Album: Skipping On Daisies
Artist: Christopher Boscole
When it comes to the music of pianist/composer Christopher Boscole the one thing I’ve come to expect is the unexpected. This is the third album from him that I’ve had the pleasure of writing about, and each one has a bit of a different focus or flavor. The first one, Floating On A Melody, back in 2012 was an impressionistic contemporary instrumental album that reflected Christopher’s passion for sailing. The next one in 2014, A New Age Of Classical Piano, as the title alludes to, was primarily interpretations of works by classical composers such as Debussy, Satie, Chopin, and more. On this latest release, Skipping On Daisies, Christopher goes for a more light-hearted feel, which he describes as “solo piano compositions that are happy, lyrical, magical, and dreaming, reminiscent of new age and neoclassical mysticism.” (For more information about Christopher’s musical history, please refer to the previous feature articles mentioned above.)
Part of the influence for the focus of this album derives from Christopher’s surroundings. In our interview I asked him about the inspiration for this album, to which he replied: “Where I live now on Kauai (Hawaii) is such a cheery and laid-back place, it has rubbed off on this album as the music seems happier then my previous more introspective releases.” Christopher goes on to say: “This album was recorded in my home studio on Kauai, on a 9′ Steinway concert grand piano that had belonged to the Honolulu Symphony some years before I purchased it used, and I then had it refurbished back to recording quality. There lives on a history in this instrument of the many fine world-renowned pianists that have played on it. Now I have brought this old concert grand into a remote bungalow in the forest with on-location recording gear. If one listens very carefully they might hear the jungle noises outside my door: birds, crickets and wild chickens in the background which my post production mastering engineer Joe Bongiorno at Piano Haven miraculously managed to mostly remove! I am now thinking that I will instead maybe feature those sounds on my next CD!” Incidentally, Joe Bongiorno has become one of the “go-to” recording and mastering engineers for piano artists.
On a related note, I found Christopher’s answer to my question about his influences most interesting: “I would say that most directly the quality of the instrument itself influences how and what I play on a daily basis. I am motivated by the sound and the immense beauty of this instrument, where less sounds like more. However, I am constantly tuning and tweaking the piano daily to keep it sounding as perfect as possible, and the humid weather here doesn’t help. This can consume the first hour every day of time at the piano.”
So lets draw back the curtains and let the sun shine in as we delve into the tracks on the album. Opening with the title song, the mood is indeed quite effulgent, radiating warmth and joy, drawing the listener into Christopher’s tropical paradise. The melody is simple yet catchy and seems to be more about creating an atmosphere than dazzling with technique or frills. But I’d imagine that it would be difficult to not be in a cheerful space after listening to this uplifting tune. The next song, “Suite Wonder,” has a quieter, more reflective feel portraying a sense of innocence and awe that is quite endearing. Following along these lines, the next two songs reflect on child-like themes. The first, “Three Fairies,” is a bit more pensive with a cinematic air to it, while “Toy Bells” has a lively sparkling quality that reminded me a bit of a Christmas carol.
The only non-original composition on the album is an arrangement by Christopher entitled “Variation On Chopin Nocturne.” For me, a few instrumental phrases in this piece brought to mind the 1967 baroque rock classic “Whiter Shade Of Pale,” by Procol Harum. But it was nice to hear this facet of Christopher’s musical spectrum reflected in contrast to his original compositions. In an interesting anecdote about this song, Christopher shared: “I didn’t intend for this to be anything at the time, I was just doing a test recording after tuning the piano. This is first lesson to recording, don’t have any expectations. So much beautiful music is lost because the recorder is not running…fortunately it was this time.”
Although there are no lyrics on these purely instrumental compositions, a number of universal and spiritual themes are portrayed in titles like: “Prayer Of Hope,” “Universe,” “Princess Of Peace,” “Wonder Suite,” and “Procession Of The Angels.” One of my favorites on the album was “Prayer Of Hope,” which is absolutely gorgeous and inspiring as well. According to Christopher,” This is a song I wrote for use as meditation time at church. I have enjoyed performing for religious services for many years and found hope and faith in the community spirit of music.”
One of the things I find fascinating about Christopher is that while he is well versed in classical music composition, he is also quite adept at improvisation, and “Universe” is an excellent example of that with a bit of a new age music feel. In his words: “This is an improvisation that travels to another place in the universe, revealing the vast nature of the beyond.” There is a yin-yang balance in the density of his notes on the keyboard, clustered like stars in the center of the Milky Way, and the spacious feeling the song evokes.
“Princess Of Peace” is a “sister” song to one of Christopher’s previous compositions, “Princess Taiping” on his Inner Voyages album. They both contain elements of that familiar oriental sounding pentatonic scale in their melodies and harmonies. According to Christopher, “It is a call for peace to the world. Are we listening?” If the title of “Wonder Suite” sounds somewhat familiar that is because it is an alternate version of track 2 “Suite Wonder.” Here Christopher describes the difference: “’Suite Wonder,’ an early version of this song idea, is slow and spacious. The later version, track 10 ‘Wonder Suite,’ is more upbeat with an expanded harmonic progression on the bridge section. I liked each take so much I decided to feature them both!” I like them both very much as well.
Drawing on the idea of the environment influencing his playing, Christopher shared in our interview about a track called “Raindrops In A Minor.” In his words: “This is an improvisation that poured forth as it expands upon the simple first drops into showers of notes in different polyrhythms. Here on Kauai, sometimes it really rains hard! And so as the rain got heavier, so my playing got more intense, matching the downpour cascading outside. Then all of a sudden, it lightens up, and we are back into the ethereal liquid sunshine of tinkling piano notes leading to a classical ending in minor key as the sky darkens again with more rain clouds foreshadowed on the horizon.” Reading this description before added a more visceral dimension to the listening experience.
In the aftermath of the storm, the spiritual lightness of “Procession Of The Angels,” offers emotional refuge in its lofty melody. And in keeping with the theme of the album, the final song is the appropriately titled, “Be Happy,” which portrays a “land of make believe” leading to a peaceful resting place in the upper registers of the piano. Perfect!
The more I hear of Christopher Boscole’s music, the more impressed I am with his versatility and expressiveness. Christopher has a remarkable talent for translating moods and environments into music. The ability to shift between classical compositions and pure improvisation, while being so fluent in each, is something that makes Christopher stand out in the popular field of solo piano artists. Skipping On Daisies is a luminous album that brings all of Christopher’s diverse talents to bear in a light-hearted and uplifting listening experience.
Nature photos in this article by Christopher Boscole.
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