Composer/pianist Craig Urquhart continues to create beautiful, compelling solo piano music, finding rich musical language to express profound spiritual connections between his soul and the world around him. Although Urquhart composes with clarity and balance, his creative process doesn't overwhelm an innate ability to sound fresh and improvised. He has a contemporary voice while drawing upon the inspiration of the great keyboard masters. Streamwalker, his latest album, finds another lovely extension of this unique vision.
On his popular 2000 release Evocation, the classically trained musician drew upon his inspiration to address important environmental concerns. The album received international airplay, was named one of the best albums of the year by Solo Piano Publications, and earned Urquhart feature articles in Piano Today magazine, New Age Voice, and Gibson/Baldwin Player Magazine.
Streamwalker, released by HeartEarthMusic, is his fifth album. Urquhart reaches a new emotional depth in his artistry by exploring, via his own inner journey, the human soul's response to the beauty of nature. The melody for the song that became the album's graceful and serene title track came to Urquhart one day in the spring, while he was literally balancing on the rocks in a winding stream in woods behind a friend's house in Rhode Island. He chose to bookend this set of 13 compositions with the optimism of Streamwalker and the similarly spirited opener, "Morning Eagle," to reflect our ability to appreciate that life is indeed a gift. Looking further upstream, Urquhart devotes much of this music to our collective desire to remain reflective yet optimistic.
The striking CD cover shot shows a close up of Craig's right hand gently touching the stream, entering the world in which we interact with our environment. "Streamwalker is about the impact of nature on me as an artist and human being, and the many moods it inspires," he comments.
"Stepping on those stones in the middle of the stream, lost in the depth of the woods and the rays of the sun's light, I found the motif for the whole album" he adds. "The name of the recording could mean a literal stream of water, or a stream of light. All these images remind me that nature is what gives us music: its rhythm, its color and its forms. Nature captures the imagination, and I simply respond to it. Touching nature is the closest I come to touching my own spiritual center and the meaning of my existence. That is why I love the piano - it is a very organic instrument."
Listening to Streamwalker can inspire the kind of spiritual awakening Urquhart experienced while writing and recording these songs. The gentle caress of "Morning Eagle" was inspired by a breathtaking experience he had watching eagles in flight while canoeing in the Boundary Waters between Minnesota and Canada. "The eagle represents power and grace, and the song is more about the bird than about me," he says. "The Astronomer" is a deep and soulful meditation on the awe Urquhart often feels looking up at the night sky, "where you can get lost in the infinite before you come back to reality." The Astronomer's imagination is stimulated by the vastness of the universe. Urquhart returns to the shimmer of sparkling water with "Silver Spring," which carries an overall sense of sweetness and innocence. "The Awakening" was composed as a birthday present for his friend Leonard Bernstein.
Urquhart evokes an improvisational spirit on the playful, rambunctious "Jazzed," which runs in various tempos, tickles the avant-garde and stirs the mood of the collection. True to its title, the meditative "Remembrance" begins with a warm memory of times past, and finishes in an assertion of commitment. "Interlude" has the pastoral feel of a walk at twilight, enjoying the changing light of dusk. "Reverie" is an entrance to the world of dreamtime, that magical state that brings a vision where all living things are connected in peace. The composer then follows the ever-changing stream of water and of life to declare it's time once again to "Flow On."
Urquhart wrote the haunting "Ghost Canyon" just days after 9/11, observing the empty urban "canyons" of lower Manhattan that was once so full of optimism and humanity. But it is followed by the expansive "Thanksgiving," a joyful image of gratitude and of good friends coming together in celebration.
Urquhart pays tribute to Chopin and Schubert in his thoughtful, classically influenced "Impromptu." The closing title track, "Streamwalker," has a captivating sense of wonderment and leads you on a journey of optimism and hope.
He has four previous solo piano CDs: Evocation; Songs Without Words; The Dream of the Ancient Ones; and Epitaphs and Portraits.
After receiving a Master's in Composition from the University of Michigan, Urquhart came to New York, where he taught piano, acted as musical coach to actor Tom Hulce for the Academy Award winning film Amadeus, and served as musical assistant to Leonard Bernstein until the Maestro's death in 1990.
Urquhart is also a well-known composer of American classical art songs, including musical settings of poems by Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. His songs have been performed and recorded by Thomas Hampson, Michael Slattery, Lauren Wagner, and other artists. He has played concerts throughout the United States, including the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and was invited to perform at the United Nations for Earth Day and AIDS Awareness Day. He was recently presented by the Indiana University Foundation, Klavierhaus in New York City, and in Wellfleet, Mass. He has also performed in Paris, Francs; Berlin, Germany and a six-city sold out concert tour of Japan.
"The reason I have always loved making music is that it has a healing quality which helps all of us reflect and find the courage to move forward," he says. "The music I write has a poetic sensibility and an intimacy which has touched many people over the years, and I enjoy experiencing the wonderful exchange of energy when I perform it live. This is my motivation. The joy is always having something to share and being able to do that with my music. If my compositions are about anything, it's that, in spite of appearances sometimes, life is profoundly beautiful."