Michele McLaughlin
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Michele McLaughlin

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"Stirring"

Stirring.
Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2009 by srrbell

Busy, busy week! I haven’t been able to get on here at all. But I’m here now! And I’ve brought quite a treat with me. I was recently introduced to a woman named Michele McLaughlin. I had no trouble finding her the first time I did a google search, so maybe she’s more known than I realize. But she’s new to me.

According to Michele’s website, she is a “New Age Contemporary Pianist and Composer.” She began playing the piano at a very young age and learned to play all her favorite songs by ear. However, it wasn’t until 2000 that her first album was released.

I’ve always LOVED the sound of piano. It is by far my favorite instrument. But it is very rare that I find a contemporary pianist who moves me like Michele McLaughlin does. Her music has been described as “haunting” and I couldn’t have chosen a better word myself. It’s enchanting, powerful, and full of emotion.

If you like solo piano music, this is definitely a woman worth checking out.

srrbell - For The Love Of Music (Oct 26, 2009) - srbell


"A Celtic Dream"

A Celtic Dream is pianist Michele McLaughlin's 10th release and one can certainly hear why she has persevered in a marketplace full of New Age piano artists. Her performing artistry runs through the album like a clear brook. The CD's 15 cuts are relatively complex, devoid of cliche, yet still accessible for all but the least adventurous listener. Inspired by a trip to Ireland in 2008, McLaughlin allowed the somber, mournful, yet still highly spirited ethos of her heritage to permeate this music. Regardless of whether the tempo is fast or slow, the overall emotion is usually dark and forlorn with a few exceptions, such as "Slainte". "Across The Burren" introduces some recognizable Irish motifs, but other songs are more ethnically ambiguous, such as "The North Sea", which aptly conveys the roiling, tempestuous nature of that body of water.
Bill Binkelman - New Age Retailer (Sep 1, 2009) - Bill Binkelman - New Age Retailer


"A Celtic Dream"

A Celtic Dream
Michele McLaughlin
2008 / Michele McLaughlin
51.8 minutes

“A Celtic Dream” is pianist/composer Michele McLaughlin’s tenth album and was inspired by a recent trip to Ireland, the land of most of her family’s ancestors. Many of the pieces have an infectious energy and upbeat drive, while others are more subdued and reflective, creating a rich palette of moods and musical colors. In her notes about the individual pieces, McLaughlin tells the stories behind the music, giving a bit of history about the places she visited as well as aural illustrations for some of the Celtic legends (these notes are also on her page on CD Baby). The melodies of all of the pieces are excellent and very expressive, but McLaughlin’s left hand tends to get stuck into a repetitive pattern. This is an effective device from time to time, but can wear a little thin with too much usage. Most people won’t hear it, but my piano teacher’s ears get rather distracted by the repetition. Overall, this is McLaughlin’s strongest work to date.

“A Celtic Dream” begins with “Summer Solstice,“ a bright and sprightly piece that celebrates the longest day of the year and the sun’s journey through that day. Energetic and joyful, it sets the stage for the rest of the album. “Slainte” is a Gaelic toast to good health, and this little piece seems to celebrate just about anything and everything - a delightful confection. The title track slows down the pace to more of a ballad and is one of the more beautiful tracks on the CD. My favorite piece is “Irish Rain.” Here the repetitive left hand pattern mimics rain falling while the right illustrates the mist that comes with the rain. Mysterious and melancholy, it evokes feelings of longing as well as the chill that comes with a misty rain. “Lament” reminds me of David Nevue and how he often creates strong emotional feelings with utter simplicity in his musical lines. “The Clurichaun” is a lighthearted delight. The Clurichaun is related to The Leprechaun and runs around at night raiding wine cellars. When he finds one he loves, he stays and makes it his home, guarding the cellar forever. A mischievous elf, this piece is full of fun and energy. “For The Lambs” is a tribute to the spring lambs who were free to roam and play in the countryside of Ireland - sweet and joyful. “From Where We Came” is gorgeous and is dedicated to Ireland, McLaughlin’s ancestors, and their rich history. Melodic and very flowing, it’s a lovely tribute. “Carrowkeel” is about the largest passage tomb cemetery in Ireland that dates back to about 5000 BC. Very dark and dramatic, it’s a impressive closing for the album.

“A Celtic Dream” is quite a musical excursion and rekindles my desire to see Ireland myself. It is available from www.michelemclaughlin.com, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com. Good stuff!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

12/1/08
Kathy Parsons - Mainly Piano (Dec 2, 2008) - Kathy Parsons - Mainly Piano


"Dedication"

Dedication
Michele McLaughlin
2008 / Michele McLaughlin
45.6 minutes

“Dedication” is pianist/composer Michele McLaughlin’s ninth album to date and contains an assortment of fourteen original piano solos that were inspired by major events and the special people of everyday life. A mostly self-taught pianist who quit piano lessons when they took the fun out of playing, McLaughlin has an energetic and often dramatic style that indicates how personal this music is to her. Her melodies are always interesting and engaging and range in mood from quiet calm to rather turbulent.

