DVD: An Evening with Ann Sweeten
Artist: Ann Sweeten
Contact: www.annsweeten.com

Live-at-the-St-GeorgeHaving recently written about Ann Sweeten’s excellent CD, Tapestries of Time, I was excited to receive her brand new live concert video entitled An Evening with Ann Sweeten: Live at the St. George. Hearing an artist on an audio recording is wonderful, but actually seeing them perform their music live on a DVD adds another whole dimension to the experience. As I mentioned in my review of her CD, Ann is an award-winning pianist and an official “Steinway Artist.” She is one of the most decorated pianists of the past decade, with 6 previous albums all ranking in the Top 5 NAR and ZMR Radio Reports, as well as being one of the most played modern instrumentalists in North America. And speaking of previous albums, I’ve also had the pleasure of writing about her earlier release In The Wake, which was my introduction to her beautiful music.


While her last few albums were co-produced by Grammy winning producer and Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, and featured a number of his top-notch studio musicians, on this concert performance Ann is flying solo. The DVD, which has been called: “the next best thing to being there!” offers 90 minutes of uninterrupted concert footage including intimate conversations with the audience – 20 original scores spanning Ann’s entire recording career (over 100 musical scores to date.) Her musical influences include jazz, new age, popular and theatre music as well as classical influences from the Romantic and Impressionist periods. In addition to Ann’s background as a composer, performer, and recording artist, she has also been a professional theatre actress, so is quite at home on the stage, sharing stories and anecdotes with her audience throughout the concert.



St.GeorgeIf I had to choose one word to describe Ann’s performance and the evening’s event it would be “elegant.” To begin with, the St. George in Staten Island, NY, is a magnificent gilded theatre built in 1929, and later restored to its original glory. The theatre has featured performances by major show business figures such as Diana Ross, Bill Cosby, Kathy Griffin, and many more. The grandeur of the venue was a perfect setting for the elegance of Ann Sweeten seated at a Steinway Concert Grand piano dressed in a stunning jeweled backless evening gown. But in addition to the visual splendor, the word elegant equally applies to her compositions, playing style, and on-stage persona, which was both highly professional and emanating creative expression with style and grace. Watching her in performance only deepened the appreciation for her musical artistry that I had developed in listening to her CD’s.


I also must comment on the professionalism of the filming of the event and the editing of the video. Multiple cameras were used which allowed for constantly changing views from many different angles with panning and zooming creating visual interest. Also adding intellectual interest were the previously mentioned anecdotes Ann shared between songs. In the introduction of a piece called “Looking Back,” Ann quoted from a poem she wrote about “time” – which incidentally is the focus of her recent CD release, Tapestries of Time.  I particularly liked the line, which referred to time as “the not so gentle leader on the leash of life.” Correspondingly, the music reflected this sentiment in its wistful reflection on memories and the passing of time.


In addition to “time,” another recurring theme in Ann’s music is the beauty of nature, as reflected in titles such as Live-at-The-St-George-NYC-1“Falling Leaves,” “Dawn On Red Mountain,” “October Sky,” “A Light Rain,” “Walking With The Wind,” and more. In the introduction to a piece called “Swans On The Susquehannah,” Ann talks about nature and the environment being a prime source of inspiration for her, and tells a lovely story about the creation of this graceful piece. There is a visual aspect to Ann’s music and it has been said that she has “an astounding ability to paint a vivid picture with notes alone.” In between songs, she entreats the audience to listen with their eyes closed and see if they can visualize the inspiration for this composition, which she described to them. I enjoyed hearing that description and then allowing my mind’s eye to conjure those images as I listened.


Many of the pieces had that effect on me, although one in particular called “Endless Sky,” was particularly evocative with its spacious and expansive chord structure accented by rolling arpeggios. I also liked the poetically visual imagery in Ann’s description of a track called “Rainbow Moon,” which was inspired by a sight she witnessed while driving through Vermont that she described as “spectral colors shimmering through a veil of vapor around the moon.” This stunning composition brought the evening to a close, leaving the audience with a warm glow that no doubt lingered as they filed into the lobby to meet and greet with the artist in person. An Evening with Ann Sweeten is a rare opportunity to see and hear one of today’s finest pianists, present her original compositions in a magnificent setting.



Live-at-The-St-George-NYC-3While the viewer of this DVD will see nothing but a flawless concert of exquisite music performed by a consummate musician, a number of factors behind the scenes led to this event almost not happening. For one, in the month’s preceding the event, Ann was seriously injured in an accident, and by the time of the concert was barely able to walk. But as the old adage says: “the show must go on,” and the professional that Ann is, she overcame this adversity and performed admirably, without anyone having the slightest hint of the discomfort she was in. The other factor was that, at the time, the New York area was still reeling from the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, which had just happened. Ann addressed this issue eloquently, and I’ll leave the last words to her: “It takes special courage to surmount all that and I guess it comes down to the triumph of the will of the human spirit. I find it’s particularly amazing that in the wake of all the devastation that hit Staten Island, and the surrounding areas of New York City, the St. George stands unmarked. Perhaps, as with the will of the human spirit, it is a symbol of the power of Art, in all its forms, that Creativity and the need for self-expression will triumph and never be lost to a civilization. Art has the power to heal and I hope that tonight’s concert may be helpful in that regard.”