5th month for Nightfall London on ZMR Top-100 chart!

 

Amazed to report Nightfall London charting for a 5th consecutive month on ZMR's Top-100 Radio Airplay Chart! September's chart shows us at #51, after peaking at #7 in June.

I'm so grateful to radio programmers worldwide for sharing Nightfall with their audiences, and so thankful for the opportunity to compose & record "music to replenish your spirit."

 

Nightfall at #11 for 2nd month on OWMR!

 

Nightfall London continues to perform! The album remained at #11 on OWMR's Top-100 airplay chart for the 2nd month in a row in Septemberafter charting at #11 in August & debuting at #36 in July. The OWMR chart performance is a strong indication of Nightfall's staying power with radio programmers for Europe's largest online radio audience in my genre.

Huge thanks to Steve & Chrissie Sheppard at One World Music Radio for keeping Nightfall London on the air!

 

My music on Live365!

 

You can now hear my music from EndlessMatilda's Flowers & Nightfall London on my quiet-music station, The Cove! Just click here: https://live365.com/station/a78718

We're happy to stream The Cove through Live365.com, a professional U.S.-based streaming radio server. You'll hear a great mix of new-age, acoustic & quiet-jazz artists like Chris Botti, 2002, Nightnoise, George Winston, Lee Ritenour, John Adorney and dozens of others. Give a listen!

 

Nightfall London up for awards!!

 

Thanks to its great radio chart performance over the last four months, Nightfall London has qualified for the 2017 ZMR (Zone Music Reporter) Music Awards in two categories: "Album of the Year" & "Best Piano with Instrumentation"!

There are two rounds of nomination voting in February - if we survive that, then Nightfall will be one of 5 finalist albums in either or both categories. The winners will be announced at the 14th Annual ZMR Music Awards next May in New Orleans.

Whether we win or not, I'm grateful for the whole experience of recording Nightfall London, working with my great radio promoter Randall Davis at The Creative Service Company, & the super response from radio, reviewers & friends.

Most of all, I thank my Lord Jesus for inspiring my music, & my lovely wife's constant support, encouragement & love.

 

NGU Professor (that's me!) on Sirius XM Radio

 

Nice article from my day-job employer :) re Nightfall London & SiriusXM.

http://www.ngu.edu/ngu-professor-sparks-on-siriusxm-radio.php


 

Nightfall still charting after 4 months!

 

The ZMR August Top-100 Airplay Chart is out - Nightfall London continues to receive significant airplay! We just missed staying in the top-30, falling to #31 in August after charting at #13 in July & peaking at #7 in June.

The August chart had an unbelievable 8 new albums debuting in the top-20, with 4 of those in the top-10, so I'm very happy to be at #31! Special thanks to radio worldwide for keeping Nightfall London on their playlists, especially Europe's OWMR, New Zealand's Sleep Radio & NYC's classical station 88.1 WMNR, Long Island.

FYI, I'm glad to be on the chart next to outstanding young artist Sarah Copus (#32) - check out her new Celtic album, Moorland Winds!

 

Taking orders for printed sheet music collection!

 

Just a quick word that my sheet music collection, Peaceful Piano Solos, is now available! 

The collection of 10 of my best piano solos is beautiful, spiral-bound & ready to play! Cost is $20 with free shipping, payable thru PayPal here: Pal.Me/RickSparksMusic. I will ship immediately after receiving your order. 

Putting a collection of my songs & arrangements together in a sheet music collection is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream! Thanks for helping make it come true!

 

#11 on OWMR August chart!

 

More great news for Nightfall London! The album rose 25 places to land at #11 on OWMR's August chart, after debuting in July at #36. The chart tracks Europe's largest online radio audience in my genre and is one more indication that Nightfall is showing great staying power with radio programmers. Special thanks to Steve & Chrissie Sheppard at One World Music Radio for keeping Nightfall London on the air!

 

My artist page on OWMR!

 

Just an FYI that my artist page on Steve & Chrissie Sheppard's One World Music Radio site contains links to their "Take 3" show featuring 3 songs from Nightfall Londontheir "Playlist #83" show (complete with voice-overs by me)and Steve's outstanding audio review of the album. Check it out!

www.oneworldmusic.co.uk/rick-sparks/4593919776

 

Nightfall London on OWMR!

 

A big thank-you to One World Music Radio for featuring me on one of their playlist shows, namely Playlist #83! Steve & Chrissie Sheppard's OWMR channels have the largest online radio audience in Europe! The show features 3 songs from Nightfall London, along with great new world music from other artists. Check it out!

www.oneworldmusic.co.uk/playlists/4591207323

 

Nightfall London stays in the Top-15!

