Bill Douglas's most beloved recording and for good reason. Classic poems by W.B. Yeats, William Blake, Robert Burns, and Alfred Graves are set into lush sonic images of the greenscapes of Ireland, Scotland, and England. A stunning album, with its British Isles source material, sumptuous harmonies, and gorgeous, lyrical melodies, the mind floats gently across these natural greenscapes in their greatest serenity. But these are no mere landscapes. Douglas has fitted his vast experience in both jazz and classical music to that great heritage and the poetry of those who have lived and felt those scenes. Two-thirds of this collection is set to some of the greatest poetry of the English-speaking peoples, while the remainder are instrumental settings of lyrical, melodic invention. The set opens and closes with the title piece, a choral version of the traditional Gaelic blessing, a kind of litany wishing for the recipient the deep peace of "running waves," "flowing air," "quiet air," "shining stars" and "the gentle night." (A solo vocal version appeared on Douglas' Hearts of Space debut, Jewel Lake, in 1988.)
The other works include Robert Burns' poem "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton," William Blake's "Piping Down the Valleys Wild," "The Voices of Children." and "O Earth, O Earth, Return" (his derivation of the Latin prayer Dona Nobis Pacem). "I love poetry almost as much as music," confesses Douglas, "and it is particularly satisfying for me to present these musical settings of some of my favorite poems. For me, these poems express the utmost tenderness, purity, joy and poignancy." The recording features the Ars Nova Singers, under the direction of Thomas Morgan. Douglas accompanies the choral settings, playing synthesizers, piano and bassoon.
Of Deep Peace, Douglas adds, "I wanted to write the most beautiful melodies that I could, so for inspiration I went to one of the great melodic traditions in the world, the British Isles folk music tradition." It's precisely this inspiration, combined with the lush influence of the Renaissance choral music tradition, that gives Deep Peace its unique beauty.
This recording, Douglas' first for Tala Records, is a major departure from his vast collection on the Hearts of Space label. Here, Douglas offers up some of his own jazz, funk and world beat influences, while still remaining compositionally rooted in the Western classical tradition. This eclectic set is fusion music at its best.
In this unique recording, the soulful sounds of Indian tabla merge seamlessly with the uplifting melodies of the piano and the deep groove of bass and drum. From lyrical ballads to world groove to J.S. Bach, this unique collaboration traverses a diverse soundscape which touches the spirit of creativity. In addition to the compositional and piano genius of Douglas, the recording includes the rich and heartfelt tabla playing of Ty Burhoe. They are joined by the brilliant bass playing of Kai Eckhardt and the prolific talent of Steve Smith on drum set.
From the African-influenced, groove-based "Jubilation" to the smoothly syncopated Latin gem, "Rio", this record has something for everyone. It even includes a grooving, modern rap-style number, paying homage to the Indian classical tradition with Douglas's signature Vocal Rhythm Etudes, compositions he created to help his students learn modern rhythms. It's in the minimalistic "Tara" however, that Douglas' brilliance really shines. The musicians interpret one his most well-known lyrical pieces, the bass and tabla adding depth and groove to this blues form beauty.
Designed by Grammy Award winning designer, Christian Calabro, the book format packaging itself is a piece of art.
"Stepping Stones," Bill Douglas' twelfth recording on the Hearts of Space label is probably his most personal and intimate yet. The set is comprised completely of solo piano pieces and explores a wide range of tempos of beautifully written originals along with an interpretation of two of Douglas' favorite Beatles' songs: "Fool on the Hill" and "Julia."
This collection features intimate, solo piano arrangements of some of Bill's most beloved compositions, such as "Elegy", "In Lovely Blue", "Karuna" and "Leap!". It also includes new pieces, most notably the lush, textural "Home", and "Prelude", a beautiful and poignant, classically-influenced gem. Not to be missed is Bill's gorgeous arrangement of a medley of two Beatles tunes, "Fool on the Hill" and "Julia".
Bill Douglas is an internationally acclaimed musician whose fans span all generations and musical tastes. His compositions have been played by major orchestras such as the Pittsburgh Symphony, The London Symphony and the Tokyo Philharmonic. In 1994, SOCAN (Canadian equivalent of BMI or ASCAP) presented him with their classical composer of the year award. As a jazz pianist, Bill has toured and recorded with vibraphonist Gary Burton and bassist Eddie Gomez.
Homeland: A Prayer for Peace 2002, Hearts of Space
Joined again by The Ars Nova Singers, Homeland - A Prayer For Peace celebrates the beauty of the American folk song tradition and offers a prayer for peace. It includes classic American folk songs such as Shenandoah, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child and The Water is Wide beautifully arranged for chorus. In addition, Bill presents new instrumental pieces including Prayer for Peace and the piano solo Blue Sky, White Rock. Once again, this 13-song collection captures the very best of his signature choral and instrumental writing and arranging.
May we move beyond the violence of September 11th
and the escalation of violence throughout the world,
May we recognize that all human beings are our brothers and sisters,
May we realize we all come from a common source
and we all share the same planetary homeland.
