Grace Michael Hoppe’ 2013 / Spring Hill Music 46 minutes plus enhancements
"Grace" is the twentieth recording (plus inclusion on many compilations) from Michael Hoppe’, a Grammy-nominated composer who never ceases to amaze. One might expect that after so many albums, an artist would stick to a comfort zone or with a format that always sells well, but Grace is the first release that features Hoppe singing, and what a delightful surprise that is! Simple and from the heart is what Hoppe’ has always done best, and this sweet little love song backed with acoustic guitar and delicate keyboard washes could easily be a hit single with its gentle melody and heartfelt sincerity. The eleven other tracks are a wonderful combination of original instrumental and vocal pieces that, as Hoppe’s other albums do, put him in a category of his own. In addition to Hoppe’s piano, voice, keyboards, and guitar, cellist Martin Tillman appears on three tracks, violinist Alyssa Park appears on one, and singers Celeste Godin (soprano) and AnDee Compton (contralto) each appear twice. With his extensive background in classical, new age, and pop music, Hoppe’ brings a wealth of experience to his original compositions and has created a unique and distinctive voice that no one else comes close to.
In addition to the twelve stellar musical tracks, the enhanced CD includes the sheet music to “Love Overflows” (melody, lyrics and chord charts only), the video for the same song, a set of extraordinary photographs by Hoppe’s daughter, Rebecca Hoppe’, and a haiku by Brett Brady for each piece. It’s a gorgeous package, and I’m not sure how much of that will be available with the digital version.
"Grace" begins with “Romance for Cello,” performed by Martin Tillman, a world-class cellist and frequent Hoppe’ collaborator. Accompanied with only soft keyboard washes, the cello sings with its melancholy voice, touching the heart and soothing the mind. “Hoppe’s “Ave Maria” has appeared on previous albums, but this is the first as a vocal piece. The simple accompaniment enhances Celeste Godin’s stunning performance, sending chills down the spine with its elegant beauty. “Song for Haya” is a loving tribute to a longtime friend in honor of her passing. The graceful and lyrical “Moonflower,” a duet for piano and cello, is definitely a favorite! “Safe to Port” is Hoppe’s first choral work and was inspired by a poem of love and loss found in the kitchen of a rented vacation cottage. AnDee Compton’s gorgeous performance is profoundly moving. “Mayfly Waltz” is a light and tender lullaby composed for Hoppe’s grandson and performed on music box and strings - sweet and magical! “Years Ago,” another stunning duet for cello and piano, is longing set to music. Alyssa Park joins Tillman for a haunting violin and cello duet of “The Parting,” one of Hoppe’s first compositions. The piece has been used in several films and Hoppe has recorded it with various instruments over the years, but this version can’t be topped. The closing track is the above-mentioned song, “Love Overflows,” Hoppe’s first recorded vocal track. David George wrote the gentle lyrics and also created the video for the song. Bravo, Michael! You’ve created another masterpiece!