Stained Glass Art by Leigh Lafosse, rainbowridgestainedglass.com
Photography by Victoria Chamberlin, victoriachamberlin.com
All Original Music © 2018 Dan Campolieta Music