 

Nightfall London is hanging in during its 3rd month on the radio! We stayed in the top-15 of ZMR's Top-100 world radio airplay chart, dropping to #13 after charting at #7 in June. There was stiff competition from a lot of new albums from well-known artists - two of those debuted on July's chart at #3 & #4!

Many thanks to the great stations in the U.S. & around the world that continue to play my music. And heartfelt thanks to all those who have bought Nightfall London!

 

Sheet music now available!

 

It took awhile, but piano sheet music of my songs is finally available!

Professionally transcribed note-for-note just as I played them on my recordings, PDF sheet music is available for $4 per song, starting with the lovely Dream Angus. Just go to my Piano Sheet Music page here on my website!

I will also make a spiral-bound printed collection of 10 songs available in early September! I will post details here & on my artist Facebook page when that happens.

 

Nightfall on latest OWMR Playlist #82!

 

Especially glad to be one of 3 lead songs on the latest One World Music Radio show, the OWMR Playlist #82! It's sponsored by Sarah Copus, the little Celtic artist daughter of the husband-wife supergroup 2002, & features three songs from Sarah's wonderful new album, Moorland Winds. I'm the 3rd song in, after Sarah & another great artist, Fiona Joy. Give a listen!

https://www.mixcloud.com/OWM/playlist-82-sponsored-by-sarah-copus/

 

Thanks, radio!

 

Special shout-out to broadcast radio for helping Nightfall London hit #7 on ZMR's Top-100 airplay chart in June!

Stations include KTEP 88.5 El Paso; KACU 89.7 Abilene, TX; KCMJ 93.9 Colorado Springs; Radio Villaba 107.4 Madrid; WMNR 88.1 NYC; CKUW 95.9 Manitoba; WHYR 96.9 Baton Rouge; WFIT 89.5 Orlando; KUAC 89.9 Fairbanks; WFCF 88.5 St. Augustine, FL; WYSO 91.3 Dayton, OH; WRPI 91.5 Albany, NY; WNMC 90.7 Traverse City, MI; KAFM 88.1 Grand Junction, CO. Plus dozens of online radio outlets like Sleep Radio - New Zealand, Peaceful Radio - Netherlands, One World Music Radio - Cyprus & The Cove on Radionomy!

Thanks to all these great radio stations for playing Nightfall London!

 

Nightfall charts on OWMR Top-100!

 

Kudos to Steve & Chrissie Sheppard, expat Brits living in Cyprus & hosts of their hugely popular online radio outlet, One World Music RadioNightfall London entered the OWMR Top-100 chart last weekend at #37!

Thought you might enjoy some comments on the album from the OWMR Facebook chat room as they played my song, Beyond the Stars. Steve & Chrissie: "This is so very haunting and melodic. One beautiful album." Randy: "So beautiful." Andy: "A really excellent album." Steve & Chrissie: "Rick Sparks has nailed the narrative spot on." Lynn: "First time hearing anything from this album - very nice!" Pamela: "I like it. It sounds like a movie." Randy: "I'm going to have to get this one." Gautam: "Beautiful." Bruce: "Yes, really nice summer evening music." Jennifer: "Having been in London this last November, this is very beautiful, just like the city." Randy: "Everything about this is original and fresh! I love the cover and album title as well!"

Thanks again, Steve & Chrissie at One World Music Radio!

 

Nightfall London charts Top-10!

 

The official ZMR June airplay chart is out - "Nightfall London" zooms from #80 to #7! That's a climb of 73 chart positions in one month - incredible!

Many thanks to Randall Davis at Creative Service Company in Colorado Springs for promoting the album to radio worldwide, and special thanks to U.K.'s Steve & Chrissie Sheppard at One World Music Radio, to Sleep Radio New Zealand & to NPR stations in the U.S.!

Top-10 airplay in our first full month of release is awesome - so grateful for "Nightfall London" & for God's inspiration to record this beautiful album

 

Nightfall London #4 in June spins!

 

Zone Music Reporter's national airplay spin count is not the official chart, but it gives a good indicator of how any particular album will chart in a given month. Guess who's at #4 for June? 

 

New Summer Single Release!

 

Ever since my early days in radio in the 70s, I've loved the music of the Eagles. When the band reunited in the 90s, Love Will Keep Us Alive instantly became one of my favorite Eagles songs. I decided to record this gorgeous love song as a single release this summer, keeping it close to the original arrangement but enhancing the song's beauty by adding strings, flute, synth pad & bells.

