Reviews of SECRET SPACES
“Secret Spaces” is pianist/composer Craig Urquhart’s seventh album of original piano solos, and clearly demonstrates Urquhart’s magic, velvet touch on the piano keys. Urquhart’s belief in the healing power of music and nature is expanded on this album to the more personal emotional level. Reflective, contemplative, and extraordinarily intimate, the music is quietly soothing throughout the album. Classically-trained from an early age, and the late Leonard Bernstein’s personal assistant in his final years, Urquhart brings a wealth of musical and emotional experience to his music, keeping it direct and uncluttered without being simplistic. Flash is completely unnecessary when the emotions conveyed are this clear. More meditative than melodic, the music is hypnotic and calming. And the sound of that piano - pure listening heaven!
“Secret Spaces” begins with the title track, gently setting the tone of the album. Warm, with a hint of mystery, it’s an invitation to a musical exploration. “Contemplation” is very fluid and introspective - a stream of thought given the freedom to meander. “Cathedral Pines” suggests the sanctuary nature can offer our lives. Reverent and hymn-like, it also reflects on the majesty of these wondrous trees. “Romance” has a graceful, dreamy elegance tinged with bittersweetness - a beauty! “Venetian Snowfall” conveys the quiet peacefulness of falling snow and the sparkle of light dancing on the whiteness on the ground. “Forgiveness” is sad but hopeful, reaching out, and giving solace to both the giver and the recipient. As the pitch of the notes gradually rises, you can sense that both people are being uplifted and finding redemption - very moving and evocative. “Meditation” is a soothing balm for a tired or troubled mind. “Virginia Mountain Morning” is the most traditionally melodic piece on the album. Refreshed and renewed, it offers a new beginning and sense of optimism. It’s a gorgeous piece and a wonderful conclusion to a standout album.
“Secret Spaces” is my favorite of Craig Urquhart’s albums so far. Check it out at www.HeartEarthMusic.com, cdbaby.com, amazon.com, and other online retailers. Very highly recommended!"
- Kathy Parsons, Solo Piano Publications, 29 May 2007
"Secret Spaces is pianist Craig Urquhart’s seventh release. While I haven’t heard all of his recordings, I’m willing to bet long-time fans of his gentle piano music may, like me, consider this his best work yet. Intimate, serene, and reflective yet completely accessible and engaging, the eleven tracks on the CD evoke the softer emotions, both the cheerful ones and those which are somber. It makes for ideal late night listening, perhaps in front of the fire or reading, where the music’s muted nature and lack of flash (although Urquhart once again displays remarkable and subtle control of shading and nuance) provide a pleasant background for either repose or concentration.
First on the CD, the title track features a soft refrain in the upper and middle registers set against accompanying lower chords. The song has an almost spiritual quality, majestic but in such a low-key way that it sneaks up on you. “Contemplation” earns its title by bringing melancholic minor key notes into play, but not to the degree that the song is a downer. There is still a lot of friendly warmth here, but it’s measured against a sensation of stately sense of reflection (hence, the title, no doubt). “Cathedral Pines” opens with dramatic ultra-low register notes before the middle register takes over the piece, playing out a flowing but sedate melody, eliciting a subtle sense of wonder and awe, I would imagine tied to the image of walking amongst the titular trees. From a personal perspective, I like “Along the Seine” (having walked its banks) as it conjures up a mental picture of an early morning stroll along the French river, perhaps with a slight fog hanging in the air, draping the surroundings in stillness. Another gem on the CD is “Forgiveness,” one of the sparser songs here, unwinding patiently one note at a time, both of Urquhart’s hands working their respective registers, establishing the perfect mood to mirror the title. One thing I admire about this artist is his restraint (also evidenced on another of his recordings that I reviewed, Streamwalker). Even on a track with the obvious title of “Romance” he doesn’t allow the melody to move over into cliché or commercial sentimentality. Instead, he focuses on making the more subdued elements of his playing evoke the sought-for response from the listener. He’s also not above taking some risks, notably on the closing track, “Virginia Mountain Morning,” which at 7:12 is a bit long for a solo piano number. However, he adroitly and leisurely evolves the piece, sustaining listener interest yet maintaining a solid continuity of mood.
Secret Spaces is a beguiling and endearing album. It’s true “mood” music, yet not in the sense of being monochromatic, but more in a way that these eleven instrumentals share a common purpose, i.e. to create a “secret space” for the listener to escape to and bathe in their soft warmth. I solidly recommend it and you’ll be doing yourself a favor if the first time you play it, you cuddle up in a favorite chair with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and just let the music take you wherever it may. I’d wager it will be a special place filled with memory and remembrance."
