Edwin Orion Brownell & The Zara Strings | Songs for Canada

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Songs for Canada

by Edwin Orion Brownell & The Zara Strings

Edwin Orion Brownell is an old fashioned romantic of the piano and string orchestra: his writing evokes a "singing" style which makes listeners feel that they have been musically "hugged."
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 37 “Songs for Canada”: 1. Allegro fuocoso, “Atlantic Storm”
Edwin Orion Brownell
7:36 $0.99
2. Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 37 “Songs for Canada”: 2. Andante piangevole, “First Contact”
Edwin Orion Brownell
6:28 $0.99
3. Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 37 “Songs for Canada”: 3. Allegro scherzando, “Le gigue de la rivière Rouge”
Edwin Orion Brownell
2:18 $0.99
4. Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 37 “Songs for Canada”: 4. Moderato espressivo, “Song of the North”
Edwin Orion Brownell
3:01 $0.99
5. Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 37 “Songs for Canada”: 5. Adagio tranquillo, “Bow River Sunrise”
Edwin Orion Brownell
2:32 $0.99
6. Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 37 “Songs for Canada”: 6. Andante maestoso, “Wreck Beach Sunset”
Edwin Orion Brownell
9:03 $0.99
7. Fantasie in E minor Op. 38: Allegretto misterioso "Aiden's Dance"
The Zara Strings
4:07 $0.99
8. Ein Gedi Suite, Op. 7: 1. Andante fieramente, “The Negev”
Edwin Orion Brownell & The Zara Strings
7:51 $0.99
9. Ein Gedi Suite, Op. 7: 2. Allegro con brio, “Founding ’57”
Edwin Orion Brownell & The Zara Strings
3:08 $0.99
10. Ein Gedi Suite, Op. 7: 3. Adagio grazioso, “Val David”
Edwin Orion Brownell & The Zara Strings
4:11 $0.99
11. Ein Gedi Suite, Op. 7: 4. Largo lamentoso, “The Dead Sea Sacrifice”
Edwin Orion Brownell & The Zara Strings
6:08 $0.99
12. Ein Gedi Suite, Op. 7: 5. Moderato eroico, “The Kibbutz”
Edwin Orion Brownell & The Zara Strings
7:00 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Piano, string arrangements: Edwin Orion Brownell
Zara Sextet: First Violin: Flaviu Zanca, Second Violin: Veronica Ungureanu, Viola: Xavier Lepage-Brault, Cello: Loredana Zanca, Flute/Bassoon: Linda Rand

Recording and Mixing “Songs for Canada”: Peter Bowering.
Recording and Mixing Aiden’s Dance” and “The Ein Gedi Suite”: Mario Iannacci
Mastering: Ryan Moray, Graphics: Bob Malvasio,
Photos: Noam Moskowitz, Bob Malvasio, Edwin Brownell and Nechama Surik

Produced by Edwin Orion Brownell

The Songs
Hello and welcome to my eleventh album; “Songs of Canada.” This new work contains a tribute to Canada on its 150th birthday, a love song for my wonderful grandson Aiden, and a salute to the ingenuity and determination of the Israeli people for their creation of the amazing botanical gardens at Ein Gedi.

I see the six pieces of the "Songs for Canada" as a 21st Century successor to Oscar Peterson's famous "Canadiana Suite." Although my compositions are classical in structure, they have been created, much as Peterson's work has, as a travelogue of our country. Besides having a classical rather than a jazz foundation, the main difference between the two is that I have been inspired by music from our First Nations in the creation of the first, second, fourth and final movements of the composition. Without doubt this inspiration has been an integral part of my creation. While I am in many ways proud of my country, we are not a perfect society, and Canada’s greatest curse is in the way it has treated its First Peoples. There is no easy answer to the centuries of prejudice that our country is built upon, but for my part I would like to dedicate this opus to a Canada that will be one day free of such racist attitudes.

I also want to use this opportunity to write a little more about the subject of racism. Discrimination on the basis of skin colour or ethnicity is not just bad and stupid … it has had a profoundly negative impact on classical music itself. In my view, it is the main reason that classical music has had to languish trapped in the ivory towers of academia after being forgotten by society at large. This break had other causes to be sure, but one of the prime motivations for the split occurred when Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) tried to create a foundation for American classical music by simply using the songs of the American people.

