The album, “The Lightness of Dark,” is somewhat of a departure for composer/pianist/vocalist, Fiona Joy Hawkins, who is best known for her romantic, melodic songs and lush arrangements. A prolific composer, she has always been interested in creating music that evokes images, emotions and tells stories. Here we have the story of “out of the darkness emerges the light.”
Of course, we all experience loss in this lifetime as part of life. This album, “The Lightness of Dark,” a collaboration between Fiona Joy and Rebecca Daniel, invites the listener to “find the beauty in the sadness of loss, mourning, and move forward in a positive way.” This is a refreshing approach to an emotional subject matter and an excellent, interesting album.
Rebecca Daniel is a composer/violinist/vocalist/pianist. Rebecca started playing the violin at the age of four and sang professionally in opera at the age of nine. She studied violin and chamber music with Emanuel Hurwitz and the Amadeus String Quartet at The Royal Academy of Music. Rebecca has collaborated with Fiona Joy Hawkins, writing, performing and recording for over a decade.
The Kanimbla Quartet is Rebecca Daniel on violin 1, Elizabeth Cooney on violin 2, Sam Harding on viola, and Trish McMeekin on cello. This combination of strings adds a very nice richness and depth to the album.
“The Lightness of Dark” is eleven tracks and about one hour. The album opens with “Heavenly Voices,” written by Rebecca Daniel. The track features The Kanimbla Quartet, Rebecca on organ (as a tribute to the late Rick Wright, keyboard player for Pink Floyd), with Fiona Joy on piano, and both Rebecca and Fiona Joy singing wordless vocals. It’s a strong beginning, effectively setting the tone for the rest of the album and its theme.
A flowing, evocative piano solo by Fiona Joy, follows as, “Ghosts Insanity Angels.” She effectively captures the emotions that accompany and persist throughout the grieving process, and beyond. Beautiful.
“Elegy” is a plaintive piece written by Rebecca in memory of her father. Fiona’s piano performance is truly graceful and appropriately moody. Rebecca’s violin speaks directly to our hearts. The emotions of grief are perfectly conveyed here by both women. Very nicely done.
The sensitively, gently performed, “Lake of Contemplation” is just beautiful, melodic, and a favorite. This is where we look back after the storm of grief has passed, the full lake of flowing tears has subsided, and we are able to reflect from a fresh and calmer perspective. The track, written by Fiona Joy, features her excellent piano performance, meshing so harmoniously with Rebecca’s superb violin performance, along with the mellow strings of the Kanimbla Quartet.
A quote by Nick Cave included in the liner notes says, “Grief and love are forever intertwined… like love, grief is non-negotiable.” It’s true. The song, “Interwoven Threads of Chance,” is written by Rebecca Daniel and features again the Kanimbla Quartet, with viola as a highlight. This has a somewhat suspenseful, cinematic vibe to it.
“Sugar Plum Ghost” is written by Fiona Joy. This song was inspired by “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker pas de deux” ballet. The track features Fiona Joy on piano, Rebecca Daniel on violin, and the voices of both women in ethereal harmony. I think it’s brilliant on many levels.
The almost eleven-minute title track, “Lightness of Dark,” was written by Rebecca Daniel. Expressive, emotional, and with a unique beauty, here we are invited to explore the emptiness we feel in loss, combined with the bittersweet beauty contained in sadness and grief.
“The Bit in the Middle” was written by Fiona Joy and along with her piano performance, features the cello of Trish McMeekin, along with Rebecca’s violin. Great piano here. The song explores the “bit in the middle” of what happens before we arrive here on the planet and after we leave. Where do we go? Somewhere in the middle, perhaps.
Perfectly paced to embody the empty spaces left by someone who has departed, “Empty Moments” is quiet and contemplative. If these empty spaces leave a gaping hole in our souls, then there is always a way for light to get in, right? This is emotionally stirring.
For those that remain here after someone has departed, we find there is a “Necessity for the Mundane.” We must carry on with our earthly lives. In a switch-up, this track features Rebecca on piano with pretty, wordless vocals by Fiona Joy. Through the cadence of the piano, we can feel ourselves here, grounded, hearts beating, and walking the path of life. Carry on.
The album winds down with “Finding the Way Out.” This is like a Celtic dance in celebration of the joy of life. Rebecca’s violin is stellar here, as is Fiona’s flowing piano. It’s the completely perfect way out and into the light. And we are reminded, without the darkness, there is no light, and in any darkness there IS light.
Get “The Lightness of Dark” here: https://littlehartleymusic.com.au/ or wherever music is sold or streamed.
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Beth Ann Hilton
The B Company