Music on Call Brings Tunes to NJ Hospital Patients

 
My Red Car (Deluxe Edition) is a two CD-set from pianist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Lore Constantine. Quite different from her three previous releases, Disc 1 is a collection of eight vocal songs and three instrumentals, and Disc 2 Bonus Tracks is the eight vocals from Disc 1 arranged as instrumentals. Constantine wrote the music for all of the pieces except her covers of Mama Cass Elliot’s 1968 hit “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “Sunrise Over Haleakala,” and The Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace.” Some of the lyrics were written by Nancy Paolin and some were collaborations with Constantine. Constantine does all of the vocals, piano, ukulele, piccolo, and flute; guest musicians perform on guitar, violin, cello, bass, and drums. While I really appreciate the spirit of the vocals on this album, I vastly prefer the instrumentals, which are all excellent. The emotional range of the songs goes from heart-break to playful and are expressed in ballads, blues, country, and pop styles.
 
One of my favorite tracks on Disc 1 is the sweet and charming “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” a song I’ve loved since Cass Elliot had her hit with it a few too many years ago. The instrumentation is spare with ukulele, a little bass, cello, and drums, allowing the listener to focus on the lyrics and melody. I love the instrumental, “Night Stroll,” a lively jazz piece that reminds me a bit of Scott Cossu. Piano, violin, cello, bass, and drums really cook on this one! The title track is a lighthearted ode to an aging red Chevette (a first???) and the quest to find a replacement for it. Merl Saunders’ “Sunrise Over Haleakala” is a beautiful duet for piano and cello - smooth, flowing and very relaxing. Constantine usually includes an arrangement of a Grateful Dead song on her albums, and her solo piano “Brokedown Palace” finishes out the disc.
 
Disc 2 opens with “If Ever Such A Day” with Constantine playing the piccolo rather than singing (she also plays the piano). Jack Prucella provides some really tasty guitar licks and Constantine plays her heart out. She switches to flute for the other seven tracks, conveying at least as much emotion with that instrument as she does on Disc 1 with her voice. I really like the lyrical slow dance “Movin’ Ahead” and the somewhat mysterious “On Nights Like These.” “Dream a Little Dream of Me” is even more charming with flute expressing tenderness and affection. “A Quicksand Conversation” becomes a spirited, bluesy toe-tapper as an instrumental, and even the cellist sounds like he’s having fun! I love the laid-back calm and playfulness of “My Red Car” even without the vocal references to the red Chevette!

Childhood Christmas memories guided performer-composer, Lore Constantine, as she produced and recorded “Peace and Good Will,'” a holiday CD.

 

Constantine, a Dillsburg native, who lives in Cherry Hill, N.J., said that for years, friends have asked her to produce a Christmas CD. Every holiday, Constantine performs traditional and contemporary Christmas favorites at various venues, as well as at private gatherings.

 

 “It has been in the back of my mind, probably since the release of my first album,” Constantine said. “Earlier this year, I was doing a recording project for the studio owner, who is also a composer, trading studio time for me, I decided I have to do this. In about February, I started recording. It has been a work in progress over the past year. With my other albums, I had prepared in advance and recorded them in two days.”

 

A pianist, flutist and singer, Constantine performs throughout the mid-Atlantic region at music and arts festivals and at universities. Recently, she has performed often at Coffee Works Roastery and Cafe, in Voorhees, south New Jersey; sometimes, as a fill-in when another performer cannot make a scheduled appearance; and as the featured musician, she said.  Coffee Works is considered to be one of the leading coffee houses in America. In addition to its menu selections of coffee and food, the specialty restaurant offers concerts and open mic nights. Constantine said it has become a popular venue for musicians.

 

The album showcases Constantine's skills as pianist and flutist. A compilation of traditional carols, “it reflects the childhood Christmases we remember – the innocence, joy and celebration – and brings a heart-felt wish of peace for the future,” Constantine said.

 

Constantine chose to include the “Wexford Carol,” relatively unknown, traditional Irish Christmas carol dating from the 12th century. For many years, it was commonly accepted that it should only be performed by men. That changed in the late 20th century. The carol is sometimes known by its first verse – “Good people all, this Christmas time … “

 

“When I was recording the 'Wexford Carol' on piano, I decided that I really had to add the flute,” Constantine said. “I arranged three of the tracks on the 'Wexford Carol,' 'What Child is This' and 'Silent Night.'”

