After her successful debut album in 2019, the phenomenal, “Red Sky Prairie,” I couldn’t help but wonder what would come next for the very musically gifted, award-winning artist, Sharon Fendrich. “Sapphire Oak,” her new album, is 51 minutes, 11 tracks of glorious music, even better – if that’s possible – than her debut.
The oak tree is recognized all around the world as a symbol of strength, endurance, and wisdom. I believe Sharon’s interest in the oak has a deeper significance than one might see just on the surface. Sapphires are known to calm the mind, strengthen the intuition and help with spiritual insight and clarity. In the ancient worlds, sapphires signified protection, faith, and hope.
For us all, in my opinion, the theme of “Sapphire Oak,” speaks to remembering our roots – not only to the “Earth,” but to the “Sky” as well. Too, I believe we are invited here to gather our stamina and fortitude, knowing beyond any doubt, that we have the strength to make it through anything. We do. If we remember and embrace our ancient selves and who we are, we can stand strong through whatever storms come our way, individually and as a collective. We can.
Now, let’s get to the music here. Dramatic, dynamic, cinematic, flowing, epic, with some of it having a Celtic feel, this is not what we’d call traditional “New Age” music. If we have to try to define it, perhaps “classical crossover” does it, but even that is not truly it.
The album opens with the very beautiful “Sea of Oaks.” I love the plucky orchestration here, the flow of the strings, the ethereal vocal harmonies. All this brings immediate calmness to the soul without effort.
Following is the equally lovely, “Leaves of Glory.” Exquisite strings, pretty piano melody, and awesome, cinematic orchestral build, take us deeper into the “forest.” This is gorgeous to say the least.
I believe “The Grove at Dodona” refers to an ancient oracle in Greece, which was considered second only to the Oracle of Delphi in status and importance. There, priests and priestesses determined what directions and actions people (seekers) should take, based upon the rustling and movement of oak leaves in this sacred grove. The heavenly vocals in this piece are utterly spectacular, as is the rest. Sharon has perfectly captured the mystique of “The Grove,” in every single aspect, and we can literally feel it through the music. It’s as if we are actually there.
Regarding, “Runic Roots,” I can’t say this any better in explanation, so here is from the liner notes: The chanted word is “Ansuz,” the “a” rune of the Elder Futhark (the eldest form of the runic alphabets). As the Anglo-Frisian languages developed, the “Ansuz” rune was split into three runes – one of which became “Āc,” which led to the word “oak.” “Ansuz” is commonly associated with breath, sound, the voice of the universe, music, the power of hypnosis, inspiration, and listening to one’s own inner voice.
The music is highly ethereal on this piece and also particularly on, “Call of the Runes,” which features Sharon’s utterly heavenly vocal. Her voice seems to be coming from a completely otherworldly place. Amazing, truly.
Suffice it to say, you will most assuredly want to get the entire album, but here are a few additional highlights: The title track is epic and rejuvenating to the spirit, with an unforgettable lead vocal. As well, the chorus is sung in a language Sharon invented. Yes, you read that correctly. Isn’t that astounding? The creative genius of Sharon Fendrich seems to know no bounds.
“Under Her Canopy” is rather like an intricate, soul-soothing lullaby. Beautiful arrangements across the board, and the vocal is again, outstanding, translated into Irish from the English. The vocal harmonies are exquisite.
The album – a place of rest and refuge for us all – closes out with “Carry the Oak,” which is wide, sweeping, and expansive, with a lovely Celtic vibe. Sophisticated arrangements and a gorgeous melody line stay with us long after the music stops. I think this from Sharon’s liner notes sums it all up better than I ever could:
“I have been here before, thousands of times, as have you. We have stood here together, and we have stood alone. This place is the center, from where all life comes and all death rests. This is the Sapphire Oak. “
Get it/listen here: https://sharonfendrich.com/
Composer, Producer, Arranger: Sharon Fendrich
Orchestration, Contractor: Joaquin Garcia
Recording Engineer: Katharina Nuttall
Mixing Engineer: Linus Andersson
Mastering Engineer: Bruce Maddocks
Orchestra: Symphonica Recording
Conductor: Vladimir Martinka
Vocals: Sharon Fendrich, Talia Valdez
Violin: Lisa Rydberg
Cello: Klara Källström
Harp: Stina Hellberg Agback
Irish Whistle: Ian Harper
LAZZ Promotions: Ed & Stacey Bonk
E-mail: [email protected]