Composer, organist, vocalist, and pianist Kathryn Kaye began playing piano at the age of four and later trained as a classical musician. And while she has performed professionally as a folk singer and soprano soloist in concerts, recitals, and operas, and on television in both Germany and the United States, it as a pianist that she has truly excelled. Grammy Award winner Will Ackerman, who has produced all of Kathryn’s albums, has called her “as talented a composer and pianist as any with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to work.” Coming from a producer who has worked with some of the best, that is indeed high praise.
Her music ranges from traditional melodic and emotional compositions to more contemporary, meditative pieces, and draws heavily on classical music, Jazz, New Age music, and the simple harmonies of folk music and hymns from the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern Kentucky that she heard, sang, and played as a child. As Kathryn states, “those beautiful old songs often carry a message that includes a mixture of hope, loss, sadness, peace, and longing.”
Whatever the influences, Kathryn’s music always manifests a gentle elegance and an emotional sincerity that touches the listener in profoundly personal ways.
On Kathryn’s latest album, “Patterns of Sun and Shade,” she reflects her strong personal connection with nature and presents an acoustic vision of “sunlight” and “shadow.” In her own words: “I’ve always been fascinated by sunlight filtered through leaves or bare branches, the play of light and shade in clouds and high mountains, and shadows on a rock wall or on a narrow path winding through the woods.”
The album was recorded at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios and was recorded and mastered by Tom Eaton. Contributing artists include Gus Sebring (French horn), Jeff Haynes (percussion), Tony Levin (Chapman stick), Tom Eaton (percussion, accordion, bass), Eugene Friesen (cello), Jill Haley (English horn), Will Ackerman (percussion), Charlie Bisharat (violin) and of course the talented fingers of Kathryn Kaye (piano).
The music on “Patterns …” has a deeper tone and richer, more lush, and more muted sound quality than Kathryn’s previous albums, and at times displays clear “classical music” influenced phrases and nuances.
The first track on the album, “Julia’s Eyes,” is a melodic, mellow, elegant, and graceful duet for piano and cello, with conspicuous “waltz” influences, and was inspired by Kathryn’s daughter, who was born with “the largest and most beautiful pale blue eyes…” Another song, “Willow Waltz” has similar stylistic qualities, and evokes images of a majestic Weeping Willow tree bathed in summer sunlight while its long draping branches sway gently in a cool breeze and cast ever moving and deeply melancholy shadows across all that surrounds them.
“Elk Creek in the Fall” is the second track on the album and is a bit slower and richer than the first track and with a distinctly free roaming or “flowing” quality. Fast moving piano along with the cello, horn, percussive elements and the Chapman Stick, suggest the flow of water in a stream or river. In fact, Kathryn has also shed some light on the inspiration for this track: “By an old dirt road near my childhood home in southeastern Kentucky, a little creek trickles down from higher in the hills. It winds gently through groves of deciduous trees (glorious in autumn), past an old family cemetery and the remains of an abandoned cabin where I once sat by the fireplace with friends, playing and singing folk songs during an autumn thunderstorm…. ”
Three of the eleven tracks on the album (Something Like A Dream, Mom and Pop’s Waltz, and Distances) are gentle and reflective piano solos. “The Hills That Lead Me Home” has a simple melody and adeptly conveys an intense emotion of longing. “Festival of Leaves” is a bit more up-tempo with light percussion and has an upbeat, cheerful, floating, and spinning quality that evokes images of a sudden shower of falling leaves dancing and swirling in a gust of autumn wind. “Adrift in Fading Light” is intended to create an experience and mental picture “of drifting on a still lake at dusk.” The two strongest and most melodic tracks on the album are “Tiny Sliver of a Moon” and the title track “Patterns of Sun and Shade.” Both have a positive, romantic quality, and are perhaps also the most memorable tracks.
In summary, “Patterns of Sun and Shade” is a strong album of emotional, reflective, and imagery inspired piano music that is certain to touch on old and cherished memories of home, friends, family, love, and life. As you listen to this music, Kathryn says, “may you discover your own patterns, even if very different from my own…”