Fiona Joy Hawkins and Rebecca Daniel’s “Heavenly Voices” is one of those rare albums where everything is just right – from the compositions and performances to the high-end recording and the album’s timing. It is so flawless and well-executed that when we hear Hawkins and Daniel’s voices after five instrumental pieces, heaven seems near. Indeed, the album is, in a classical sense, an elegy and symbol of light’s victory over darkness.
Australian Pianist Fiona Joy Hawkins debuted with “Portrait of a Waterfall” in 2006. She is known for “Grace”, her song on a Grammy Winning album in 2014, and her extensive catalog produced by Will Ackerman. Hawkins is also a member of the Contemporary instrumental group FLOW. Living in a small village of 830 people in NSW Australia, she has toured and played worldwide. Her two most recent albums are the deluxe version of “Christmas Joy” (2020) and “Moving Through Worlds” (2020).
Rebecca Daniel started playing the violin at the age of four and sang professionally in opera at the age of nine. Rebecca studied piano with Royal College of Music Professor Alan Rowlands, and violin and chamber music with Emanuel Hurwitz and the Amadeus String Quartet at The Royal Academy of Music London. Rebecca has collaborated with Fiona Joy Hawkins, writing, performing, and recording for over a decade.
Finding The Way Out
The ultra-high recording quality is an important aspect of “Heavenly Voices”. Released by Blue Coast recordings, the album is produced by Cookie Marenco in an Extended Sound Environment (E.S.E.). Fans of Hawkins and Daniel will remember the “The Lightness of Dark” (2019) album, where many of the pieces on “Heavenly Voices” are taken from. If you are interested in hearing what E.S.E. is all about, you can compare the two albums’ versions and easily hear the difference. “The Lightness of Dark” sounds fantastic too, but “Heavenly Voices” is on a planet of its own when it comes to high fidelity.
The album opener is called “Finding The Way Out”. I like how the piece illustrates the intentions behind “Heavenly Voices”; to show that there is hope even in the darkest moments. One year into the Covid19 pandemic, it is something that speaks to everyone (and perhaps even more so to audiences in Australia, who have experienced natural disasters too). The live version of “Finding The Way Out” is a magnificent opener, and it sets the bar incredibly high for the rest of the album. Bravo!
Interwoven Threads of Chance
Next out is “Intervowen Threads of Chance”. The piece focuses on Daniel’s violin. The melody twists and turns beautifully, illustrating how random – or perhaps, not random – chance really is. Its interwoven threads are the fabric of our lives. It is a superb piece, and it renders me speechless every time. Thankfully, the next out is “Lake of Contemplation”. It gives time to reflect on what we just have heard and how it resonates with our own lives and experiences.
Now the album changes directions. With “The Bit In The Middle” we are venturing into the darkness. I love how Hawkins on the piano carefully lays the foundation for the melody, and Daniel’s violin expands the room of sound. It is dramatic, a bit frightening, and most of all: authentic.
“Elegy” is a symbol of the artist’s classical inspirations and training. It is sad and lamenting. Its requiem styled atmosphere makes us reflect on the state of the world and what we all can do to improve the situation. In the age of Covid19, we all need an elegy in our lives – and I choose the one by Fiona Joy Hawkins and Rebecca Daniel. “Sugar Plum Ghost” refines the atmosphere further, and the vocal gives it a human touch – albeit a bit ghostly.
The Lightness of Dark
If you only were to listen to one piece on the album, the 10 minutes long “The Lightness of Dark” sums it all up wonderfully; the dark emotions but also the willingness to go on, to fight. “Ghosts Insanity Angels” has a somewhat larger-than-life atmosphere. It is a fascinating piece.
The title track rounds of the album brilliantly. The music seems to come from heaven itself, making the search for the replay button very easy indeed.
In conclusion: “Heavenly Voices” by Fiona Joy Hawkins and Rebecca Daniel is a magnificent release by some of the finest artists on the New Age music scene! In a time when most of us are unable to attend concerts, the album’s high-end recording adds an extra dimension to the listening experience. I love the overall design and how it deals with pain and suffering. It is an elegy in every sense of the word. Yet right under the surface is hope and a firm belief that there is a way out. In other words; a timely message for us all.