The single is available now for digital download on my Music Store page via CDbaby.com, iTunes & Amazon. Enjoy!

 

Nightfall London Top-Album Pick!

 

"Nightfall London" is a top album pick (#3) for June at Our Place Radio in Toronto, Ontario! Thanks, OPR!

 

 

New review from MainlyPiano

 

Thanks to Kathy Parsons at MainlyPiano.com for a nice review of Nightfall London. She ends her review by saying that "Nightfall London is a great way to unwind with piano-based music that overflows with hope, faith, and peace. Recommended!"

 

 

Nightfall London Review from OWMR!

 

Special thanks to Steve & Chrissie Sheppard at One World Music Radio in Cyprus for their very excellent (& British) review of Nightfall London

You can read the entire review on my "Reviews" page, but to hear Steve's audio read-through of his charming take on the album, click HERE

Excerpts

"Nightfall London returns me to my new age music roots, but also brings us up-to-date. It captures all that was good back then and releases new energies to the world with a lush sweet production."

"Across the River... has to be one of the prettiest beginning pieces I have heard for ages."

"The title track is amazing and of course called Nightfall London, the opening bars are a real scene setter, swirling back and forth, and creating musical imagery with every note played... a classic moment of new age musical brilliance."

"Beyond the Stars... has a really beautiful flow to its arrangement and really reminds me once again of early new age music, from artists like Terry Oldfield and Stephen Rhodes."

"With Highland Rose, the melody wraps itself around our senses, we can drift off to a place so remote, but blissfully beautiful to behold. This is the skill of a master composer, listen as the orchestration kicks in, it’s subtle, but draws a compelling and graphic narrative."

"On Evening Prayer, listen carefully to the calming and healing manifestation of chords and notes here, it is really exquisite and the addition of the ethereal choir only added to the magnificence of the overall composition."

"The album has been created with love and intention and a delicacy of care and attention. Nightfall London must be ranked as one of the best New Age albums I have heard this year."  -Steve Sheppard, One World Music Radio

 

Nightfall London on the chart!

 

With only a couple of days of airplay at the end of May, "Nightfall London" entered the May ZMR (Zone Music Reporter) chart at #80! Sharing the chart w. Sheryl Crow & Jethro Tull is pretty cool. 

 

New review from Wisconsin Bookwatch

 

The momentum is building! Many thanks to Wisconsin Bookwatch for their review of Nightfall London - it captures the essence of the new album.

"Nightfall London is a beautiful new age album designed to aid relaxation with its tranquil piano music, gently arranged with synthesizer to add layers and depth. Some electronic keyboards and individual string instruments, flutes, chimes, and choirs enrich this restful, revitalizing collection, highly recommended especially when winding down after a long day."

"The tracks are Across the River (5:25), Nightfall London (4:58), Little Angel (3:08), First Love (4:28), Tokyo Rain (4:29), Beyond the Stars (4:03), In the Bleak Midwinter (4:19), Hearts As One (4:29), Highland Rose (4:58) and Evening Prayer (5:28)."

 

Featured Artist on Sleep Radio!

 

I found out today that I am the featured artist this week on Sleep Radio, out of New Zealand! Their 24/7 streaming audio channel is a wonderful mix of quiet music designed to lower your blood pressure & raise your quotient of inner peace. Many thanks to Sleep Radio for choosing to feature Nightfall London this week! Check them out at www.sleepradio.co.nz.

 

1st Review for Nightfall London!

 

Waiting for the first published review of a new album is always a bit nerve-racking, but here it is! The prolific music blog Midwest Record beat other reviewers to the punch with this short but sweet reaction to Nightfall London:

"I've never thought of London as an especially quiet city, particularly since 'En-ga-land swings like a pendulum do,' but a picture of Big Ben at dusk inspired the quiet piano work here."

"A smart mostly solo set that finds Sparks' London much more pastoral than I would, but you can't argue with things that work. Kick-back music perfectly tailored for sonic getaways, this is quite solid restful work for when it's time to stopper down."

"No noodling here, contemporary instrumental fans have a winner here. Check it out." -Midwest Record, 6-2-2017

 

 

London

 

We grieve with the people of London today. My love for that great city & the U.K. prompted the title & cover photo for Nightfall London. I would hope that the quiet peace in my music might well honor the memories of the victims - we pray for their families & friends.

Good shall yet triumph over evil. May God help us all to defeat the forces of violence & hatred.

 

SXM airplay continues!

 

Latest airplay report from SiriusXM! My most-played songs (in order):

1. Matilda's Flowers

2. Beautiful

3. Portree

4. Dream Angus

5. Wonderful, Merciful Savior

6. Be Still My Soul

I'm super grateful to SXM for continuing to play so many of my songs. Nightfall London is under review now & (hopefully) will begin airplay within a few weeks on Spa Ch. 68!

