All Through the Night
Reviewed by Cathy Oakes
Pam Asberry is a very accomplished pianist and teacher who didn’t begin her journey into composing until fairly recently. However, she has “made up for lost time” and has done it in a big way! “All Through the Night” is her fourth album since she first began composing in 2017.
I recall sitting with Pam on a cruise ship after the 2016 Enlightened Piano Radio Awards Concert. I told her of a dream I had had about her releasing an album of her original works. I told her that she would record and release that album within a year. She laughed! I knew she had the ability to write music, but I had no idea the volume and depth of the creativity hiding inside her just waiting to be let out. Once those flood gates opened, there was no holding her back!
I refer to Pam as “The Thomas Kinkade of the Piano.” She paints beautiful pictures with her music. One would never have to look at a title or read a liner note to know exactly what she is trying to express. One can simply close their eyes and allow Ms. Asberry to paint the picture in their mind. She truly is a “Painter of Light” – except she does it on the keys of a piano. Her music tends to be simple and elegant. There are no “musical acrobatics” here, although, she is more than capable of doing such. She allows the piano to speak in intimate tones of beauty.
“All Through the Night” consists of twelve tracks – eight arrangements of lullabies from all over the world and four original pieces. The word “lullaby” brings thoughts of children and bedtime. But don’t let that fool you. This album is soothing and relaxing for people of all ages. The album begins with the most beautiful arrangement of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” that I have ever heard. One can see the stars twinkling in a clear, night sky. This English lullaby sung to a French melody from the mid-1700’s begins with a “sparkling” introduction that sets the tone for the rest of this stellar piece. It ends with the motif it began with, leaving one with the vision of those twinkling stars. “All Through the Night” begins with a rocking motion in the introduction Ms. Asberry’s arrangement of this Welsh lullaby that is usually associated with Christmas is peaceful and comforting. “Siciliano,” believed to have been composed by J.S. Bach is one of my favorites on this album. Pam’s classical training shines in this piece. She is true to the Baroque roots, and yet, manages to present this piece with freshness and creativity.
Many people have done arrangements of Brahms’ Lullaby, but none have done it with such warmth and originality as Ms. Asberry. Her subtle re-harmonizations bring a freshness to this piece that is rarely heard. I have never particularly liked the piece, “All the Pretty Little Horses” – that is until I heard Pam’s arrangement. It is simple and straight-forward, yet reflective and beautiful in its simplicity. “Sleepy Tide” is an Asberry original. You can almost feel the gentle waves lapping the shore in the peaceful rocking of this piece.
Another original work, “Bedtime Story” has a beautiful, singing melody and the motion of Grandma’s favorite rocking chair. I found myself wanting to listen to this piece over and over – much like a favorite childhood bedtime story. “Evening Prayer” has long been one of my favorite pieces from the opera Hansel and Gretel. Ms. Asberry’s arrangement is hymn-like and simply beautiful. “The Sandman” is a German lullaby first arranged by Brahms for the children of his friends Clara and Robert Schumann. I love Pam’s use of the alberti bass with the melody singing above Then, the melody is played in the left hand with a beautiful accompaniment in the right hand. This is one of my absolute favorites!
I cannot listen to “Lullaby for Mackenzie” without the threat of tears. Perhaps this is because I know the story behind the song. Written in memory of Ms. Asberry’s daughter, who only lived a few days, this piece is hauntingly beautiful. It is melodic and surprisingly joyful. I have several favorites on this album, but this one is my absolute favorite. The story behind “Abiyoyo” is fierce. It is a Bantu lullaby based on a South African tale about a monster that eats naughty children. However, there is nothing fierce about this piece. The rocking bass and floating melody are gorgeous. “Reverie” is the perfect way to bring this beautiful album to a close. It is Pam’s original piece about being lost in pleasant thoughts. It is impossible to listen to this lovely piece without having pleasant thoughts. The singable melody and rich chord progressions make me sigh over and over!
From beginning to end, “All Through the Night” is peaceful, exceedingly lovely and simply brilliant. Well done, Pam! Well done, indeed! I highly recommend this album for “children” of all ages who want to relax and enjoy the blessing of beautiful music performed with exceeding skill. Keep this beautiful music coming, Pam. We impatiently wait for your next work of beautiful art, painted in shades of light so wonderfully on the piano.
The Presence of Wonder
Reviewed by Marlowe Carruth
If Pam Asberry’s first album, “Seashells in My Pocket,” represented Pam spreading her wings as a new artist, then her latest release, “The Presence of Wonder,” is Pam taking flight and soaring!
In the words of Cathy Oakes, “This album contains everything that the new age solo piano genre is about: emotional expression, painting a picture with ethereal beauty, transporting the listener to a place of calm and rest.”
While the album is very cohesive in mood, expression and quality, each song is like an individual gem that carries its own weight on this album. Every single song is beautifully crafted and beautifully played. Pam’s years of experience as a pianist and piano teacher are evident throughout the variety of songs on this album, both in her composing and in her skillful playing.
One of the most impressive things Pam accomplishes in this album is her use of minor keys without sounding sad or dark. The title song, “The Presence of Wonder,” is one such piece. It has a mystical feel but does not leave me feeling sad but rather uplifted. I could listen to it over and over.
“Nocturne” is one of my personal favorites, probably because I am partial to playing nocturnes myself, but also because Pam truly captures the essence of a nocturne with her beautiful melody line, supported by the harmonies underneath.
“Surrender” is a departure from the rest of the pieces on the album, but I also think it is the most telling. In this song, Pam perfectly tells the story of the journey from the angst of struggle to the beauty that comes from surrender.