May we move towards more compassion
and less suffering in this world. -- Bill Douglas
Feast with Bill Douglas and Friends 2001, BIS Northern Lights
This is a recording of the Caliban Quartet (bassoonists) that features five of Bill's compositions arranged for four bassoons, piano and percussion, including one of his all-time most performed classics, Feast. In addition to contributing the compositions, Bill performs on piano. Included in this eclectic and fun set, in addition to the title song Feast, are Highland, Jewel, Funk for Spain and one of Bill's most underrated hits, Banana.
After 2000's "best of" compilation, Eternity's Sunrise, Bill Douglas is back with this contemporary choral/instrumental gem. Once again the Ars Nova Singers deliver touching and inspiring harmonies, supported by Bill's sensitive piano playing and brilliant melodic arrangements for oboe, bassoon, clarinet and flute. In a career marked by extraordinarily beautiful and popular music, A Place Called Morning may be his most appealing work yet. In addition to new settings of poetry, such as A Place Called Morning (poetry by Emily Dickinson) and Rise Up, My Love (from The Song of Solomon), this collection also includes choral arrangements of two previously released Douglas pieces, The Lake Isle of Innisfree (poetry by W.B. Yeats) and Tara.
Included as well are sensitivel instrumental compositions such as Forest Hymn and Sadness of the Moon, both of which showcase Douglas' unique ability to evoke the most tender and poignant qualities of the human experience. All in all, this 13-song collection delivers some of the richest, most expressive music being written today.
Eternity's Sunrise celebrates the melodic gifts of Bill Douglas, collecting fourteen of his most popular compositions from six of his previous Hearts of Space recordings. Douglas' uniquely orchestrated music mixes chorus, woodwinds and percussion with his own piano, synthesizers and bassoon. The collection also features the radiant ensemble voices of the Ars Nova Singers, with lyrics drawn from English classical poets: William Blake, Robbie Burns, and Emily Dickinson.
Douglas writes, "I'd like to express my appreciation for the great masters of poetry who have contributed so much to my Hearts of Space recordings: Yeats, Shakespeare, Blake, Dickinson, Shelley, Burns, Tennyson, Thomas Traherne and Alfred Graves. The simple but profound verses of William Blake and Emily Dickinson are endless sources of inspiration. 'I Shall Not Live in Vain' is one of the most beautiful expressions of compassion that I have encountered."
"The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying." - Alfred Lord Tennyson
Earth Prayer, Bill Douglas' seventh album on the Hearts of Space label, once again features the Ars Nova Singers, (conducted by Thomas Morgan), whose radiant vocals graced Bill's two previous recordings. Earth Prayer joins his signature melodic gifts and poignant instrumentals in a heartfelt tribute to our planet. In addition to Tennyson, there are settings of poetry by W.B. Yeats (The Minstrel's Wish), Percy Bysshe Shelley (Magic Circle) and Shakespeare (As Dreams Are Made Of). New instrumental pieces round out this collection most notably the rousing, uplifting Spirit Dance, the gentle, tender In Lovely Blue and the quiet, folk-like Iona.
On Songs of Earth and Sky, Bill Douglas follows the musical path that he pioneered on his superb Deep Peace. Working once again with the Ars Nova Singers, Douglas creates choral settings for the most beloved poems from the English Classical poetic tradition. "If you liked the original, you're going to love the sequel." While it's rare that this sentiment is expressed about a favorite book or movie, it's a safe bet that fans of last year's Deep Peace will be enthralled by Douglas' new album Songs of Earth and Sky. Returning for this release are the Ars Nova Singers, some of the world's greatest poets, intricate, lovely, and spirited melodies, and superb ensemble playing. What's added is an air of earthiness and celebration to complement the depth of thought and feeling inherent in the immortal words of the poets.
"I am the daughter of earth and water,
And the nursling of the sky;
I pass through the pores of the oceans and shores;
I change, but cannot die."
These lines from Percy Bysshe Shelley's "The Cloud" are a perfect illustration of the Earth and Sky dichotomy. Also represented in the choral pieces are Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Wind of the Western Sea," William Blake's "The Echoing Green," Robert Burns' immortal "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose," Shakespeare's "Willow," and Douglas' version of "I Shall Not Live in Vain," which combines verse from both Emily Dickinson and Blake to excellent effect.
The choral arrangements are performed flawlessly by the Colorado-based Ars Nova Singers, conducted by Thomas Morgan, and hearken back to the works of Renaissance-era composers for whom choral arranging was a way of life. Which is not at all surprising, given that Douglas describes his choral composition technique as being most influenced by Josquin de Prez (1440-1521),Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), and William Byrd (1543-1623).
Douglas himself deftly handles piano, synthesizer and bassoon chores, while sundry woodwinds take their turns with melody. But the album also features solo piano on the Bach-like "Autumn Song," and for anyone who enjoys a good Celtic romp, there's "Feast" and "Balyshannon," manual dexterity for flute and violin (nee fiddle). In short, like Deep Peace before it, Songs of Earth and Sky combines the words of the great Western poets with the melodic gifts of a celebrated contemporary tunesmith to a brilliant end.