 

Nightfall London promoted by Creative Service Company!

 

BIG NEWS! Creative Service Company out of Colorado Springs will be promoting "Nightfall London" this summer to radio worldwide!

CSC has represented many signature artists over the years, including Todd Rundgren, Judy Collins, Jean-Luc Ponty & Michael Martin Murphey. Some of their new-age clients include David Arkenstone, Alex de Grassi, Richard Souther & Jim Chappell.    

Promotion made a huge difference with "Endless" in 2014, 4 months on the ZMR airplay chart, peaking at #7. "Nightfall London" has the potential to do even better, including airplay on SiriusXM Spa channel 68.

Hoping for chart action for "Nightfall" starting in July - will keep you posted!

 

Nightfall London: the songs

 

Nightfall London was in production for some 9 months, mainly because I worked on it a little at a time, instead of blocking out a summer. My previous album, Matilda’s Flowers (2016), was a significant step forward for me as a composer, with seven original songs (out of 10). After finishing Matilda, the songwriting inspiration just kept flowing, but I never imagined I would write nine new originals for Nightfall London during the fall of ’16 & spring of ’17. 

My quiet-music recordings received a huge shot in the arm in Fall ’16 when SiriusXM added seven of my songs to their Spa (68) & Escape (69) channels. The airplay from such a major outlet was a tremendous encouragement to me as an indie artist. Nightfall London is the result.

Two early songs in the production of Nightfall were key to setting the mood of the album. I wrote the opening strings of Across the River as I imagined them to be played by the London Philharmonic, quiet & majestic chords resolving to gentle peace. The opening strings of the song, Nightfall London, went even further to reflect a tranquil elegance suggested by the album cover. The addition of choir voices to both songs added a near-sacred beauty which fit well with the overall direction of the album.

Inspired variously by the strings of the London Philharmonic, the ethereal voices of an English choir and the somber beauty of twilight over Big Ben, these are the songs of Nightfall London.

1. Across the River. While the river might be the Thames, as suggested by the album’s cover photo, there is another river which we all must cross at the end of our lives. As a Christian, I am sure that what awaits me on the other side is unimaginable beauty & joy, both in the constant presence of God & my loved ones who made that crossing before me.

2. Nightfall LondonWhat became the title song is perfectly captured by the cover photo of the album: the somber beauty & stillness of Old London at twilight. This is the most “chill” song on the album & I love it.

3. Little Angel. A simple, lovely piano solo inspired by the headstone of an infant’s grave in an old mountain cemetery in Tennessee. The grief and heartache of her parents could only have been endured with the sure knowledge that their baby girl had been instantly transported to heaven and into the arms of Jesus.

4. First Love. Tender, innocent joy - the wonder of finding someone other than your family to love & to love you – first love is a truly amazing experience.

5. Tokyo Rain. An early song in the production of Nightfall, I briefly considered it for the album’s title cut. Traditional Japanese music is truly mysterious & beautiful, just like their culture. I challenged myself to write a piano solo that respected that culture by (mostly) using the oriental music scale, but without it being a cliché of Japanese music. I wrote it with the feel of gentle rain falling at night in the world’s largest city. The lovely night photo of Japanese umbrellas was the perfect backdrop for the CD’s liner-notes.

6. Beyond the Stars. Another simple song, driven by transcendent chord progressions. I took the song where I thought it should go, both musically and spiritually, into the heavenly realms beyond the stars.

7. In the Bleak Midwinter. The only cover song on the album, this classic English Christmas carol of devotion to the Christ child has been a longtime personal favorite. I love Gustav Holst’s gorgeous melody (and Christina Rossetti’s tender lyrics), and tried to give the song the gentle yet transcendent arrangement it deserves. Recording it a few days before Christmas 2016, I think being immersed in the spirit of my favorite holiday inspired me with this arrangement.

8. Hearts As OneA tender love song, this one written for my lovely wife Sandie. Romantic & gorgeous – the song & her.

9. Highland RoseWith my Scots/Irish roots, I’ve always loved Celtic music. It is simple but emotional, with typically lovely melodies. This is my effort to combine those elements into an original song, complete with fiddle & flute. Those same elements are in the Appalachian mountain music of the U.S., where I grew up, so they are very familiar & much loved.

10. Evening Prayer. I ended my two previous albums with traditional hymns, but try as I might, I couldn’t decide on a hymn to finish Nightfall London. Thus, my 9th & final original song on the album, an evening prayer of peace and gratitude to the Almighty for blessing my life with the priceless gift of music and the love of friends & family.

