"Silent Night is almost an impossibility.
That Dana could find new life in this repertoire
and manage to make us feel
we're hearing these pieces for the first time
is nothing shy of miraculous."
- Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records, Grammy Winner
Deeply moving, soul-freeing, centering, transcendent - these words describe the music of pianist Dana Cunningham, but also describe qualities of the artist herself. If you are lucky enough to be walking by her farmhouse on a warm autumn day, hearing her could feel like a gentle breeze coming off the White Mountains that frame her world in the hills of New Hampshire.
Will Ackerman finds "that Dana Cunningham is a brilliant player is immediately obvious. There are, however, thousands of pianists whose fingers move deftly who simply have nothing of substance to say musically. Dana is not one of these. Whatever she plays is invested with emotion. Hers is music that communicates." There is a profound awareness of the space between the notes -- perhaps this is why many people say they can listen to her 2002 album, Dancing at the Gate, over and over again, even in the same sitting. This recording was described then as "one of the finest debuts of this or any year." Ryals, NAR
Whether playing for a general audience, for doctors and caregivers, hospice volunteers, bodywork specialists, or therapists, she is most interested in contexts where people may or may not be anticipating an experience that touches a deeper part of themselves. The most powerful experiences for Dana involve more intimate settings such as retreats, house concerts and small venues in which she is able to offer her music, and where she often recites the poetry of Rumi, Rilke, Mary Oliver and David Whyte.
Quoting the Dali Lama, Cunningham states that 'the only possibility for peace in the world is through individual transformation.' She believes that nurturing our deeper, more hidden ways of knowing and being, opens us to our common ground with one another. Dana has found that her music is a way of contributing to the possibility of peace, one small sphere of influence at a time.
Having been influenced early on by her mother's love for the romantic and impressionist composers such as Chopin, Ravel, Debussy and Satie, Cunningham's compositions have a lyrical, flowing quality, like "the reflection of water shimmering on a wall." But they also have a grounded earthiness revealing her life long love of the elements: Having spent her childhood years in the canyons of the Texas panhandle and the Colorado Rockies, and now living among the mountains and waters of New England, Dana feels fed on a cellular level by the soulfulness of the world, of the earth, listening to water in all its forms, watching the light bring everything to life.
Cunningham also believes that she would not be the composer she is today without having grown up singing the old southern hymns - cultural treasures full of meaning and associations for so many people. This influence has infused her playing with an ineffable sense of spirit.
It is with this sensitivity that she has sought to bring both freshness and integrity to the carols of Silent Night. The melodies, often elongated and embedded in her own arrangements, have come from her own quiet listening to how they might want to be played, again, as if for the first time.
Artist's Prayer: May the simple light move in and through us, and may music help open the door.
[Bio and more about the artist at www.danacunningham.com]