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.