 

Nightfall London now available!

 

Nightfall London is now available! It may be my best album ever, but then again, I feel that way after every album. :) In this case, though, it may be true. I never intended to write 9 of the 10 songs, but as I progressed from song to song, the inspiration just kept coming.

The songs of Nightfall London are filled with a tranquil beauty which is, perhaps, more than the sum of its parts. In particular, the strings and voices combine with the piano melodies to lend a powerful presence to the album which I absolutely love. 

The enduring legacy of Sir George Martin was a constant inspiration to me in my arrangements, especially the string parts. His classical training & stellar musicianship were evident in all he did during his life as a producer & arranger. I admire him tremendously.

In these simple, quiet songs, I hope you might find beauty & peace. A few years back, a wonderful BBC documentary titled Why Beauty Matters made a powerful case that not only do we all have a built-in need for beauty in our lives, but that beauty can replenish the soul. That was certainly the case with a young lad named David, who was regularly summoned to play his harp in the presence of a troubled king. 

May your soul & spirit be replenished with the music of Nightfall London.

 

Nightfall London near the finish line

 

Just a quick note that post-production on Nightfall London is nearly finished! Am humbly excited for the potential of these nine (!) originals plus the lovely In the Bleak Midwinter - Sandie is calling it my masterpiece. :) I don't know about that, but I do know I couldn't be happier with the results. Projected release date is 4.24.17 - will keep you posted!

 

New album coming!

 

END OF YEAR UPDATE: I've been hard at work in my studio over the last several weeks. Would you believe I've already recorded 6 new songs for a late spring album release?! Tentative tile is "Nightfall London" & the album will include "In the Bleak Midwinter," released just last week.

Will keep you updated as the new year progresses, but just want to again thank all of you who bought my music during 2016! Also, airplay by SiriusXM was HUGE for Rick Sparks Music this year, as they added at least 7 of my songs to their Spa & Escape channels (68 & 69) since early summer. No doubt about it: God is good. 

Peace, joy & love in the New Year!

 

New Christmas single

 

Leave it to me to release a new Christmas recording 5 days before December the 25th.  But in the midst of all the wonderful music of the season, I couldn't help but begin work last week on a new recording of one of my absolute favorite Christmas carols.

The lovely melody by Gustav Holst & the simple yet powerful lyrics by Christina Rossetti make "In the Bleak Midwinter" a standout of the season. I hope you enjoy my version & many thanks for helping to make 2016 a standout year for my music. The single is available now for download from Amazon, iTunes & here on my artist website in the Music Store.

Merry Christmas!

 

"Hearts As One" single release

 

After 40 incredible years with she who is my wife, my soulmate & best friend, it was time to write a song for her. "Hearts As One" is the love theme to the story of our life together. The single is available now on CDBaby.com, iTunes, Amazon & www.ricksparksmusic.net.

 

1st Review for "Matilda's Flowers!"

 

Receiving the first review on a new album is always special! Many thanks to Kathy Parsons at MainlyPiano.com for her nice review of Matilda's Flowers. You can read her full review on my Reviews page, but here are a few excerpts: 

"Matilda is remembered as a strong but gentle woman 'who loved flowers, her family and her Lord Jesus,' and these songs express those qualities so well. The album begins with the title track, a warm and affectionate piano solo that reflects the sweet innocence of the cover artwork. The painting is of a young girl picking an armload of flowers in a field - the piece is a favorite!" 

"Memories of Her makes me think of Kevin Kern’s tender melodies - always a treat!" 

"I love Sparks’ arrangement of (the Sting hit) Fields of Gold! It begins with the sound of heavy rainfall and thunder, giving way to flute, keyboard and strings - gorgeous and soul-satisfying!" 

"Mountain Laurel is another favorite. A piano solo for most of the first half of the piece, strings and wordless vocals are added to the second half. I love the graceful simplicity of the melody and the contented feeling of the piece."

"Old Tennessee is a nostalgic look back to a less complicated time - also a favorite." 

"Tildy’s Waltz is a charming solo piano waltz that alternates between major and minor modes, giving the piece a bittersweet taste - my favorite piece on the album!

"Nearer My God To Thee is said to have been played by the ship’s orchestra as the Titanic sank in 1912, the year of Matilda’s wedding. Sparks has arranged it as a lovely piano solo that brings the album to a close."

"Matilda's Flowers is an excellent second release from Rick Sparks! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!" -Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com, September 19, 2016

 

5 songs now on SiriusXM!

