Review: Fiona Joy Hawkins: Moving Through Worlds
Moving Through Worlds is an enchanting musical reflection on the life of composer and pianist Fiona Joy Hawkins, a relaxed blend of 14 solo piano recordings and layered instrumental pieces. Rich with dynamic energy in some places, our emotions shift with the poignant melodies in others. It’s as though Hawkins’ goal was to paint all the “worlds” and roles that she – like most women – has moved through in life while this powerful music built up in her soul: granddaughter, nurse, wife, mother, daughter-in-law, friend, lover, painter, pianist, composer.
Hawkins began recording and conceptualizing the album Moving Through Worlds three years ago, yet she describes it as an album over 44-years in the making. One of the most impressive pieces – and a fan favorite – is the classically-inspired solo piano piece “For the Roses” which a then 12-year-old Hawkins wrote and performed for her grandmother’s funeral.
The first track on Moving Through Worlds, “Calling County Clare” (5:06) is a haunting nod to her family’s Irish roots, as her light-as-air vocals and Irish whistle by Paul Jarman join in calling her ancestors forth. Hawkins’ regular collaborators from the Imaginary Road Studios family of artists join in: Will Ackerman (guitar/hopi), Tom Eaton (accordion), Jeff Haynes (percussion) and Tony Levin (NS bass) enhance her piano and vocals. The famed County Clare Ireland has a strong history of traditional music; one can enjoy a visit to the emerald isle in the song’s music video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/MTsSX3YtecY
A prolific composer, Hawkins literally “weathered the firestorm” by composing several of the album’s tracks while last year’s devastating Australian fires raged around her village. It is not surprising that these tracks embrace a bit of dissonance, and fittingly so. Initially, she donated the songs “Tolling of the Fire Bell,” “Bushfire Moon” and “Prayer for Rain” to fundraising purposes for firefighters and wildlife through Bandcamp. She debuted the songs to her international fan following, which is now united through her weekly pandemic-inspired, live-streamed Fiona Live Living Room Concertsfrom her home in NSW Australia.
“I believe music is a gift from another world, from ancestors of the past communicating to inspire and give us hope,” Hawkins said, reflecting on the world’s current challenges. “Music is a universal language that connects us without prejudice, it speaks to us all equally. Now more than ever we need the connection to our past to find the pathway to our future.”
As an international artist, pre-pandemic Hawkins toured solo and as a founding member the award-winning contemporary instrumental group, FLOW (Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt, Jeff Oster, Will Ackerman). Her original music is likened to modern composers Ludovico Einaudi, Liz Story, and George Winston, yet one can hear the influence of her favorite classical composers Felix Mendelssohn and Frédéric Chopin in her approach to composition.
Now is a great time for something enlivening; Moving Through Worlds will bring ease to the weary listener who is seeking feelings of harmony and respite from the everyday world.