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Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore | A Hero's Journey

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New Age: Solo Instrumental Spiritual: Inspirational Moods: Type: Instrumental
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A Hero's Journey

by Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore

Virtuoso violist Karen Olson may have played with Sinatra, Sammy, Liza and Tony Bennett, but the New York Pops player channels her work as a Reiki master and holistic healer into A Hero’s Journey, her collaboration with pianist Crispin Barrymore. The album radiates the tranquility of early Windham Hill releases, but is meant to be meditative rather than merely soothing. Olson and Barrymore’s approach echoes the spirit -- if not at all the sound -- of traditional Indian music. Olson’s nuanced improvisational playing, which Titanic violinist Paul Peabody says “sounds like hands extended upward in prayer,” is meant not to snap listeners to attention, but to guide them on their own journeys of self-discovery. A Hero’s Journey is “a masterpiece,” says K.C. Tuckness-Mercer of CBS. “The music is truly inspirational and has amazing healing qualities.”
Genre: New Age: Solo Instrumental
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Horizon's Calling
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
3:40 $0.99
2. Life's Persuasions
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
5:35 $0.99
3. Promising Hope
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
7:30 $0.99
4. Still Crying
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
6:36 $0.99
5. Dream Quest
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
5:46 $0.99
6. Facing Fear
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
2:38 $0.99
7. Going Beyond
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
3:35 $0.99
8. Life Force
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
8:19 $0.99
9. Inner Wanderings
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
3:42 $0.99
10. Heaven's Gates
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
8:01 $0.99
11. Epilogue
Karen Olson & Crispin Barrymore
11:34 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

“A Hero’s Journey captivates the listener to take a calming and beautiful personal path of discovery.” - Jeremy Jordan, actor and singer

“There is a meditative quality about much of this style of music that always seems to be centered on something deeper.” - Paul Peabody, Grammy award winning violinist

“Don’t mistake this for another box of herbal tea instrumentals. It’s a soundtrack for looking within to find what you’ve been chasing out there.” - Paul Boutin, producer, Kitten Robot Studios