 

Received word yesterday that SiriusXM Radio has added my recording of Beautiful to their Escape channel 69! It's my favorite Gordon Lightfoot song & my first recording to be added to Escape. That makes 5 songs from the Endless album now in rotation on SiriusXM! (The other 4 songs from Endless are on Spa channel 68.) https://www.siriusxm.com/escape

 

"Matilda's Flowers" now available!

 

"Matilda's Flowers" CDs & downloads are now available through my Music Store on this website (via CD Baby), Amazon & iTunes.

Packaging on the CD could not be more beautiful, a perfect representation of the music inside. I'm so grateful for these songs that God poured through me during this project. I believe Matilda would love them, too. :)

 

Matilda's Flowers liner notes

 

Thought you might enjoy the liner notes to Matilda's Flowers, with the backstory to "the 1912 girl named Matilda." It was a privilege to honor my grandmother with this album.

 

We're on SiriusXM!

 

For all you SiriusXM radio subscribers, I just received word that Ch. 68 Spa has added at least 4 songs off my "Endless" CD. :) :) :)

 

Near the finish line!

 

I am excited to report that, after two months of hard work (& even a few tears), the music of Matilda's Flowers is finished! I wrote & recorded the album of piano-based songs around the theme of "the girl named Matilda." In 1912, Matilda Angeline Cannon turned 18 and married her sweetheart, my grandfather. Matilda would live a long life, raise a large family (5 boys & 2 girls) and was a wonderful, sweet woman who loved flowers, her family and her Lord Jesus.

For my part, the tears would come occasionally with my memories of Matilda throughout the production of "her" album. I only knew her in her golden years, but Tildy's wonderful 1912 engagement picture was a constant inspiration as I wrote & recorded the 7 original songs (of 10). Matilda was raised by a loving Tennessee family after her parents died when she was just a little girl. She grew into a beautiful, strong yet gentle woman whose prayers for me as a young boy still resonate in my life today. It was a privilege to honor her with these songs.

I recorded two hymns of her era, including the final song on the album. Nearer, My God, to Thee was famously played by the orchestra of the Titanic as the ship sank in 1912, the year of Matilda's wedding. That song was the central theme of my grandmother's life - her constant faith & devotion to the Lord was a hallmark of Matilda's existence. She would happily tell you that she couldn't have done it without her faith in Christ. I would gladly say the same for my life & this album.

At this point, I am carefully reviewing all the musical & graphic elements of the album before sending it off for manufacturing & distribution. As with EndlessMatilda's Flowers will be available on CD as well as digitally through iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, etc. We'll also be sending the album to music reviewers as we prepare to promote Matilda's Flowers to broadcast radio stations (think NPR) & online outlets.

So how does the music sound? I'll let you decide, but I love these songs & can't wait to get them out. Between now & the album release in mid-August, I'll post some song excerpts to my artist page on Facebook as well as my YouTube channel.

Stay tuned!

 

 

New album update

 

It's mid-June - after five weeks and countless hours in the studio, half the new album is now complete! The album title is Matilda's Flowers, after my grandmother, Matilda Angeline Fortner. All seven of the originals (out of 10) on the album are for her, as is the perfect album cover (she loved flowers) by 19th century artist Ludwig Knaus. Songs finished to this point are Fields of Gold (the Sting hit), Matilda's FlowersSimple LoveTildy's Waltz and Nothing But the BloodFive more songs to go with summer speeding by, but we're on schedule for release in August. Endless set the bar high for this album, so I'm sweating the creative & production details to make it the absolute best I'm capable of. Be sure to check my artist page (Rick Sparks Music) on Facebook for updates! 

 

 

ZMR Awards update

 

A check of the ZMR (Zone Music Reporter) site for 2015 album nominees reveals that Endless didn't make the 2nd round of voting. To be honest, it was a huge honor just to be considered. For Endless to go to #7 on the national radio airplay charts in Dec. '14 is a thrill I will never forget.

My new album, Matilda's Flowers, is set for release in August. I'll be sharing more about that as the year progresses, but I'm planning at least 5 originals this time around. Am already working on arrangements for a couple of the cover songs - achingly lovely music.

 

BIG NEWS!

 

BIG NEWS! I have received word from my radio promoter that Endless has qualified for the 2015 ZMR (Zone Music Reporter) Music Awards in two categories: "ALBUM OF THE YEAR" & "BEST PIANO - W. INSTRUMENTATION!"

Totally & utterly unexpected but wonderful news. There are two rounds of nomination voting in February - if we survive that, then Endless will be one of the 5 finalist albums in either or both categories. The winners will be announced at the 12th Annual ZMR Music Awards on Saturday, May 7th, at the Joy Theater in New Orleans.