I found “Nebula” to be the most fun to play on the piano as it fit my hands well. (Yes, there is companion sheet music available to all the songs on the album!) Again, here Pam tells the story so well that you can easily picture one of Hubble’s beautiful pictures of a galaxy of nebula.
“Above the Clouds,” another one of my favorites, is written in 6/8 time which always gives the listener a sense of movement. You truly can imagine yourself dancing above the clouds when listening to this piece.
I could comment on each and every track, but I recommend instead that you grab a copy of the album and experience “The Presence of Wonder” for yourself!
Seashells In My Pocket
Reviewed by Judson Hurd
It was a great pleasure to get the chance to review the new album “Seashells In My Pocket” by the new pianist/composer Pam Asberry. I had the pleasure of meeting the artist on the Enlightened Piano Radio Awards cruise in 2016. Pam is a wonderful piano teacher based in Atlanta and I am so happy she has composed a new album.
The album begins with “Cozumel Blue Waters” which is a delicate piece that transported me to a scene at a serene beach. The song is peaceful and in a major key that brings calm emotions. The artists writes simple but strong melodies that really create beautiful scenes that you can bring up in your imagination.
The next great piece I enjoyed was “Ocean Stars” . It is in a minor key with a melody with notes based on a pentatonic scale. It goes to a different theme that keeps the listener engaged and interested. I could definitely see this song being used in a Film or TV show! I love the voicings that she uses to create a different theme in the second part of the song. The piece changes different keys and this really shows mature composing skills. This is my favorite song on the album.
Another piece that really interested me was “Mysterious Caverns”. I love the way the chords and notes fall into each other. They really complement the sonic palette that Pam brings in describing the caverns and the ‘mystery’ behind them through her harmonic progressions. Well done!
This album was a really wonderful debut from Pam Asberry. It was a real pleasure to get something that is really an exciting start to an upcoming artist. I am really looking forward to the next album!
Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind
Reviewed By Cathy Oakes
Every composer’s easiest and most difficult project is their Christmas album. It’s easy because there are so many beautiful pieces from which to choose. It’s difficult because everyone else has done a Christmas CD and finding a way to be true to the piece while being creative and original is a major challenge. In Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind, Pam Asberry has accomplished both beautifully. She has chosen Christmas pieces from all over the world that are less often heard. She presents each one simply and delicately, while adding her own creative touch.
Ms. Asberry takes the art of composition to a whole new level as she paints pictures on the keyboard, leading the mind to see the sights and smell the wonderful scents of this beautiful season. She obviously has carefully researched each piece in order to perfectly capture their “personality” in the creative portraits she paints of these songs that have been heard and sung throughout the years.
In “Gesu Bambino” (one of my personal favorites), she begins with a folksy introduction. The melody of this piece rings beautifully above a left hand that reminds one of the rocking of a cradle. Her haunting presentation of the melody in “Sing We Now of Christmas” with the drone-like left hand captures the early origins of this carol perfectly. She moves through a short section of improvisation on the chord structure and returns to the simple presentation of the melody.
The Irish origins of “Wexford Carol” can be heard from the very beginning with the melody in the upper register, almost like an Irish flute, supported by the drone in the left hand, reminding one of bagpipes. Her unique, simple and wistful presentation of “White Christmas” is lovely and captures a dream-like quality. “Away in a Manger” begins with a variation of “Brahms’ Lullaby” and continues with a lullaby feeling that moves through creative chord structures, creating an altogether beautiful arrangement of this beloved carol.
“Over the River and Through the Woods” is my absolute favorite on this CD. Pam paints a river running throughout the piece. As I listen to this favorite holiday tune, I can feel the rocking of the sleigh, see the sun glistening on the river, feel the crisp air on my face and smell the smoke from fires burning brightly in the hearths of happy homes. It transports me back to wonderful family holidays spent with grandparents, parents and children basking in the glow of this wonderful season.
I love the simplicity of Ms. Asberry’s arrangement of “Bell Carol.” She allows the melody to ring. Her inclusion of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” fits perfectly in this piece. She moves flawlessly from piece to the other in this arrangement expressing the joy and celebration of Christmas, ending with a bold statement of the last phrase, “Peace on earth, good will to men!” The introduction to “In the Bleak Midwinter” perfectly sets the mood for this carol from the late 1800’s based on a poem by English poet Christina Rossetti. “March of the Kings” is Pam’s only variance from the otherwise peaceful mood of this album. She presents this piece in all the boldness of its origins in the Crusades of the 13th Century. I can almost see the pageantry of royal banners flying as the three kings made their way across the desert to bring their gifts to the newborn king.
The Austrian carol, “Still, Still, Still” describes the peace of the infant Jesus as he is sung to sleep by his mother, Mary. Ms. Asberry’s arrangement of this carol is so beautiful and peaceful – in perfect keeping with the carol. In “He Is Born,” one can feel the mood of celebration with its dance-like quality. “Come Let Us Anew” is a hymn written by Charles Wesley to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Pam concludes her CD with this much-loved hymn of celebration, which she has arranged beautifully to portray the joy of this blessed season.
Pam Asberry has created a beautiful album celebrating the Christmas season. It is creative, original and yet, true to the original carols. Her mastery of the piano and brilliant arrangements will bring joy to hearts of the listener. This is a must-have for those who love to celebrate this joyous season with beautiful music! It will certainly be one of my favorite additions to my collection of Christmas music. Beautifully and brilliantly done, Ms. Asberry!