Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Album Review: Cantum Laudus by Greg Starr

Cantum Laudus (subtitled Songs of Praise) is a collection of fourteen timeless hymns dating back to the middle-ages by pianist-composer Greg Starr. Released on Quiet Rain Music, these inspirational passages are intended to sooth, relax and bring comfort to one’s spirit. Rendered entirely on solo piano, roughly half of the compositions date back to the 1800s, with the earliest piece in the collection dating all the way back to circa 530-598 in Ireland.

The album opens with a solo piano rendition of an English folk song from the 1600’s titled “Royal Oak (All Things Bright and Beautiful)”. Led by a flowing and radiant melody, the piece conveys the warmth and optimism of a clear-blue day, as the sun’s rays reflect upon a pastoral landscape. It’s one in a handful of more celebratory and lively pieces on the album, which are interspersed with more lulling and slower-placed numbers such as “Duke Street”, “Nicaea” and “The Call”. Also included on the album is the widely popular “Jesus Loves Me”, a piece that was originally written in 1861. Here Greg lends a waltzing, almost bluesy touch to this classic hymn, which has long brought much peace and comfort to many children and churchgoers for more than a century-and-a-half. One of my favorite hymns on the album is “Nettleton (Come Thou Fount)”, which dates back to 1825. Initially opening with ringing droplets in high register notes, the composition soon gives way to a gentle and inspirational melody that brings images to mind of a rural countryside. “Bunessan (Morning Has Broken)” is another one of my favorites – a traditional Gaelic melody that was first published in Lachlan Macbean’s “Songs and Hymns of the Gael” in 1888. Intervals of suspended notes help to carefully move the composition along, as its lower register keys exude a definitively calming mood. However, I ultimately found the album’s pinnacle moment on the second-to-last track, which is aptly titled “Wondrous Love (What Wondrous Love Is This)”. This heavenly hymn bodes a majestic yet perfectly understated quality, seeming to unfold in slow motion like that of a delicate flower blooming. Originally collected by W. Walker and published in “Southern Harmony” in 1835, the author of this beautifully mysterious composition serendipitously remains unknown.

While listening to this album it’s easy to imagine one playing these songs on the stage of an old stained-glass chapel, with Greg’s piano exuding a rich and lovely tone throughout its elegant passages. Sure to inspire many listeners with peace, comfort, joy and hope, Cantum Laudus is especially recommended for those who enjoy both soothing solo piano and sacred instrumental music. ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available on Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

Review originally posted in Journeyscapes Radio on 08/24/16.