REVIEW by AURY MURRAY
Reflections - Katherine Ramseyer
Review by Aury Murray
The twelve compositions in Katherine Ramseyer’s CD Reflections represent a musical journey through life’s emotions, questions, spiritual growth and ultimate understanding of one’s purpose. Katherine’s performances have expressive variations in tempo, fine rubato, beautifully shaped musical lines, sensitive dynamic contrasts and excellent balance between the hands. Her outstanding piano skills are showcased throughout these expressive compositions. The instrumentalists who accompany the piano in some of the compositions are equally as talented.
The opening composition “Lament” begins in the Aeolian mode with a questioning descending two-note motif that musically suggests the words “how long?” The agitation increases as the whole notes transform into eight notes and later into sixteenth notes. The musical “uncertainty” continues until a modulation into A flat major in the section marked “Peacefully,” where the questioning is transformed into acceptance with “But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.” The conclusion “I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me” reiterates the descending motif of the opening and ends dramatically with descending sixteenth notes and a long final chord that musically depicts a confirmation of faith and belief.
This composition begins with a contemplative piano introduction followed by an ethereal melody performed on the glockenspiel. The searching begins in the piano part with the bass line in eighth notes portraying a driving urgency and anxiety. Midway through the composition, the tone of the music changes into a search of hope and wonder as the seeker begins to “search for me with all your heart.” This change is accomplished musically with the melody becoming lilting and Celtic sounding through the use of stylized ornaments. There is a return of material from the opening but with less anxiety with the addition of higher notes and more rubato at the end. The final two lines are very peaceful. The search is over.
This piece opens with a peaceful lyrical introduction in the key of E flat major. The melodic lines are spun out like gossamer threads. In the “moving forward” section, there are changes of rhythm that signify changes in life circumstances. As individuals we keep moving forward and growing spiritually. The return to the opening material ushers in a peaceful conclusion.
04 Letting Go
The key of G major is an appropriate choice for the jaunty opening melody. In the section “On eagles’ wings” the melody soars whereas in the “Battling” section the struggle to “let go and let God” is vividly portrayed in the music. A profound feeling of joy is expressed in the “With freedom” section through the dotted rhythms in the melody. The use of whole notes and dotted half notes in the melody in the final bars is an effective means of slowing the rhythm to bring this composition to a very expressive conclusion.
05 Singing in the Storm
This exquisite composition opens with a gentle piano introduction followed by a beautiful flute melody that is elegant in its simplicity. A sense of peace, calmness, and trust pervades the entire composition even in the “Agitato” section. The partnership between the flute and piano is superb with fine balance between the two instrumentalists as they match each other in the graceful shaping of the melodic lines, tempo changes and use of rubato.
06 In the Secret Place
The confidence of the introduction portrays the faith and belief that “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress.” The music continues with an overall sense of trust and security. The running sixteenth note passages convey an image of “dancing with joy.” With the return to the thematic material of the introduction and dancing sixteenth notes the music draws to a gentle conclusion.
The piano begins this composition with a musical reference to the well-known hymn “Great is thy Faithfulness” (words by Thomas Chisholm and music by William Runyan). The glockenspiel enters with a motif that musically represents the beauty of the Lord’s mercies and compassions that are “new every morning.” The listener is drawn into a sense of peace and comfort as the composition unfolds. Further musical references to the familiar hymn occur in mm. 51-53, mm. 70-73, and finally in mm. 121-125. The combination of musical fragments from a well-known old hymn with new material for the piano and glockenspiel is very emotionally powerful. It reinforces the truth that God’s faithful love endures forever.
08 Strong in Your Love
This composition which is an affirmation of faith, begins with a six bar introduction that musically illustrates “being rooted and grounded in love.” The music continues to unfold in a gentle lyrical passage that slowly grows in strength. The “Moving forward” section is filled with a joyful energy and exuberance particularly with the inclusion of the long trill beginning in m. 67. The fortissimo passage commencing in m. 75 illustrates “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ.” The piece progresses towards the end with use of material from earlier in the composition. This gives the listener a sense of having been on a journey of faith and finally arriving home.
This exquisite composition features a unique combination of piano, cello and oboe. The contrasting timbres of these three instruments allow the listener to either hear a particular instrumental line or the blend of instruments as they merge together to create a glorious entity. “Trusting” is a serenely uplifting and sublime statement of faith.
“Peace” is well suited to the key of A major as this key has been described as typifying “trust in the spirit of the divine.” The tender introduction in the left hand illustrates this trust in the statement “Peace I leave with you.” A soothing melody in the right hand enters softly and grows in intensity and complexity and then diminishes in volume into an ethereal pianissimo in mm. 38 and 39. The B section beginning at m. 40 becomes more energetic through the use of solid sixths in the melody followed by running sixteenth notes that are suddenly forte and later fade away to pianissimo sixteenths. The material of the A section returns in m. 82 with a gentle pianissimo that grows to a forte that diminishes as the music enters a higher register and fades away with a beautiful pianissimo rolled chord.
This composition begins in D flat major, a key that is often used to illustrate struggle and grief. With that in mind, the composer has written repeated right hand broken octaves marked “Under Your Wings” in the opening to illustrate a gentle urging to “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” The melody modulates to A flat major (another key often associated with sadness) and uses the same broken octave pattern. A return to D flat major introduces new melodic material in m. 53 that begins pianissimo and is a bridge to a more energetic and insistent passage beginning in m. 69. Here the music depicts “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” In m. 81 the melodic material is rhythmically slower and pianissimo to illustrate “for I am a meek and lowly of heart.” The A section material returns, marked “Under Your Wings” with broken octaves gently again reminding the listener to “Come unto me.” The composition draws to pianissimo conclusion to depict “for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”
12 Going Home (for Suzanne)
This wonderful composition for piano and violin is a joyful musical depiction of “Let not your heart be troubled.” The melody is in ABA form, and its Celtic folksong character remains in the listener’s ear long after the piece is completed. In the opening, the piano enters with the melody which is later repeated by the violin accompanied by a series of running eighth notes in the piano. The violin and piano play staccato notes together which adds to the sense of joyfulness because of faith. In the B section, marked “Passionately,” the piano and violin have a dialogue with each other, with the violin echoing the piano. In m. 120, the violin plays the melody a third higher than the piano creating a very effective harmony. In the coda, the violin plays the melody a final time supported by gentle rolled chords in the piano. The composition ends slowly and softly as the listener ponders “I go to prepare a place for you.” The utter joy and assurance portrayed in the bright lyricism of this final composition fills the listener with a sense of peace and well being.
Aury Murray holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts (Music Major) from Lakehead University and an Associate in Piano and Voice from the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music (now Conservatory Canada). She has taught piano and voice in Thunder Bay and Toronto, remains active as an Ontario Registered Music Teachers’ Association master class instructor and pedagogy workshop clinician (in person and virtual). Aury is a member of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicator’s Association, and has served on the ORMTA Provincial Council. Other musical activities have included Music Minister of Erindale Presbyterian Church in Mississauga and choir director and accompanist of “Good Company,” a rural women’s choir.