Like many other great composers, Dvořák often quoted from folk themes. After becoming director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City in 1892 he immediately began writing music based on American folksongs, much as he had using Czech folk music in his early career. Throughout his tenure he followed these instincts, and towards the end of his time in the United States, composed what is widely regarded as his greatest work, "The New World Symphony,” by drawing upon popular African-American and First Nations’ melodies. Although this work was generally received with a rapturous reception, it met with savage criticism from the Boston music establishment. One critic even wrote that Dvořák was a “negrophile,” who believed that “the future of American music rests on the use of Congo, North American Indian Creole, Greaser and Cowboy ditties, whinings, yawps, and whoopings.” Unfortunately, since Boston exercised a disproportionate influence on American culture, this criticism and the attitude behind it pushed most of the subsequent generations of higher calibre U.S. musicians to perfect their performances of the European masters rather than towards composing American music.

By leaving African-American and First Nation’s folk forms to languish outside of the parameters of classical music, the genre never really grew except within the sterile halls of academia. Unfortunately, since most music schools’ classes in performance and composition tended to stress abstract forms in tonality and rhythm, these compositions alienated the average listener. The real American geniuses turned to Jazz and Broadway, and the result was a truly dismal record of 20th Century classical composition in the United States.

My piano sonata, “Songs for Canada” aims to begin to bring the inspiration of our First Nations music back into the classical canon. The first section of the sonata, "Atlantic Storm,” is inspired by a Mi'kmaq war song (which reappears in the midsection of the piece). In my melodies I also try to describe the crash of the breakers on the shore as well as the rugged geography of our Atlantic provinces. Part two, "First Contact,” begins with rhythms of a Wyandot (Huron) chant. As the piece develops, the destructive influence of the first European colonists is detailed in the plaintive themes later in the movement.

On a happier note, “Le gigue de la rivière Rouge” which follows is dedicated to the men and women of the Nouveau Monde Rafting Company based near Hawkesbury, on the Ontario/Quebec border. These people know the river like I know my piano, and it is indeed a pleasure to get dunked in the white water as you paddle downstream! Next, examples of the rhythmic pulse found in Inuit throat singing infuse “Song of the North,” the fourth movement of my Canadian opus. Although music of this folk tradition seems to be melodically simple, its timing is highly developed and its typical beat subdivisions are what I tried to draw upon here.

The fifth part of “Songs for Canada” is called “Bow River Sunrise.” Just outside of Calgary, the Bow River snakes through the foothills of the Rockies. Every day for a couple weeks back in the early 80s, I would stand on the banks of the river and watch the sun lift over the Rocky Mountains. First, the highest peak would catch the sun’s rays and shine like a brilliant diamond. Then the next highest, and on and on until the entire range from as far as you could see North (to the right) and South (to the left) was lit up. Then, as I felt the warm rays directly on the back of my own head, I would turn around and watch the sun itself lift over the foothills. What a sight!

The final movement of my ode to Canada is named “Wreck Beach Sunset.” When I was 18 years old I spend a couple of weeks on this clothing-optional beach, just outside of Vancouver, and remember well the beauty of watching the sun set over the Pacific. The opening rhythms are reminiscent of those found in Haida music, and the melodies of this work are imbued with the hope that relations between the First Peoples and the later immigrants who stole their land will eventually be marked only by honesty, kindness and respect.

“Aiden’s Dance” marks the middle of our sonic journey and features the Zara Ensemble, minus me! Linda Rand plays the haunting main melody on the bassoon, and my writing in this composition was inspired by a video of my wonderful grandson Aiden-Waiden, “the best boy in the Universe,” dancing to some Israeli-Arabic music when he was two and a half years of age.

