Laura McMillan believes in love, happiness and fairytale-like happy endings, so she named her third album of solo piano music Storybook Love. “It’s a dream we all have, male and female. For those who have love, count your blessings and savor each moment. For everyone else, keep hoping, keep looking, keep the dream alive. Whether you are in love right now or in the middle of the search, I hope this music can serve as a backdrop of joy and excitement.”
In addition, when McMillan’s previous album, Linger Longer, was released, it felt to her like a fairytale come true. The album went Top 5 on the international Zone Music Reporter Top 100 airplay chart. She received album reviews, airplay and notoriety around the world. She was named “Artist of the Year” and the CD was named “Album of the Year” in the annual awards competition voted on by radio listeners and held by One World Music, the top radio channel of new age music based in the United Kingdom. Her music became so popular on the channel that they offered the pianist her own radio show, “Simply Piano,” where she plays piano music by herself and others.
“It’s just another example that dreams can come true,” McMillan says. “It led me to thinking about the dream we all have of finding true love and living happily ever after. So I had the concept of Storybook Love from the beginning and wrote all the compositions based on that theme.”
The title tune from the album, “Storybook Love,” is accompanied by a theatrical video that can be viewed at her website (LauraMcMillanPiano.com) or youtube/lauramcmillanpiano. The video, directed by Chris Clephane and produced by Mark W. Costa, was shot on location in Seattle, Washington. It features McMillan playing a Steinway Hamburg nine-foot concert grand piano at Hotel 1000 and appearing at a variety of prominent landmarks in the city including Pike Place Market, King Street Station, Kerry Park, Pioneer Square and the Fountain Steps.
The music on McMillan’s albums (Storybook Love, Linger Longer and Without Words) can be purchased in the CD format or as digital downloads at various online sales outlets such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes and other sites.
McMillan, who has been playing classical music all her life, blends both traditional classical piano elements and a strong appreciation of Broadway music with modern new age and neo-classical motifs to create her own sound. She often employs tempo changes within a composition which builds excitement and makes the listener wonder what direction she will head next. At times McMillan balances heavy chording with delicate runs, keeping both hands active, developing a variety of moods and passionate feelings with the music.
“The idea of ‘Storybook Love’ is timeless,” she explains. “Everyone has their own idea about it, their own definition or scenario. A young girl might dream about a knight in shining armor riding up on a white stallion and sweeping her off her feet. A woman usually retains the essence of that dream, but maybe now she is wishing more for a man who knows how to dress well and drives a white Ferrari. The ending is the same. Finding a true love to share your life with.”
The album begins with “The Way It Goes” (“The basic story structure is always the same because they always end up in each other’s arms”). The next two tunes -- “For Our Children” and “Playground Memories” -- are a tribute to childhood where dreams of true love begin. “Hard To Say Goodbye” is a life-lesson we all learn, according to McMillan, who says, “The sub-text of this music might be ‘I will miss you until we meet again’.”
McMillan explains that “Enchanted” is meant to capture “a magical special place or moment when everything comes together and there is the potential for dreams to come true. The lovers have butterflies in their stomach from the excitement and a sparkling in their eyes. The piece ‘Porch Swing’ is about contentedly sitting together outside the house on a summer evening and maybe stealing a kiss or two.”
But love has “Transitions,” and this composition “maps out the roller-coaster ride that can be exciting and fast at the beginning, but may slow down in the middle because all relationships change.” The tune “Promise of Spring” alludes to “how we look forward to Spring as a time of freshness, rebirth, rejuvenation, a chance to start over, but also the perfect time for a wedding.” “What Might Have Been” captures the feelings of disappointment and regret when a love affair does not work out, “but sometimes it is simply a temporary setback.” “The Chase” is “the entire process of searching for, finding and winning over the person you were meant to love.”
McMillan says every color of roses has a different meaning. “I chose ‘Lavender Roses’ because I love that color and it is the symbol for enchantment. Traditionally it also is used to express the feelings of love at first sight. That leads to the music of ‘Happy Ending,’ what we all strive for. ‘Getting There’ is when the two lovers race toward each other to finally be together forever. I end the album with ‘Storybook Love’ which represents the deepest and most powerful kind of love that is no longer childlike but is true and forever.”
McMillan’s greatest musical influence has always been Frederic Chopin, and she practiced his piano pieces for endless hours when she was growing up. Her studies also led her to deeply appreciate Mozart and Beethoven. Her mother often took her to both symphony orchestra concerts and Broadway musicals. At age ten, Laura was captivated by new age pioneer George Winston’s Autumn album and particularly the tune “Colors/Dance” which “I listened to over and over until I learned to play it.” When Laura was a teenager she saw piano virtuoso Van Cliburn in concert “which motivated me and made me realize the piano was an instrument you could work at your entire lifetime.”
When Laura was three-years-old she surprised her mother by climbing up on the piano bench and finding the rights notes to tunes from a Mitch Miller Christmas album the child had been listening to. Laura, who grew up near Portland, Oregon, began formal lessons at age seven. When McMillan was 15, she opened her own piano studio, Perhaps Piano, and began teaching students herself. She was invited to attend the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana where she studied for four years with a leading authority on Beethoven, Dr. Kenneth Drake. At Portland State University she continued her studies and graduated with professional degrees in piano performance, musical composition and pedagogy. After graduation she developed a reputation as one of the Portland-area’s top piano teachers. Eventually she began composing her own music, performing concerts and became a successful recording artist.
Regarding her latest album, McMillan says, “Each track on the album Storybook Love is meant to spotlight one of the many moments of love -- dreaming about it, looking for it, finding it and living happily ever after. There is nothing more euphoric than the sensation of ‘storybook love’.”