to write a review

Steve Sheppard

Review from One World Music Radio (www.oneworldmusic.co.uk)
We had an evening of thunderous storms last night, as winter finally lost its grasp on our landscape of beauty, so it is with a blissful heart, that I find I have a calming and quite peaceful album to review this morning, from the amazing Karen Olson, featuring the skills of Crispin Barrymore on piano.
We start our musical sojourn with the delightful opener called Horizons Calling, what a smooth and dreamlike beginning we have; the initial first few bars had that same floaty essence to it as one of Deuter’s Reiki compositions. This is one of those blissful tranquil songs I could listen to forever; it is a creation that always manifests peace as it drifts into the mind’s eye.
With such tenderness we slide into the loving arms of the next piece called Life’s Persuasions, this album has such an organic feel to it, as we listen, it’s as if time itself is being created. The use of a rhythmic percussive beat on this track was extremely effective.
The chilled nature of this release is sublime and as we find ourselves deep within its weave we come across a lush offering called Promising Hope. This is one very emotive composition that I personally felt moved by, the classical references mix perfectly with the new age nuances. The deeper I fall into this release, the more I find myself wrapped in its warm cloak of musical love.
Still Crying is up next, here we have a really descriptive arrangement with a smart chill-out beat that brings a classy awareness to the composition, this combined with Olson’s artistry on Viola, and the clever synth and keyboard work, creates for us a really fresh and exciting offering to enjoy.
As we near the half way point of the release we come across a charming track called Dream Quest. This has a real lightness and freshness to it that manifests a feeling of a journey about to be travelled. Olson’s magical Viola is pivotal to the tracks ultra-ambience and the extremely delicate percussion and keyboards only go to add a further layer of mystery and imagination to this most delightful of pieces.
Over the border and into the second half of the album we go and we arrive at a very tense and emotive short form piece called Facing Fear. Within the music one can really feel the apprehension that has been superbly built into the arrangement, with such skill and style.
On Going Beyond we have a track that has a real expansive feel to it, and Crispin Barrymore’s performance on piano is the perfect artistic tool for creating this musical borderland. I also hope dear reader and listener, you will enjoy the sense of energy that hovers here, there is a wonderful energetic feeling of anticipation manifested within this piece.
On Life Force, we see that lightness of touch, the rhythmic percussion is also like our own heartbeat, emphasising the title header of the composition even more thoroughly. Olson’s performance here drifts with a real crafting sense of professionalism throughout this brilliant arrangement.
The true mastery of Karen Olson can be found right here, on this very track entitled Inner Wanderings. This for me is a composition that is almost timeless, and defiantly meditative in quality and texture. Olson’s magnificent performance here is truly something to behold and within this arrangement one can really feel a vast realm of inner peace ready for us to explore.
The penultimate offing is truly angelic in its structure, and of course it would be with the title Heaven’s Gate, but the strings here create a dream like state in an almost out of body experience through its tones. The composition is thankfully well over seven minutes, so we can musically traverse the cosmos and wander in a calm way through the multi inner-dimensional layers of this grand opus. I also found this track very emotional in its content, one that touches us with the magical hand of reflection.
For our last piece we are going long form, as Epilogue is well over eleven minutes long. The organ, mixed with Olson’s Viola creates a true symphony of the soul. This is a track dear reader that will require you to just close your eyes and totally immerse yourself in, there is literally so much to enjoy here. Contemporary instrumental music has never sounded so good and through this last track one can feel a circle being completed through its genius. Here on Epilogue we have a track that is emotive yes, but also inspiring in its construction.
A Hero’s Journey by Karen Olson and Crispin Barrymore is a well-crafted release, manifested into our realm by two musicians who have worked hard, listened well, and used there abundant talent to bring us, the ever eager listener, one album that is jam packed from start to finish with compositions of pure quality, that allow us to reflect, to be moved, to float upon and bathe within a veritable musical waterfall, of blissful meditative ambience. This is one release you really can’t miss adding to you ever expanding collection, a thoroughly recommended album.

Kathy Parsons

From MainlyPiano
A Hero’s Journey is a collaborative project by violist/composer Karen Olson and pianist/keyboardist/composer Crispin Barrymore. It is the fifth album released by Olson and her first collaboration with Barrymore, who is also an actor. Olson started with the violin as a young child, switching to viola in middle school. She got her start with performing by accompanying her minister father’s services. She went to New York and earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Juilliard. She then earned another Master’s from Yale and a Ph.D. in Music Performance at NYU. She has served on the faculty of Rutgers University and Rowan University, and has had a critically-acclaimed viola scale book published by EC Schirmer. Now residing in NY, Olson performs with the NY Pops at Carnegie Hall and teaches viola and violin privately. She is a certified practitioner and teacher in several healing modalities and is currently writing a book on sound and vibrations for healing. Barrymore is also a multi-faceted artist who started playing the piano at seven and has also studied voice, French horn, piano and composition at Cal Arts. He has served as a musical ambassador for the United Nations and has a long a varied resume.

A Hero’s Journey is intended to be a landscape for each listener’s personal voyage of discovery. Quoting the liner notes: “Our answers lie within; even though people cross our path and offer us support in the form of assistance or teachers of our lessons, we find our own answers and we are our own heroes.” By combining contemporary classical influences with ambient textures, rhythmic elements, and a new age focus on melody, the two artists have effectively removed the boundaries between these genres of music, creating an original sound that will appeal to a wide variety of listeners. I have always preferred the deeper and mellower sound of the viola, whose range is between that of the violin and the cello. Barrymore co-composed the eleven tracks with Olson and also did the orchestrations, performed on keyboards and added digital effects.