Whether we win or not, I'm grateful for the whole experience of recording Endless & receiving such a great response from radio, the reviewers and my friends. Most of all, thanks to my Lord Jesus for inspiring this album & my lovely wife's constant support, encouragement & love.

 

Endless liner notes

 

So many people to thank for this little CD that could - here are the liner notes from Endless.

 

Endless stays in Top-20.

 

Endless is hanging in during its 4th month on the radio! ZMR's Top-100 airplay chart for February has Endless at #16, down a few notches from #9 in January in the face of stiff competition from over two dozen new albums in the Top-100. Many thanks to the 120+ stations in the U.S. & around the world that continue to play my music. And heartfelt thanks to all those who have bought Endless.

 

Endless still in the Top-10.

 

The ZMR Top-100 album airplay chart for January has been released - it shows Endless maintaining a high radio profile in the U.S. & Canada at #9, down only two notches from last month's chart. My deepest thanks to our 120+ radio partners (many of which are NPR stations) for playing our music. Latest stations include 90.9 WDCB, Chicago; 88.5 KSBR, Mission Viejo, CA; 90.7 KSER, Everett, WA; 89.7 KMSU, Mancato, MN; 90.5 WICN, Worcester, MA; 98.1 KBAC, Santa Fe; 90.3 WXXI, Rochester, NY. Public radio rocks!

I thought you'd enjoy reading some responses from radio programmers to my thank-you's for playing Endless:

"No problem, Rick - happy to play good music." - Jamey

"Your music is great & we play great music - a lot!" - Michael

"Great album, Rick - best wishes for your continued success." - Val

"Cream rises to the top." - Christopher

"All you have to do is keep up the great music. My regard for your CD is 'endless'." - Pete

"Happy to play your music, Rick! Keep creating!" - Sherry

Not that it wasn't deserving, but I never thought Endless would chart so high on ZMR's album chart. To zoom from #64 in November to #7 in December was an incredible experience for me as an artist. During all those years I spent in radio, I could only imagine what it was like for the artists I played to see their music rise up the charts - now I know.

I would have recorded Endless regardless of whether it received a single spin on radio, but it's wonderful and truly humbling to receive the validation that comes from my music being aired around the world. I'm thankful to God for His inspiration and blessing of this "little album that could."

 

On the charts!

 

Significant event alert: My radio promoter messaged me this afternoon that ENDLESS HAS CLIMBED TO #7 ON THE ZMR TOP-100 ALBUM AIRPLAY CHART!!! That's a jump of 57 positions in 4 weeks - unbelievable (but I'll take it!) Many thanks to Ed & Stacey Bonk of LAZZ Promotions for carrying the banner for Endless to stations & programs around the world.

We're now in Week #8 since promotion began - a total of 99 stations & programs have added the album to their playlists. Latest adds include MusicChoice.com (NYC) & RadioTunes.com; 91.5 WTUL, New Orleans & 91.3 WWUH, Windsor, CT. Other stations include 89.5 KOPN, Columbia, MO; 89.3 KCUR, Kansas City; 105.5 The River, Modesto, CA; 88.5 WFCF, St. Augustine, FL; 88.3 KDNK, Aspen, CO; 97.9 CJLL, Ottawa, Ontario; 106.3 The Lounge, Queensland, Australia; Radio Despi, Barcelona, Spain; Radio Relax, Minsk, Russia. Programs & networks include Montana Public Radio; Missouri Public Radio; The Cove/Live365 (of course); Highlander Radio/Celtic Radio; Celestial Reasonings, CalmRadio.com, GotRadio - Piano Perfect; Music Beyond Words; Instrumental Hits Radio. Heartfelt thanks to all for playing Endless!

ZMR is Zone Music Reporter (zonemusicreporter.com), THE source for monthly airplay charts of new age, world, ambient, electronic, solo piano, relaxation, instrumental and many other genres of music. So far, while sales of Endless are nothing to write home about, I'm hoping that airplay will make a difference. In any case, to be played on 99 stations & programs around the world is validation for this little album that I knew early on in production was going to turn out to be something special.

Above all, thanks to God for inspiring me to record Endless - my spirit has been replenished. :)

 

Six months & counting

 

Six months & counting - that's how long now I've been at this project called Endless. Studio work began in June 2014 and finally wrapped in late September. After that came copyrights, mechanical licenses, graphics design & licensing, photography, packaging & manufacturing. Distribution followed to CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and about 20 other online outlets.

