14 Songs, 53 Minutes

TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

5.0 out of 5
2 Ratings

2 Ratings

CandiceMichelle1 ,

Review from Journeyscapes Radio

“Cantum Laudus” (subtitled “Songs of Praise”) is a collection of fourteen timeless hymns dating back to the middle-ages by pianist-composer Greg Starr. Released on Quiet Rain Music, these inspirational passages are intended to sooth, relax and bring comfort to one’s spirit. Rendered entirely on solo piano, roughly half of the compositions date back to the 1800s, with the earliest piece in the collection dating all the way back to circa 530-598 in Ireland.

The album opens with a solo piano rendition of an English folk song from the 1600’s titled “Royal Oak (All Things Bright and Beautiful)”. Led by a flowing and radiant melody, the piece conveys the warmth and optimism of a clear-blue day, as the sun’s rays reflect upon a pastoral landscape. It’s one in a handful of more celebratory and lively pieces on the album, which are interspersed with more lulling and slower-placed numbers such as “Duke Street”, “Nicaea” and “The Call”. Also included on the album is the widely popular “Jesus Loves Me”, a piece that was originally written in 1861. Here Greg lends a waltzing, almost bluesy touch to this classic hymn, which has long brought much peace and comfort to many children and churchgoers for more than a century-and-a-half. One of my favorite hymns on the album is “Nettleton (Come Thou Fount)”, which dates back to 1825. Initially opening with ringing droplets in high register notes, the composition soon gives way to a gentle and inspirational melody that brings images to mind of a rural countryside. “Bunessan (Morning Has Broken)” is another one of my favorites – a traditional Gaelic melody that was first published in Lachlan Macbean’s “Songs and Hymns of the Gael” in 1888. Intervals of suspended notes help to carefully move the composition along, as its lower register keys exude a definitively calming mood. However, I ultimately found the album’s pinnacle moment on the second-to-last track, which is aptly titled “Wondrous Love (What Wondrous Love Is This)”. This heavenly hymn bodes a majestic yet perfectly understated quality, seeming to unfold in slow motion like that of a delicate flower blooming. Originally collected by W. Walker and published in “Southern Harmony” in 1835, the author of this beautifully mysterious composition serendipitously remains unknown.

While listening to this album it’s easy to imagine one playing these songs on the stage of an old stained-glass chapel, with Greg’s piano exuding a rich and lovely tone throughout its elegant passages. Sure to inspire many listeners with peace, comfort, joy and hope, “Cantum Laudus” is especially recommended for those who enjoy both soothing solo piano and sacred instrumental music.

KathyPiano7 ,

From MainlyPiano

"Cantum Laudus" is a collection of fourteen hymns arranged for solo piano and performed by Greg Starr. The songs are listed by their original titles, but Starr identifies them by their hymn names in the cover notes along with the composers and the approximate dates the pieces were written. Several of the songs are frequently-heard gems like “Be Thou My Vision,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “Jesus Loves Me,” but Starr has managed to bring a new freshness to each one. The arrangements are mostly quiet and prayerful, focusing on the beauty of the melodies and expressing the meaning of the songs without the use of words. This is Greg Starr’s fourth album, and I’m sure that fans of solo piano will embrace "Cantum Laudus" whether or not they are familiar with these hymns. I love the simplicity of the arrangements and the grace with which they are performed. The cover artwork is also exceptional!

"Cantum Laudus" begins with “Royal Oak (All Things Bright and Beautiful),” a hymn built around an English folk song from the 1600’s. Gentle and warmly inviting, it’s a lovely opening track. “Duke Street (Jesus Shall Reign)” begins with a single repeated note behind the melody, and becomes more flowing in the second verse, reverting to the single repeated note and melody near the end - a gorgeous arrangement! “For the Beauty of the Earth” is a favorite hymn of many people, expressing gratitude for the wonders of the natural world. “Slane (Be Thou My Vision)” is another very popular hymn, but Starr makes it his own, keeping it open and heartfelt. I was surprised to learn that this song goes back to about 530-598 in Ireland. “Jesus Loves Me” is one of the first hymns most children learn, and Starr’s arrangement begins very simply for the first stanza, becoming a slow and soulful gospel piece - a favorite! “Erhalt Uns, Herr (Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Your Word)” was a new hymn for me. Dating back to the 1500’s, it is more melancholy than most of the other songs, and Starr’s expressive interpretation flows from the heart - another favorite! “Give Me Jesus” is an African-American spiritual that works wonderfully as a piano solo. Many people think of the 1971 Cat Stevens hit when they hear “Morning is Broken,” but this nugget goes back to the 1800’s. Starr’s arrangement includes a very effective use of the damper pedal to create the feeling of space and openness - beautiful! The tune for “Kingsfold (I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say)” is thought to date back to the Middle Ages. Haunting in its dark richness, this is my favorite song on the album. “Schonster Herr Jesu (Beautiful Savior),” also known as “Fairest Lord Jesus,” brings this excellent album to a close with a warm message of love and hope.

"Cantum Laudus" is a soothing and uplifting collection of solo piano hymns that everyone can relate to and enjoy. Highly recommended!

More By Greg Starr