Friday, March 18, 2016

Spotlight: Where Butterflies Dance by Ann Sweeten

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. ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album can also be purchased at Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

This review was originally published on Journeyscapes Radio on 03/18/16.