10 Songs, 50 Minutes

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Customer Reviews

Review from Journeyscapes Radio

CandiceMichelle1

Ann Sweeten is a pianist, composer, Steinway artist and poet, who released her first album, "Prism", in 1997. Inspired by themes of nature and, specifically, the butterfly, “Where Butterflies Dance” dually captures the essence of human emotion and life’s experiences, conveyed by the butterfly’s universal symbolism of beauty, love, hope, death, rebirth and transformation. Ann is joined on this album by other talented guest musicians who lend instruments to varying compositions, including Akane Setiawan on English horn, Eugene Friesen on cello, Trisha Craig on flute, Jeff Pearce on electric guitar, Will Ackerman on acoustic guitar, and both Charlie Bisharat and Andrew Eng on violin.

“A Trace of You” opens the album, accompanied by Akane Setiawan’s horn and Charlie Bisharat’s violin, which add a sense of mournfulness to this emotive piece. Ann’s piano playing is at once dynamic yet restrained, with a uniquely artful style that often reminds me of a constant gentle stream, cascading over stones and all its subtle nuances. “Elysian Fields” is perhaps the album’s most breathtaking piece, featuring Ann on both piano and synthesizer, and Jeff Pearce on ambient guitar. Named for the Greek mythical paradise, one can easily imagine arriving in an endless field of flowers while looking upon a distant sunset. A lead melody flutters and floats across the misty bed of guitar and beautiful timbres, which could simply go on forever. “Love Among the Ruins” is another pictorial tune, evoking memories of blissful romances and bittersweet goodbyes, whether it be between human or animal companions. A forlorn quality permeates this piece, which is joined once again by Akane’s horn as well as Eugene Friesen’s cello. Sunrise peers through on “Morning Mist At Chimayo”, showcasing Trisha Craig’s flute and Will Ackerman’s acoustic guitar, further imbuing the composition with grace and elegance. Another piece worth noting is “Sateo”, which is named for an Elephant who once lived in Kenya. Accompanied by Andrew Eng’s violin, Ann offers a most heartfelt musical dedication to this creature, whose life was tragically ended at the age of fifty by poachers. The album’s title track, “Where Butterflies Dance”, is another lovely tune that is carried by a waltzing melody. Complemented by flute and violin, a vision of butterflies dancing in a paradisal garden is conveyed, perhaps alluding to a Greek myth that each time a butterfly emerges from its cocoon, a human soul is born.

“Where Butterflies Dance” is a thoroughly outstanding album and the compositions lingered in my mind long after the listening experience had concluded. It is also worth noting that the magnificent Monarch butterfly is under threat of extinction due to the gradual disappearance of Milkweed plants along its migration route. Deeply passionate about the environment and its many afflictions, Ann so eloquently conveys a message of environmental awareness through her music, expressing her passion with originality, sentimentality and immaculate beauty.

From MainlyPiano

KathyPiano7

Ann Sweeten’s twelfth album, "Where Butterflies Dance," was co-produced by Will Ackerman at his Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont. Sweeten’s music is always warm and lyrical, reflecting her love of nature, staunch environmentalism, and animal activism. It also stems from a life in the arts as a professional actress, singer, and dancer as well as a pianist and composer. The album includes performances by several other instrumentalists in addition to Sweeten’s on a Steinway B grand piano and synthesizers.

In the colorful 8-page booklet that is included with the CD, Sweeten explains that: “Throughout the world, in all cultures spanning history, from ancient times until the present, the metamorphosis of butterflies has been a source of wonder. Many legends or myths about butterflies have arisen in very different cultures that are representative of renewal, transformation, death and rebirth, awakening, courage, love, joy and hope.” She goes on to explain several of the ways in which butterflies are symbolized and then addresses the more specific crisis where Monarch butterflies are on the brink of extinction due to the loss of milkweed plants on their migration route. I love and admire the way that Sweeten uses her music to effectively raise awareness of issues dear to her heart, making them dear to many more hearts - hopefully in time to make a difference.