“Dedication” begins with “When You Were Still Around,” a piece begun as a memorial for McLaughlin’s recently-deceased grandfather and mother. When her grandmother passed away this past spring, McLaughlin was asked to play for her funeral and decided to finish this piece. Along with a sense of loss, the piece also conveys hope and the comfort of happy memories. “Drifting Through Antiquity” has a melodramatic, old-world charm, and was inspired by McLaughlin’s honeymoon in Greece and Italy. “Music Box Angel” has a hauntingly beautiful melody, but the left hand plays the same three notes for the whole piece. It can probably be argued that the bass part in a music box is very repetitious, which it is, but I’ve never seen or heard a music box that can play at the exact same speed for more than four minutes. To me, the left hand is too mechanical and detracts from the lovely, flowing melody on the right hand. “The Eternal City” was composed after a short visit to Rome. One of my favorites on the CD, this piece has a strong energy and sense of movement - almost a dance. The right hand has several cross-overs into the deep bass that heighten the drama. “Brandon’s Song” is a sweet love song to a beloved son. “Learning To Fly” is another favorite. Visualizing the struggles of a young bird being coaxed to leave the nest during a nasty storm and its struggles to succeed in order to please its parents, McLaughlin has set to music the challenges of overcoming our own fears and also of parenthood. I like the energy and passion of this piece a lot. “Palamidi Fortress” is a bold, dramatic piece inspired by a castle on a hill in Greece that was made up of five smaller fortresses so that if one was attacked the others could defend the castle as a whole. Conveying strength as well as vulnerability and beauty, this is a powerful piece. “A Sad and Sorrowful Goodbye” is about loss and the difficulty of saying “goodbye” to someone you love. Graceful and expressive, it’s a very touching piece. “Dream Come True” is about the happiness gained by following our dreams and reaching for the stars.

“Dedication” is a charming collection of biographical piano solos. Look for it at www.michelemclaughlin.com and www.cdbaby.com.

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

12/26/07
Kathy Parsons - Mainly Piano (Dec 31, 2007) - Kathy Parsons - Mainly Piano


"Christmas - Plain & Simple"

Christmas - Plain & Simple
Michele McLaughlin
2006 / Michele McLaughlin
42.5 minutes

Michele McLaughlin’s “Christmas - Plain & Simple” is one of the best solo piano Christmas albums I’ve heard. Consisting of ten traditional carols and five original pieces, this CD is a perfect blending of old and new music, played with spirit but without a lot of “look at me!” flash. McLaughlin’s touch is strong and confident, yet full of grace and expression. Her arrangements of the traditional pieces are true to the originals but freshened up and contemporary. The five new pieces fit right in with the older songs and add a very personal message. (They also make me want to hear more of McLaughlin’s own music, so be watching for more of my reviews of her work!)

The CD begins with “Winter Solstice,” one of McLaughlin’s own pieces. Spirited, with an infectious energy, and bouncing with joy to spare, this is a great start! This is one of those pieces that make my fingers itch because they sound like such fun to play. “Away in a Manger” is a gentle and tender lullaby, alternating between the original German melody and the “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton” alternative. “Still, Still, Still” begins in the upper registers of the piano, suggesting sparkling snow in the stillness of night - a lovely arrangement. “The Toymaker” is another original. Playful and innocent, it also has an irresistible energy. “Holiday Gathering” effectively conveys excitement and joy with a hint of poignance. The simple, straightforward treatment of “Silent Night” describes perfect peace. “Greensleeves” is gorgeous. It’s interesting how McLaughlin has taken these well-worn pieces and made them sound new and exciting even though she really hasn’t changed them much. She’s added passages to many of them, but, for the most part, sticks with the melodies, adding interesting accompaniments and relying on her heartfelt and expressive touch to make them her own. “By The Fire” is the fourth of McLaughlin’s pieces, a lovely, graceful bit of musical comfort. Warm, relaxed, and inviting, it’s a beauty. I absolutely love the minor-key mystery of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” and this arrangement is one of my favorites. The original passage in the middle of the piece is a great segue that comes back to the melody. My favorite track is McLaughlin’s “Celtic Christmas.” This piece is such an expression of joy and energy that it makes my heart sing and my feet want to dance. (My fingers are itching again, too!) The other traditional pieces are “We Three Kings,” “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “O Holy Night,” “The First Noel,” and “Joy to the World,” and all are excellent.

I’m usually getting pretty burned out on Christmas CDs by this time in December, but I have thoroughly enjoyed “Christmas - Plain & Simple.” It is available from www.michelemclaughlin.com, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and iTunes. Highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

12/4/07
Kathy Parsons - Mainly Piano (Dec 4, 2007) - Kathy Parsons - Mainly Piano


"Reflections - The Best of Michele McLaughlin"

Reflections: The Best of Michele McLaughlin 2000-2005
Michele McLaughlin
2006 / Michele McLaughlin
1.1 hours

“Reflections” is a collection of pianist/composer Michele McLaughlin’s twenty best pieces from her six CDs released from 2000-2005. This music was originally recorded on a digital piano, but was re-recorded for this CD on an acoustic grand. The music is mostly breezy and light, with themes about love, friends, family, and a pleasant variety of other topics. A mostly self-taught pianist who quit lessons because they “took the fun out of playing,” McLaughlin’s music comes from the heart, bringing a bit of musical sunshine to her listeners. There is nothing complicated about McLaughlin’s music (nor does there need to be), and her messages are warm and inviting, describing life and experiences that are mostly on the calm and contented side. The Utah-based composer recently released her ninth album, “Dedication” and is a Whisperings Artist.