A Hero’s Journey begins with “Horizon’s Calling.” Shimmering strings and French horn begin the piece, which is an overture of sorts, setting a mood and introducing the album. The viola becomes the primary voice fairly early in the piece, which is mostly ambient in nature. “Life’s Persuasions” is very smooth with viola and acoustic guitar leading the way along with ambient textures and a strong beat that propels it. “Promising Hope” brings in the sound of an organ behind the viola along with kettle drum, bells, and other effects. Somber and reverent, it’s a favorite. “Dream Quest” is quite a bit lighter although the viola seems to be seeking something in a vast open space. It becomes livelier and more rhythmic in the middle, but that feeling of seeking continues. “Facing Fear” feels dark and ominous, but our hero moves ahead as the darkness gradually fades away. “Life Force” is an almost 8 1/2 minute exploration that is an especially intriguing juxtaposition of the more organic viola and electronic instrumentation. “Heaven’s Gates” is a more ethereal piece that I assume brings this hero’s journey to a peaceful end - at least for this phase of existence. “Epilogue” clocks in at over 11 1/2 minutes with a broad cinematic scope and sweep. Often intense and colorful, it brings this fascinating album to a dramatic close.

A Hero’s Journey is certain to be a unique experience for each listener. Recommended!

Bill Binkelman

A tour de force recording that defies genre classification
After nearly 20 years of reviewing music, it takes a lot for me to be left speechless by a recording, but A Hero's Journey has done just that. It is not just how the music defies categorization, since that can be written of any number of recordings. Instead, it is how fearlessly Olson and Barrymore venture out into a borderland that is rarely explored; a vast sonic landscape that embraces the contemporary classical aesthetic while also incorporating so many other wrinkles— chill-out, electronica, ambient, and new age, all while maintaining a humanistic and appealing human core. Olson and Barrymore are pioneers on this ground-breaking recording and, as such, are both on a true "hero's journey."

Candice Michelle

Review from Journeyscapes Radio
A Hero’s Journey is the collaborative recording of violist Karen Olson and pianist / multi-instrumentalist Crispin Barrymore. Promising a “voyage into a sonic landscape that merges contemporary classical influences with ambient textures, rhythmic elements, and new age melodicism”, its description not only fits to a tee, but the sheer beauty and emotional depth of this album proved to be far more than I ever could have expected.

“Horizon’s Calling” begins with a swelling mist of chords that soon introduce a gentle viola melody, immediately creating a warm and enveloping soundscape which conveys both a subtle melancholy and sacred introspection. Setting the mood for the rest of the journey, an illuminated ambience that’s often characterized by seemingly processed environmental sounds permeates the album, while highlighting minimal classical motifs throughout as expressed via Karen’s beautiful viola playing. On the second track, “Life’s Persuasions”, her lovely instrument weaves in and out of swirling metallic timbres, which are gently guided along by a lightly tapping electronic rhythm. The fourth track, “Still Crying”, is a most hauntingly gorgeous piece and quite easily my favorite on the album, in which Karen’s viola shimmers and vibrates among glistening electronic textures and a slow breakbeat-type rhythm. By the sixth track, “Facing Fear”, the perceptual notion of this album being about an inner personal journey of sorts really comes to fruition. Here, the viola is more at the forefront of the composition’s somewhat stark and foreboding yet inherently minimal soundscape. Lending a subtle contrast in mood is the seventh track, “Going Beyond”, which conveys a gently comforting and radiant aura with its sparkling piano and soothing viola. The eighth track, “Life Force”, is another favorite of mine, in which an emotive viola melody intertwines with environmentally lush layers and a liquid chill rhythm. Concluding the album is “Epilogue”, which paces along in a procession-like manner, lending cinematic touches to the ensemble of viola, organ and synths, as well as the occasional brush of symphonic drums.