"Where Butterflies Dance" begins with the poignant “A Trace of You,” a deeply emotional ballad that features Akane Setiawan on English horn and Charlie Bisharat on violin, expressing great loss. “Broken Wing at North Light” is equally heartfelt, thanks in part to Eugene Friesen’s soulful cello behind Sweeten’s delicate, flowing piano touch. “Elysian Fields” is a piano and ambient guitar (Jeff Pearce) duet that gracefully illustrates how heavenly it would be where butterflies dance. “Love Among the Ruins” refers to the growing number of species nearing extinction. Friesen’s cello and Setiawan’s English horn represent the voices of those species as they struggle to be heard - achingly beautiful. “Veil of Tears,” the only piano solo, is very elegant and graceful. “Sateo” expands the environmental message by telling the story of a great bull elephant who was killed with a poacher’s poisoned arrow in Kenya in 2014 for the ivory in his tusks. The elephant was likely about fifty years old and had been adapting his behavior to avoid humans. The heartbreaking story is expressed as a duet for piano and Andrew Eng’s violin, which represents the beauty and grace of Sateo’s spirit. The title track is “both a call to action and a prayer for hope that we might find a place where butterflies indeed dance...” (quoted from the liner notes). Trisha Craig’s flute and Eng’s violin bring a gentle grace to this evocative piece.

Ann Sweeten’s efforts to change the world with her music are both commendable and compelling. May her music reach the ears and hearts of many people who will join in her mission. Recommended!

Review excerpt from Music and Media Focus

MDiamond

I’m always happy to receive a new recording from internationally renowned, chart-topping, award-winning pianist/composer Ann Sweeten. For her latest project, Ann has chosen the theme of butterflies, which has great meaning for her on a number of different levels. As she writes in the album’s liner notes: “Throughout the world, in all cultures spanning history, from ancient times until the present, the metamorphosis of butterflies has been a source of wonder.” The album has both a spiritual message, as well as an environmental one addressing the effect of man’s actions in the decline of these beautiful creatures. As in the past, Ann has chosen to record this album at the iconic Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont, which is owned by GRAMMY winning producer and Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman.

The album takes flight with a lovely piece entitled “A Trace Of You,” in which Ann’s opening piano notes are delicate like a butterfly’s wings as they lift the song gracefully aloft. The first to join her on this journey is the English horn of Akane Setiawan. As the piece evolves, the sweet, soaring sound of world-renowned violinist Charlie Bisharat joins the mix. Charlie has played with everyone from Kitaro and Yanni, to Michael Jackson, Elton John, and The Rolling Stones. Together, this trio creates a heartfelt sound that oozes with sentiment and grace on Ann’s elegant composition. On a track called “Elysian Fields,” I particularly liked the way Ann’s left hand arpeggios created a sense of continuity leaving her right hand free to explore different spaces. A song with a deeply personal meaning for Ann is “Morning Mist At Chimayo,” which also features the flute of Trisha Craig and the acoustic guitar of Will Ackerman himself. As well as the accompanied pieces, the album also features a stunning solo piano track entitled “Veil Of Tears.” I cannot help but be impressed with the stylistic and emotional range of Ann’s writing and playing from song to song.

In addition to Ann’s impeccable talents as a pianist, composer, and arranger, the unseen, but deeply felt spiritual dimension that she brings to her music takes her elegant compositions to another level altogether. This latest release by Ann Sweeten, like the butterfly itself, is a thing of delicate beauty in motion, symbolizing grace, transformation, and renewal. After 12 albums, Ann’s music continues to evolve into greater and greater levels of refinement and creative expression. “Where Butterflies Dance” is an inspired work of art from one of the genre’s premier pianists.

To read a full-length feature article about this album, as well as others, please visit: MichaelDiamondMusic.com

About Ann Sweeten

Ann Sweeten displayed an early interest in the keyboard, and her mother gave her a Hammond organ when she was six. Three years later, she received a Baldwin piano for Christmas. She studied privately with David Sokolof, then attended Smith College, from which she graduated cum laude with a degree in foreign languages. Next, she took vocal lessons and founded a rock band called Fall Out. After two years, she returned to academia, attending the Boston Conservatory where she studied music, acting, singing, dance, and musical theater. She moved to New York, joined the actors union, and began getting parts in stage musicals, while also playing piano in clubs and restaurants. Starting in 1997, she began releasing new age piano albums on her own Orange Band record label. Prism was followed by Passage, Christmas Presence, Reflections, and Sapphire Days. Both Reflections and Sapphire Days were moderate hits at modern instrumental radio in North America. A Place in the Sun followed in 2005. Sweeten is also a voting member of The Recording Academy and a ASCAP Popular Awards Recipient for 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. ~ William Ruhlmann

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