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From Ave Maria Press

Ascension - Inspirational songs composed and performed by Kathy Christian

Be in My Heart - Celtic hymns and songs through the day. Dennis Doyle, Celtic Harp, Keyboard & vocals; Paula Doyle, Vocals. Ave Maria Press.

The Heart's Impulse - Prayer Reflections by William Breault, SJ. Ave Maria Press.

Okay, this isn't Prokofieff or Mahler – so, you ask, what am I doing reviewing stuff like this? If I can indulge in a personal sidebar for a moment, I would like to explain that when the editor mailed this trio of discs to me for review, I said to myself, if I can review Hildegard von Bingen, Mozart, Krenek, Milhaud, and computer-processed music for Computer Music Journal (some time ago), upon whose board sits Pierre Boulez, no less – then I can handle this stuff. Well, Boulez wouldn't like this music (I fudge here – the last disc is only marginally a musical offering), but you might.

Kathy Christian has a pleasant, soothing voice and delivers her ten upbeat songs with commitment and color. Most of the numbers are tied to a biblical passage. For example, the opening song, Béatitudes, is sourced in Matthew 5:3 - 11. Other items, however, like #9, Mechthild's Prayer, use texts from mystics or other sources. The music may seem anachronistic in all the numbers here, but it is well done and attractive. The sound reproduction is fine.

The second disc, featuring the husband-and-wife team of Dennis and Paula Doyle, offers a certain Celtic exoticism in its instrumentation: Dennis Doyle also plays an instrument called a bodhran, and many of the pieces here evoke colorful images from afar even when using more conventional instruments. This CD is less ensconced in the so-called inspirational idiom than the Kathy Christian issue, since it also embraces ethnic styles and offers purely instrumental numbers. Still, it consistently deals with religious subject matter in its vocals. There are several familiar items here, including Pilot Me (featuring Dennis Doyle's attractive singing) and Simple Gifts, which uses the folk theme borrowed by Copland in the closing section of Appalachian Spring. Both the Kathy Christian and Doyle discs are short on timing, but offer adequate compensation to those interested in their kind of musical fare.

The last disc offers prayer reflections by a Jesuit priest, with piano music in the background. If you can remember those relaxation and stress-reduction tapes that were popular a decade or two ago and imagine prayer readings in their stead, then you'll have an idea of the style of this disc. There are eighteen tracks, each subdued in approach and containing a rather non-sectarian text, mostly concerned with promoting a love-thy-neighbor message or a self-improvement attitude. The sound and production values are quite good.

Copyright © 2001, Robert Cummings