Reviewed by Darla Bower
Pastorale is the sixth album of Kawai artist Brad Jacobsen. I am always excited to hear different arrangements of beloved and perhaps lesser known hymns. I love to explore and hear what unique spin the artist can bring to each hymn without changing the integrity of the melodic structure too much. Pastorale does not disappoint! The ten hymns paint a musical picture of the artistry of Brad Jacobsen. The cover is beautiful and sets the expectation of a musical story told by a master artist.
Pastorale begins with My Father’s World. The melody is poignant and sweetly sings as the left hand accompaniment flows. Many have thought this to be a children’s hymn but it was actually inspired by nature walks and hikes of lyricist Maltbie Babcock. This hymn serves as a gentle musical reminder of the beautiful world we live in and to appreciate the beauty. I loved Brad’s interpretation of it. The medley of Come Thou Fount/Amazing Grace together are two beloved favorites intertwined expressively and eloquently, gently drawing the listener in at the hands of this talented artist. The medley became a favorite of mine on the album. For the Beauty of the Earth is the next track and I really enjoyed it. I like this hymn anyway and when you add Brad’s joyful interpretation of it coupled with his dynamic playing it became one of my very favorites. Though this hymn is celebrated as a hymn of Thanksgiving and praise for many religious denominations, it was actually written as a Eucharist hymn for Catholic mass. It paints a musical picture that serves as a reminder to appreciate all of the picturesque things we encounter daily. A musical prayer of reminder to absorb the simple beauty that surrounds us. I loved it!
Though I wasn’t familiar with Lead, Kindly Light it ended up being my favorite on the entire album. Brad plays this beautiful hymn with such expressive grace that I fell in love with it. It evokes the listener to search for deeper spiritual meaning felt in the melody. The hymn was actually a poem written by a young theologian and Vicar after falling critically ill and nearly succumbing to the illness. He was not pleased the poem was later turned into hymn but I am glad it was. It has been said this was the last hymn sung on the Titanic before the disaster struck at the final service given on board by the Chaplain. Lead, Kindly Light is worthy of the listener’s soulful attention. Absolutely love it!
When Through the Woods (How Great Thou Art) has a gentler tempo and fluid melody. Cradling the listener in an atmosphere of meditative prayer. Loved this hymn as well. This was hymn was a favorite of the Billy Graham crusades and was sung by soloist George Beverly Shea for years at the crusades. Wow does this hymn take me back to childhood memories and visits to those crusades. Love it and I am glad it was included in the collection. I Need Thee Every Hour is played essentially in the upper register and exudes divine prayerfulness. I love the background of this hymn as well. Written by Annie Hawks while doing her chores inspired by her acknowledgement of her dependence on God in daily life. Her Pastor set the lyrics to music and the song was discovered by Dwight L. Moody and his song leader Ira Sankey. The song became famous and is still well known today. Eventide (Abide with Me) brings this lovely hymn collection to a graceful and gentle close. Flying the listener on a musical cloud of tender spiritual renewal and refreshment.
Whether you are religious or not Pastorale, is a restful and reflective musical portrait of classics that are steeped in rich musical history. Simply not enough space to highlight every hymn but each is worthy of careful listener attention. Brad Jacobsen’s arrangements will delight the listener no matter what the background may be, religious or not. These gorgeous arrangements by this skilled composer/pianist are a welcome addition to my solo piano hymn collection and a favorite. I highly recommend Pastorale! It is available from bradjacobsenmusic.com, Amazon and iTunes.