- Bill Binkelman, New Age Reporter
"The musical poet has written another book of beauty. This time pianist and composerCraig Urquhart has titled his album Secret Spaces. He writes about the places he has gone to and the places you can go. They are craftily hidden within the notes of his solo piano pieces. Fear not, for they are handily obvious once you have heard Craig's inspired contemporary tunes. On this album Craig captures fundamental elements in his compositions. There is the warmth of the sun, the caress of a gentle breeze and the sounds of life as the earth rotates. In addition, as on his remarkable album Streamwalker, he has included the sound of water.
The title track is Secret Spaces and it is absolutely heartbreaking. The quintessential beauty of the tune reaches down into your soul and touches you deeper than despair. It is not a profound sadness. It is hopeful. It is the opening of a door, the brushing aside the curtain for a fresh perspective. It says...start here.
Contemplation is eponymous in many ways. Its introspective melody suspends time and allows us to slip between the minutes for a brief interval. It brings to mind the unwavering stare out the window on a rainy day, chin on hand or perhaps the very opposite with drifting of thoughts on cloudless, electric blue skies. It is a perceptual oasis from the daily pressures of life in the fast lane.
There is something very dramatic about standing under the coniferous protection of pine trees that were established on the earth before Christ took his first steps. Above us are the lofty branches of the redwoods, the living testimonials to all the many changes that have taken place since the dawn of man. A little higher and just a prayer away are the heavens themselves. The natural grandeur and majesty of America’s sequoias is summed up very well in Craig's song Cathedral Pines.
Alexander Pope wrote, "To err is human, to forgive divine." To me there is nothing more unburdening than to forgive someone. Carrying around on your soul the weight of bitterness and hate slows down the journey to happiness. Forgiveness, Craig's unhurried, melancholy piece with its resoundingly clear voice is a reminder that one of the places we can allow ourselves to go is to redemption. Meditation is a sweet, flowing euphonic work. It is the kind of music you can use to count billowy white clouds or the gleaming stars. You can also use the tune to count your blessings.
The longest and best cut is called Virginia Mountain Morning and it is my favorite. The mist-filled hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains are a delight by dawn's early light. There are places where the clouds hang like halos over the mountains, the pine trees always point heavenward and the river waters flow with an effervescent life. There is a quietness to be had and to be appreciated.
Craig Urquhart has once again produced a masterful work of musical poetry that is introspective and full of promise. There are eleven glorious places on the album you can go to, but I will bet for you that there is a twelfth. Everyone needs Secret Spaces."
- R. J. Lannan, The Sounding Board, 22 July 2007
"Craig Urquhart has seen very limited commercial success; however, critically speaking he appears to attract the ears of the reviewing community. Why is this? Urquhart’s music is uncompromising vying away from the comfort music of accessible melodies preferring a more classically based arrangement that is moody, melancholy and meditative. Much like its predecessors, Secret Spaces captures all this and more as the pianist paints a delicate and detailed landscape of his world with hues of elegance and grace.
For those of you not familiar with this classically trained pianist, Craig has been quietly recording his signature music since 1990 with the release of his debut Songs Without Words. Though he expanded his horizon last year by adding a voice to his contemplative instrumentation courtesy of the vocal renditions found on Secret and Divine Signs, Urquhart has returned solely to the keyboards to voice his inner soul.
Unlike Streamwalker, which included a few very optimistic tracks, Secret Spaces utterly lives up to its title as the music is clandestine in its hidden hope delivered with the soft touch and fragrance of wild but well clothed lilies in an open field of its Creator. That said, the spirit of this album lives out in the hopeful lamentation title track that opens Craig’s latest creation.
This theme of hidden optimism is expressed throughout the album with an underlying spiritual theme as expressed in songs and titles such as “Contemplation”, “Forgiveness” and “Meditation”, with the latter almost strummed out gently and slowly like an acoustic guitar. Then there is the vivid word picture of “Cathedral Pines” whose title neatly connects the created with the Creator along with a more traditional and classical approach.
Despite the meditative premise, Craig also points to matters of the heart courtesy of the tracks “Romance”, “Embrace” and the hauntingly beautiful “Reunion”, the latter that lingers in the touch that it will bring to your heart. Better yet, there is the delicate meandering of “Along The Seine” and for that matter the lengthy closer “Virginia Mountain Morning” that is probably the most sanguine selection of Secret Spaces.
Urquhart continues to tread down the long and winding road that demands much from his listeners including patience and an attentive ear to details that are more hidden than obvious. But, with this fortitude, the results are a listening experience that is enriching, elevating, and most importantly enduring from a pianist that marches to the beat of his own drum."