“Reflections” begins with “I Love You,” a piece with a sweet lullaby quality that could indicate it’s a love song for a child. “Without You” speaks with tender longing and deep love. “Russian Music Box” is one of my favorites. Mysterious and in a minor key, it has an innocent charm. “Just Because” is another minor-key piece that I really like. The swirling arpeggios on the left hand and moody chord changes create an effective mood. “An Evening With Friends” is a very simple piece that conveys warm and caring thoughts. “Enraptured” is a little bit darker and more passionate - another favorite. “A Tale of Courage” is a ballad of strength and perhaps heroism. “Learning to Grieve” looks within, but is more thoughtful than heartbreaking - a lovely, very personal piece. I like the feeling of movement and the mysterious spirit of “The Fairies Dance.” My favorite piece on the album is “The Lonely Ballerina,” which has a more classical approach and sounds a bit like a music box - a poignant and touching melody, played simply and beautifully. “Swept Away” ends the CD with a buoyant, upbeat piece that bubbles over with happiness.

If you are new to Michele McLaughlin’s music, “Reflections” is a great place to start. If you have her earlier CDs, you will appreciate the richer sound and resonance of a grand piano. Available from www.michelemclaughlin.com, iTunes, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com. An enjoyable listening experience!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com
Kathy Parsons - Mainly Piano (Jul 20, 2008) - Kathy Parsons - Mainly Piano


"Christmas - Plain & Simple"

When the holidays have you pulling your hair out, finding safe refuge is crucial, and Christmas--Plain & Simple may be your escape hatch. Michele McLaughlin's album is, plain and simple, new age piano music that will soothe the spirits and lift the heart. If you enjoy the talents of George Winston, for example, you will be swept away by McLaughlin's bright and emotive touch here.

Instrumental piano music can transport the weary soul to a much calmer locale. McLaughlin's album did that for me this evening. Largely self-taught, the artist has great instincts as she navigates the keyboard, and her rich arrangements bring impressive textures out of ancient carols you have heard hundreds of times before. A songwriter as well, McLaughlin's five sweetly-crafted originals are naturals. I especially enjoyed By the Fire, which brought to mind special moments curled in an overstuffed chair by the hearth.

Christmas is all about memories, both old and new. Beautiful new age music can facilitate contemplation and intensify the recollections of a lifetime during the holidays and beyond. Let Michele McLaughlin's solo piano on Christmas--Pure and Simple help you open yourself to the power of the possible. It's a lovely trip.

--Carol Swanson
(Reviewed in 2006)
Carol Swanson - Christmasreviews.com (Dec 21, 2006) - Carol Swanson - Christmas Reviews


Discography

Beginnings
Elysium
The Journey
A Change of Color
The Beginning of Forever
After The Storm
Reflections - The Best of Michele McLaughlin
Christmas - Plain & Simple
Dedication
A Celtic Dream

Photos

Bio

Michele McLaughlin's music is haunting and contagious, relaxing and beautiful, peaceful and touching. She was drawn to piano music from early childhood and would learn to play her favorite songs by ear. Michele took piano lessons for a very short period of time, but quit when the lessons took the fun out of playing. Shortly afterwards, when she was 8 years old, she was introduced to the music of George Winston and was instantly moved and inspired by his remarkable talent and style. She would listen to his music and dream of someday playing as he did. It was during this time that she began composing and recording her own songs.

In the winter of 2000, Michele released her first album, Beginnings, which included 18 of her favorite compositions she had written over the years. The response she received from friends and family was an overwhelming eye-opener for Michele. She was so moved by the positive feedback and support she received that she was inspired to work on her second album, Elysium. The release of her second album was a critical turning point in Michele's musical career and she has since produced a total of ten albums (Beginnings, Elysium, The Journey, A Change of Color, The Beginning of Forever, After The Storm, Reflections 2000-2005 ~ The Best of Michele McLaughlin, Christmas ~ Plain & Simple, Dedication and A Celtic Dream).

Michele performs regularly and has shared the stage with some of her favorite pianists; David Nevue, Joe Bongiorno, Gary Girouard, Joseph Akins, Jennifer Thomas and Kurt Bestor. Michele loves to perform with fellow musicians because she feels it brings so much more to the experience of the audience and the performers. Michele's musical influences include George Winston, Jim Brickman, Paul Cardall and David Nevue.

Her music is enjoyed worldwide and can be heard on several online radio stations, including the #1 internet broadcast: Whisperings Solo Piano Radio. In addition, she can also be heard on Music Choice Soundscapes, the digital music station via local digital cable and satellite providers as well as several local, national and international radio stations. Her latest album, A Celtic Dream, has also been on the New Age Charts for eight months running, topping at #8 for April 2009.