In a career which has produced some elegant, gracious and beautiful piano solos, this latest release from Anne Sweeten, Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow, outdoes her previous albums by far, as each of the pieces contains an element ethereal emotion; delicate, fragile, filled with love and immense hope.
Born as a work after a third life threatening diagnosis, created during a time when Ann Sweeten was asking WHY: Why her, why three times to the brink? She, like so many before and after her, eventually came to terms with the fact that there is no reason, this is simply her life pathway.
The words she wrote during that initial time of acceptance introduce the work, Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow. Flawless in their simplicity, perfect in a salute to life and living, the ten pieces composed pay tribute to hope, resilience and the appreciation of the small, and yet perfect moments of life there to be enjoyed in the moment, to be savoured and then enjoyed once again as memories.
Introducing the album is Across the Midnight Skies, a gentle reflective composition that entrances, able to be related too as there are times in life when gazing out over the Midnight Skies, seeking inspiration, solace and hope brings a certain kind of peace and acceptance.
Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow is a most intimate piece,encapsulating all the many aspects of the four words in the title. Before today, memories were made, beyond tomorrow is still unformed; fresh, new and full of hope. This emotion has been perfectly captured in the delicate notes of the introduction. When joined by Eugene Friesen on ‘Cello and Nancy Rumble on English Horn the piece has a poignancy about it that could be considered as the hallmark of Ann Sweetens undoubted talent, not just as a pianist but also as a composer. Pure poetry in music.
Beyond the Clouds is a slightly broody piece; a peice of heavy skies, dark moments with eventual rays of sunshine finding their way amongst the dark clouds. Interestingly Philadelphia 22 is far more driven, precise in its execution, before it drifts slowly into a more mellow moment. Once again Sweeten is joined by Nancy Rumbel on English Horn, Eugene Friesen on ‘Cello with Charlie Bisharat on violin, adding his own particular magic to this classic piece, which softens the initial, almost clinical notes of the piano.
There are two songs dedicated to her beloved dogs, Blackie Boo, Lullaby for Blackie Boo, and Shiloh. The liner notes have two pieces of poetry written as tributes, which should be read as the music that wraps around them is enjoyed.
On Through Winter Panes, Sweeten is joined by Premik Russell Tubbs on Soprano Saxophone adding a deep haunting richness to the song which is beauty personified.
Like Smoke Through A Keyhole could be considered as a euphemism for life in general terms. We are here for a given time, and Like Smoke Through A Keyhole, that time is ephemeral. As a final piece, where Sweeten is joined by Trisha Craig on Flute, it is delicate, once again reflective and yet full of hope and love, encompassing the beauty to be found in the so many small joys to be discovered in everyday life.
There is no way at all this album can be considered as anything but deeply emotive, as in this collection Ann Sweeten has placed her raw vulnerability on display, allowing the sorrow, sadness and eventual acceptance to flow through the blessed medium of her music.
“Life itself seems so fragile that I hold it like a wounded bird, so that it may grow well within my care and fly free again, carrying music on its wing.’ Ann Sweeten 2019.