Jewel Lake, Bill Douglas' first album on the Hearts of Space label, showcased his warm, heart-filling brand of lyricism. "From the opening bars," wrote a critic for Keyboard, "It's obvious that Bill Douglas is endowed with a real gift for creating superb, unforgettable melodies." His subsequent HOS releases, Cantilena (1990) and Kaleidoscope (1993), received similar accolades for a unique combination of flowing, Celtic-inspired melodies enhanced by subtle classical, jazz, and world music influences. He contributed four of the fourteen tracks on Celtic Twilight, Hearts of Space's 1994-95 bestseller - nearly a third of the album.
On Circle of Moons, the composer reaches a new level of refinement in thirteen enchanting, gently romantic tunes. "Heaven in a Wild Flower", the opening track, is a choral setting of William Blake poetry and reveals his deep-seated love for the transcendent melodies and sumptuous harmonies of Renaissance sacred music. "This era, especially as it relates to the English choral tradition, is my favorite," says the artist. "That's what I listen to for the sheer pleasure of it; pieces by William Byrd, Josquin de Prez and Thomas Tallis really inspire me." Performed by the Boulder, Colorado-based Ars Nova Singers conducted by Thomas Morgan, the piece brings some of Blake's most evocative images to life with sublime melodies and emotional harmonies that combine the exultant ideals of the Renaissance with Douglas' poignant style of modern romanticism. The music creates an overall feeling of ecstacy that echoes through the room long after the vocalists sound their final chord.
Further on in Circle of Moons, the Canadian-born composer again returns to the rich traditions of his Scotch-Irish ancestors. "I'm still very moved by Celtic music - not only its joyousness, but also the poignancy of the melodies." A host of world class performers on clarinet, English horn, flute, cello and percussion, join Douglas' dreamy synthesizer textures, eloquent bassoon melodies, and expressive piano lines, which place his orchestrations firmly in the 20th century. Still, the music dissolves the fabric of time, transporting listeners back to a simpler, more innocent era filled with fantastic legends and magical landscapes.
This 12-song collection by Bill Douglas represents an extension from his first two Hearts of Space recordings. While his trademark lyricism remains, he's blended in an array of gleaming highlights from Celtic, North African, West African, Indian, and South American music and instruments.
The album includes more prominent piano work as well the use of electric bass throughout by Dean Peer (who literally wrote the book on bass harmonics), and solid, sensitive kit drumming by Larry Thompson on several tunes. Returning musicians include classical symphony players Bil Jackson on clarinet, David Lockington on cello and Anne Stackpole on flute. Geoff Johns also returns to anchor the hand drum section, along with the addition of Ty Burhoe on tabla and additional frame drums.
Former Windham Hill and Celestial Harmonies vocalist THERESE SHROEDER-SHEKER contributes vocals on an angelic arrangement of W.B.Yeats's famous poem "Song of the Wandering Aengus," here titled "Golden Apples of the Sun."
In musicology, Cantilena means "a vocal or instrumental melody of a highly lyrical rather than a dramatic or viruoso nature," or "a slow, smooth, melodious style of vocal writing." You couldn't find a more fitting description of Bill Douglas' music. At the heart of his musical resume is a gift for singing, lyrical melodies in the best tradition of Classical, Western folk and vocal music. Douglas' first Hearts of Space release (Jewel Lake, 1988) exposed such a rich vein of melody, song, and rhythm that one album scarcely touched the highpoints. So Cantilena is in many ways an extension of the mix of spirited Celtic dances, poignant ballads, modal folksongs, and contemplative melodies that Jewel Lake brought to appreciative audiences across the U.S., Canada, and Spain - where it became a surprise hit after national airplay.
These twelve songs span a range that extends from simple folk melodies to deeply emotional music of near religious profundity. In addition to all the keyboards, Douglas plays bassoon on many tracks throughout the recording. Jewel Lake vocalist Jane Grimes, flautist Anne Stackpole, and percussionist Geoff Johns return, with new additions Bil Jackson on clarinet, David Lockington on cello, plus additional percussion from Chris Lee and John Galm.
Bill Douglas' initial Hearts of Space release, Jewel Lake, reflects ethnic, classical and ambient elements in its serene, 14-track arc. Gentle ballads like the title track and "Angelico" meld with Celtic-inspired pieces like "Highland," "Killarney" and "Deep Peace," which features vocals by soprano Jane Grimes. "Karuna"'s dramatic, Moorish atmosphere may explain why Jewel Lake found surprising popularity in Spain. This recording, filled with poignant lyricism contains some of Douglas' most popular tunes. It is here where we first encounter Douglas' most popular composition in his long career, Deep Peace, written on the occasion of his father's 70th birthday. The beautiful blessing is presented on this recording in it's simplest form.
Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace to you.