 

Along with the traditional carols – “The First Noël” and “We Three Kings,” the album includes some modern favorites, such as “White Christmas,” “Let it Snow” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Constantine also included “O Joyful Children,” which was originally written for Placido Domingo.

 

“It's a wonderful album, which I play once each season,” Constantine said. “It's a favorite of mine. I've added my own interpretation to the original version.”

 

Constantine included John Lennon's, “Imagine,” in the CD. She said it reflects “the sentiment of the season.”

 

“A friend of mine would always play it at Christmas time,” Constantine said. “I picked up on that tradition and continue to play it.”

 

Constantine said increasingly, her career is moving toward performance. In addition to appearances at Coffee Works and other venues, she is plays piano as an accompanist with Curtis students, opera singers, who perform at the Marian Anderson Historical Society, in Philadelphia.

 

Anderson, in 1955, broke the color barrier by becoming the first African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera. In 1958, she became a delegate to the United Nations and, in 1972, was awarded the UN Peace Prize. In 1991, she was honored with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

 

“I 've tried to approach the album with the same approach I have employed with other projects,” which is somewhat influenced by the Grateful Dead,” Constantine said. “ … Improvising … not the jazzy improvisation, but improvising with the lyrical quality of the songs.”

 

Constantine said while recording, she did several versions of the songs before deciding which to record. With “White Christmas,” she originally included the longer first section of the original, but later decided to start at the beginning of the vocal section.

 

“The CD has been sent to radio stations in all 50 states,” Constantine said. “For me, this is more of a mainstream album, which has a broader appeal.”

 

Distributed by CD Baby, the album is now available on iTunes, she said. The cover of the CD is taken from a photo she took of a family Christmas tree. The back cover features a photo, taken by her husband, John, of Constantine standing beside a Christmas tree.

 

Peace and Good Will is composer/arranger/multi-instrumentalist Lore Constantine’s contribution to the ever-growing wealth of recorded instrumental Christmas music. Arranged mostly as piano solos, the ten selections include three piano/flute duets with Constantine playing both parts (how’d she do dat?). This very appealing album features a combination of sacred and secular carols and a wonderful solo piano arrangement of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The arrangements are warm and inviting, relying on the beauty of the melodies rather than pianistic fireworks or bravado. This is a great album for people looking for a collection of carols in fairly traditional settings yet just different enough to be distinctive.
 
“Wexford Carol” opens the set with a traditional Irish Christmas song that dates back to the 12th century. Performed as a flute and piano duet, it exudes joy and celebration - a charming beginning! “We Three Kings” begins with a straightforward playing of the melody accompanied by arpeggiated chords; the second verse is a lovely and lightly improvised variation on the melody. “White Christmas” is poignant, dreamy, and played with just enough sentiment. Constantine brightens the mood with a lighthearted and slightly jazzy arrangement of “Let It Snow.” The beautiful melody and expressive playing in “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” wistfully tug at the heart, and the improvised middle section gives it a very personal touch. “O Joyful Children” is a newer carol (1994), and Constantine’s arrangement is flowing and graceful. “What Child Is This?” is the second flute and piano duet. The two instruments alternate on the melody with the other instrument playing an accompaniment or a counter-melody. The flute improv in the middle is lively and again adds a very personal touch. “The First Noel” is a flowing piano solo that is kept simple and heartfelt. “Silent Night” is the third duet. Both parts are elegant and spare, meshing beautifully and expressively. I never would have thought of “Imagine” as a Christmas song, but as one of the most powerful songs ever written about the quest for peace, it’s a perfect fit and a satisfying ending to the album.
 

This is a beautiful CD. Lore Constantine's handling of complex melodies and gentle harmonies combine to make this a CD you will return to again and again. I listen to it while I am working, as well as when I just want to sit quietly and listen to beautiful piano music. I am impressed with her original compositions, and would like to hear more recordings by her.

"20 fun things to do this weekend"

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"Piano Expressions, by Lore Constantine combines New Orleans jazz style with classic rock"

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Lovely unaccompanied piano simply surrounds you with pleasure. You know some of the songs already, but it like hearing them for the first time. Beautiful, hypnotic and addictive.