Comprised of twelve compositions spanning over an hour, A Hero’s Journey is essentially a classical-laced ambient album which boasts sensually warm atmospheres with an underpinning of poignancy throughout. Perfectly understated with many subtle intricacies and improvisational nuances, a constant stream of restlessness or stirring beneath the music’s overarching serenity also felt present – a most intriguing aspect that I intimately connected with. An essential album to own, A Hero’s Journey is easily among my favorites of recent musical discoveries!

Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck

A Hero's Journey Or Yours...
Karen Olson has released a new album titled A Hero’s Journey. Most recently I featured a select track on my Rate The Tracks site. “Inner Wanderings” was the stream provided. And that served as a taste of what was available on the full recording. The track suggests the human condition and what we find when we look inside for the truth.

The main instrument is the viola throughout this extraordinary recording. Admittedly, featuring a stringed instrument as the lead would be and is most difficult. Ms. Olson accomplishes this with a distinctness and quality that is exemplary. High praise goes to her collaborator Crispin Barrymore as well for helping to make this project what it evolved into.

I particularly enjoyed the use of the layers of keyboards to accentuate and put an exclamation point on her musicianship.

My three favorite tracks came in succession “Life Force,” “Inner Wanderings,” and Heaven’s Gate.” They seemed intrinsically linked to each other and the titles certainly got my attention. This music serves the listener well as it is meant to. It is soothing, contemplative with a hint of sadness and then there is hope and a shining bright light at the end of the musical tunnel. Karen Olson has a multitude of talents that she brings to bear. It is all on display on 11 tracks that are presented here.

This can be your journey or A Hero’s Journey. Whatever the music can provide you at any time day or night, it has the power to do so. With such clarity and command Karen Olson brings her music to you with grace and the knowledge of an enlightened spirit willing to share her own glimpse of heaven.
Key Tracks: Inner Wanderings, Heaven’s Gate, Life Force
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
November 23, 2016
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Dick Metcalf review

Karen Olson and Crispin Barrymore– A Hero’s Journey
Karen Olson – A Hero’s Journey – This is my first listen to Karen’s wonderful work on viola… and, for that matter, Crispin’s intriguing and almost magical piano as he weaves it in, about and through the inspiring compositions. The mark of “true artists” is that they don’t need to “overplay”, and yet possess the talent and power to brighten your day in ways you had not yet imagined! As you listen to the truly inspiring range of emotions they paint on the beautiful 7:30 “Promising Hope“, you will realize that you’ve come upon a musical gemstone that will be with you forever – even in your dreams (I just LOVED the subtle weave of the keyboards against the shimmering viola tapestry).

Karen and Crispin note on the one-sheet that accompanied the album that “we find our own answers, and we are our own heroes”. The two players really work flawlessly together, and give you very memorable musical moments that will help you on that journey of finding your own answers… just listen to the intricate (and shining) hues on “Dream Quest“, and you will easily realize why I’m so enchanted with their abilities together… again, that near-invisible whisper of percussion going on down under is solid evidence of a mastery players seldom achieve together, because they’re focused on “being better”… this is not a “competitive” set of music.. it’s all about expressing what’s in their hearts… their souls… and, ultimately, in all of our collective consciousness. I just loved this tune!

Their talent at “reaching down” into life and the living thereof is also clearly evident on the poignant and penetrating “Life Force“… the length of the song (8:19) also gives each artist the opportunity to delve deeply into what keeps the healing flow going, and makes the gift of life we have all received ever more apparent… it’s clear that both players love playing together, and you will catch that vibration as you listen to this beautiful song.

I am truly impressed, and have no doubt you will be as well… if you’re not 100% convinced yet, check out the sample for my personal favorite of the eleven offered up… “Heaven’s Gates” takes you (sonically, anyway) closer to the all powerful force that guides our universe (and us, of course). If you’re seeking music that can bring real beauty into your life – GET THIS one! I give Karen and Crispin a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99. You can get more information on Karen’s Soundcloud page for this release. Rotcod Zzaj