The next major phase of launching Endless is promotion, starting with garnering some respectable press. In the last few weeks, the album has received wonderful reviews from critics like Bill Binkelman, Kathy Parsons and Michael Diamond. You can read their reviews here, on their websites and on the Endless album pages at CD Baby, iTunes & Amazon.

Now it's up to Ed & Stacey Bonk at LAZZ Promotions to do the hard work of promoting the album to radio. I've personally mailed out over 200 CDs to programmers in the last several weeks with my 1-sheet of album info, reviews and artist bio. Between now and March 2015, LAZZ will be making multiple contacts with radio stations, programs & in-flight music services. To date, several dozen stations & programs have added the album to their playlists. It's a good start.

The first radio charts of 2015 will be released by mid-January - they should give a clue as to whether Endless is going to fly. As for me, I'm hoping, praying & working hard to do right by this little album that I've put my heart & soul into.

 

My song choices on "Endless"

 

I love melody – every song on Endless has strong melody. I think that’s why I’ve always loved the music of The Beatles & Beach Boys. Once those great melodies got stuck in my head, they were there to stay. In college in the early 70s, I took a required music appreciation course; the focus was entirely on classical music. One day in class our professor had to leave the room for a few minutes. At the urging of my classmates, I went to the harpsichord and played a verse of the Beach Boys’ song, Darlin'. My classmates loved it. Got back to my seat before the professor returned, too – it was the class secret. :) All these years later, I love that I chose to play one of Brian Wilson’s songs - great melody & harmonies.

Now, about the songs on Endless.

Beautiful is my favorite Gordon Lightfoot song and was the first song I began working on for the album - it ended up as my choice for the first song on the track list. The song is a tender, reverent tribute to the wonder of being in love; I wanted my arrangement to reflect that, starting with the slow, ethereal first verse and chorus. Maybe my choice to make it first on the album reflected my hope for the album as a whole, that it would be beautiful for the listener’s spirit.

In my late 20s, as a pianist working on my master’s degree in music, I came to love the music of Rachmaninoff. It was infused with the poignant, tragic beauty of his life; he yearned to return to his home in pre-revolutionary Russia, but never did. There is a mystery and emotionalism about his music that was probably an influence on me when I composed the title song on Endless. Specifically, I wanted the song to reflect the beauty, mystery & vastness of both the celestial night sky and of God’s love for us.

For much of the album, I was drawn to songs that reflect my Scotch-Irish ancestry. Like Russian music, the music of Scotland is strongly emotional, tragically so in the case of Loch Lomond. That song is so iconic in Scotland, to me it has become almost like a national hymn. I tried to reflect that reverence in my arrangement, especially with the acapella voices at the beginning and end.

A traditional Scottish lullaby, Dream Angus, became a hit in Scotland in 2013 with English folk singer Jackie Oates’ hauntingly beautiful vocal recording – her version inspired me to include the song on Endless.

I was especially pleased to include a couple of songs which reflect both my Irish ancestry and my Christian faith: Be Thou My Vision (arranged by the late great Tom Howard) and Wexford Carol. I didn’t plan for the original vocalizing bridge on Wexford Carol to morph into the English carol, What Child Is This?it just happened as I recorded that section. I think of those voices as angels, so maybe they guided the bridge into the perfect ending. :) In any case, it sounded right to me, so I kept it in.

Fellow musician & composer, Bill Leslie, kindly gave me permission to record his lovely original, Portree, named after a small town in Scotland. I sent him my version when I asked for his okay - he responded, "Gorgeous arrangement - simple elegance! I love the pace and feel - you captured the magic of the song!" Thanks, Bill!   

I began composing At Rest the week after the tragic death of a troubled young man who was the son of a good friend. I wanted the song to comfort his family and musically reflect his final state of peace that he struggled to find in this life. 

The last song on the album almost didn't get recorded. Just as I was ready to release Endless, I decided to pull a song at the last minute – Be Still, My Soul was its replacement. The arrangement came very quickly and may be my best performance on the album. It’s one of my favorite hymns, both lyrically and musically, and (I think) serves perfectly as the album’s final call to inner peace.

I love every song on the album, and am very happy with the results after starting with a blank slate for each song (except Be Thou My Vision). From beginning to end, it took me several hundred hours to arrange, record and produce the album - I did my very best to make each song a worthy listen. The critics have been kind, and the album seems to hold up well even after repeated listening. 

I plan to record more albums in the future, with the same goal of playing "quiet piano to replenish your spirit." I hope to have more originals on the next album; for now, I'm grateful to have been able to record Endless and hope it finds an audience that will enjoy it.