The second half of this album is taken up by “The Ein Gedi Suite,” performed by the Zara Sextet. This piece originally appeared as a solo-piano work on my 2007 album “Journey of the Spirit,” but I have wanted to do an orchestral arrangement of it for a long time. Ein Gedi is about an hour from Jerusalem on the shores of the Dead Sea. It is in the middle of the desert, but due to the efforts on ingenuity of 120 students and soldiers who founded the Kibbutz in 1957, it blooms and blossoms with life. These Kibbutzim diverted the path of the small river Val David into the rich, mineral laden but otherwise barren desert sands, and today a beautiful botanical garden, acknowledged by National Geographic as the 11th most beautiful in the world is the result. It is a real example of how human beings can actually improve on nature, and as such it stands as an inspiration for people and politicians all across the globe.

The Artists
Acknowledgements go first to my engineers Peter Bowering and Mario Iannacci for recording and mixing these tracks. Doug Yeats has tuned the pianos on my last few albums and his regulating and tuning skills are excellent. Ryan Morey has done a fantastic job mastering, and I thank all these amazing technicians for their dedication to this project. My pal, computer guru and photographer Bob Malvasio has, as usual, done an wonderful job on the graphics, and I so appreciate both his friendship and his professionalism. Getting my records pressed on time is a real effort, and I would like to thank Eve Duplessis for her efforts on behalf of Audiobec. Finally, my buddy Jillian Deevy takes care of much of my merchandising and I am truly grateful to her for that, and for her true and steadfast sisterhood!

Since 2012 my group “The Zara Strings” has been based around the husband and wife team of Flaviu and Loredana Zanca. These musicians are the best I know, and I am indeed graced to have both their friendship and their incredible skills in my life. Flaviu started violin as a child and holds his Master's degrees in violin performance from the “Gheorghe Dima” Music Academy, Romania. A true professional, he has performed with Sinfonia de Lanaudiere, the Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra, the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal), and is outstanding in his field.

Our cellist Loredana also began playing early in her life, and also holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in performance. She has appeared as soloist with the Transilania State Philharmonic, the Dinu Lipatti State Philharmonic, and the Sibiu State Philharmonic and won the audition for Principal Cello with the Dinu Lipatti Philharmonic just before coming to Canada. Today “Lora” works in several Montreal ensembles and is very active as a teacher.

The other long-term members of the Zara Sextet are violinist Veronica Ungureanu and violist Xavier Lepage-Brault. Veronica began her first piano lessons at four, and her violin lessons two years later. She completed her Master’s in violin in 2014 and today tours and records in several ensembles including the Bolero Trio and the Orchestre de Chambre Nouvelle Génération.

Violist Xavier Lepage-Brault was an original member of the Zara Strings and took part in the recording of the “Songs of Love and Marriage” album in 2012. He appeared on our “Forever Laughter” album in 2014, and today he is active with the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal.

Although this is her first time with the Zara Strings, our flautist/bassoonist Linda Rand manages several orchestras, and has performed in many professional ensembles locally and around the world. She has degrees from McGill University and the Université de Montréal, and her generous nature has helped many musicians find work in the local classical music scene.

Despite not being “official” members of the ensemble, I must finish by sending my gratitude to my wonderful mom “MeeMee” and my beloved wife Nechama. As usual, they have spun versions of this CD many times to help me pick the right takes of each song. Their ideas have helped make this and every album I have ever produced better, and I thank them from my heart for their frank and loving input.

Personal Thanks
I thank YOU, my fans; past and present, in life and across the web, in retirement residences, in nightclubs and in concert halls, for all the support you have given me. Your comments and your caring keep me going, and I make my music because of you! Most importantly, I would like to send my love to my amazing wife Nechama, my beautiful mom “MeeMee,” my step-daughters and their families, my in-laws, and the rest of my relatives and friends here, in the United States, in Israel, and around the globe.

This album is dedicated to all of Canada’s First Peoples. You have inspired much of the music here, and our world would be missing its core without your culture and your vitality. In honour of this inspiration, $1000.00 of the future profits from sales of this album has been donated to the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal. Thank you from my heart for all your gifts …

With love
Edwin Orion Brownell



to write a review

Monica Chapman

Songs of Canada by Edwin Orian Brownell a masterpiece!
This new CD by Edwin Orian Brownell is a MASTERPIECE! Edwin is a craftsman who weaves beautiful melodies and plays them beautifully on the piano. A must for your collection!