“Piano Expressions” is Lore Constantine’s follow-up to her 2007 debut recording, “Piano Impressions.” The fourteen solo piano tracks consist of a broad range of music most of which is played in a New Orleans jazz style. Two of the pieces are originals, and the others are Constantine’s arrangements of pieces by Lyle Lovett, James Booker, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and others – a rather dizzying mix that is held together by Constantine’s playing style and approach to the music. Her playing is often big and bold, so I wouldn’t call this music to fall asleep with. It’s more for energizing than relaxation, although a few of the songs are on the quiet side. Along with the obvious rock and blues influences, Constantine has a strong classical music background that is the most apparent in her original music. The CD begins with Lovett’s “She’s No Lady,” arranged in an upbeat, playful style that seems to grin. My favorite track is The Grateful Dead’s “Black Peter” with its slow, soulful, funky blues. Constantine’s “Serenity” is more delicate and peaceful, in keeping with its title. I never would have thought of Pink Floyd’s music being workable as piano solos, but Constantine’s version of “Breathe” is very effective. On the other hand, most of The Beatles’ music sounds great on the piano, and her take on “Norwegian Wood” is beautiful and flowing. I also really like Bruce Springsteen’s “New York City Serenade,” a slow, enchanting ballad that evokes real passion. Constantine included two of Bob Dylan’s songs, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and “Lay, Lady, Lay.” The first is good-time music, full of fun and spirit; and the second is a tender love song – Constantine brings both to life even without the words. “Hop Skip Blues” is the other original piece, and Constantine calls it “a kind of blues meets Chopin” piece – also a lot of fun! She then finishes the album with another Grateful Dead tune, the bright and energetic “Ripple.” The music on “Piano Expressions” is a lot of fun to listen to and I’m sure it will bring some real piano pizzazz to many parties! It is available from www.lore constantine.com, cdbaby.com, and will be available soon from iTunes. Enjoy!

Lore Constantine has a gift for probing into melodies. Her Piano Impressions draws from wildly varied sources - Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin, the Neville Brothers and Marian McPartland among others, yet the album feels rounded and whole. This is not ethereal wallpaper. Her playing commands attention which is richly rewarded.

Thank you, Lore Constantine, for your genre-crossing concert here at Muhlenberg College. It was a wonderful experience for our students and a great opportunity for them to hear one musician's solution to the question of how to define an independent path. Your fusion of traditional piano literature and technique with pieces from recent Rock and other styles is very powerful. Thank you.

Lore Constantine’s debut CD, “Piano Impressions,” is a very eclectic mix of classic rock, jazz, and pop melodies, and a couple of original compositions. A pianist who has performed in venues from casinos and taverns to recital halls and restaurants, Constantine’s playing and arranging styles can be subtle at times and very big and boisterous at others, depending on the mood of the piece and the setting. Actually, I like her original pieces the best on this album, and perhaps she’ll treat us to a full album of her own compositions sometime in the future. The opening piece is “Takes My Breath Away,” a lovely ballad originally performed by Tuck and Patti. Constantine’s arrangement for solo piano is soulful and expressive. “Willow Creek” is another beauty, this one composed by Marian McPartland. Slow and graceful but complex harmonically, this is one of my favorites. Constantine arranged and recorded two of The Grateful Dead’s songs, “Mountains of the Moon” and “Terrapin Station.” I have never been a fan of The Dead’s music, so these two don’t do much for me. “One Winter’s Night” was composed for string ensemble and solo, but works beautifully on piano. Its delicate and gentle melody has a peaceful flow and lots of expression. The Neville Brothers’ “Yellow Moon” is another rocker with lots of heavy bass on the piano. “Love Gets in the Way” has the easy sway of a slow dance and a tender, romantic melody. “Flute Blues (or If Only I Was a Harmonica Player)” is one of the two originals. I love piano blues, and Constantine does an admirable job of translating her duet for flute and guitar to piano solo. Slinky and fun! The second Constantine original, “A Morricone Moment,” was inspired by the music in Clint Eastwood’s westerns. Another beautiful ballad, it shows Constantine’s quiet and more classical side. Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” is another favorite. Melancholy and bittersweet, this one really comes from the heart. “Stairway to Heaven,” the Led Zeppelin’s rock classic, begins rather plaintively and builds to full-tilt bravado by the end. I’ll bet this one gets their attention in the casinos! Lore Constantine’s debut is very promising. I’d love to hear more of her original work, but know that familiar music will bring her a bigger audience. Check it out at www.loreconstantine.com, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and iTunes.

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