Sarah Spring is a gifted composer of rare delicacy.
Her music has the depth and miraculous faculty to evoke within a listener’s mind’s eye both imagery and emotion that pirouette and glide across a landscape of unspoken beauty. Shapes gather like shadows in a falling sun, or glint and glitter on fallen snow, or refract nightfall light through a window haze.
A composer, sound artist, pianist, and music educator, Spring has allowed her subtle gifts to emerge and develop in their own time, nudged from time to time with her need to compose, yet constrained like all mothers of young children and highly regarded teachers for time to work and focus creatively.
Spring has always been drawn to music, from her earliest memories. Her family is musical, to say the least, from her father Bill, a gifted blues pianist, to her brother Tobin, a highly respected guitarist and local Huntsville entertainer.
At first drawn specifically to the classics, Spring undertook her education at McGill University and later Toronto University. Perhaps from long hours of practice in drafty study halls in Montreal, her ability was curtailed by a sustained injury that prevented her from playing for several years in her early twenties. She came back to piano through a desire to compose and in those attempts, by playing what she could despite the limitations of her injury, she slowly regained strength and with therapy recovered substantially. Despite her love for classical composers such as Beethoven, Spring was never completely at home with the classics, and even though she was deeply inspired by Leslie Kinton, a renowned professor of classical training, she chose not pursue a life in classical performance.
Spring’s initial recording work began in June 2011 with work with another famed artist, Beverly Hawksley, a Toronto/Huntsville painter. Spring teamed with Hawksley to compose music for a presentation of paintings and music entitled Imagining Winnie, based on the life of Winnie Trainor who was reported to have been Tom Thomson’s partner. Spring created two works that are of extraordinary quality: “Love and Falling Snow” and “Imagining Winnie”. The show was a great success and Spring has gone on to compose other works of similar nature such as a soundtrack for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; “Pulse” and “Footsteps”, two sound installations for live piano and pre-recorded sounds; plus a commissioned commercial for Huntsville Festival of the Arts.
Her first EP album was recorded in 2013-14 with Andre Wahl, a famed producer who often works with Huntsville musicians. A collection of reimagined, and perhaps reinvigorated, Christmas carols called Winter Solace was featured on CBC radio. The EP showcased her prowess as a pianist and introduced her artistically to record production. All of these steps led her confidently to her album Prints, released in 2019.
Prints is a remarkable album. Not only do the compositions connect almost viscerally with the listener, but also they convey such touching, poignant portraits of time, place and emotion suspended within these magical musical moments. There is such tenderness in the playing and the overall melodic reach in this selection of tunes, that you are immediately desirous to play or repeat play the songs over and over again. Prints is structurally, and perhaps thematically linked to memory, reflecting the gossamer fragility of remembrance like a stack of curled photos or streaked 16mm film. Whatever the inspiration, the manifestation of these compositions is to immediately pull toward a realization that memory is not time lost, but time eternalized. The power of this music has not failed to reach a larger audience and Sarah Spring has enjoyed enthusiastic success especially through international streaming on Spotify and other media.
Spring, who apparently follows her own muse, has of course found company and inspiration from modern composers like Alexandra Stréliski and Otis Lambert, two highly skilled composers who similarly draw emotional response from their varied compositions.
Spring also continues to explore extensively with recording technique, and if one aspect of Prints stands out it is the intimacy with which the piano is recorded and captured throughout the album. Using imaginative approaches to recording such as taping paper to the piano strings, odd damping, and mic positioning to name a few, Spring is finding her own unique methods for projecting the sounds that satisfy the needs of her compositions and her desire to artistically connect and communicate.
None of this is more revealed than on her newest songs, three of which have been released for distribution in recent months. These newer songs have even richer resonance and mystery within their evoked imagery. “Under Cold Water”, a late 2019 single, is deeply soothing, almost maternal, accompanied by the sounds of bowhead whale; the song is reminiscent of some deeply beautiful cinematic moment of discovery and recognition. “Requiem”, the complimentary single with “Under Cold Water”, is more pensive, reflective, almost spiritual in timbre. Both pieces are a clear indication of evolution and progress in Spring’s compositional aptitude—promises of something wonderful yet to come. Spring is extremely proud that one of her new pieces, “Return”, has been included in a collection of piano artists’ work entitled Recollections Vol. 4, which will most certainly lead to broader opportunities for her.
For all her accomplishments in this past year, Sarah Spring is a thoughtful, caring person, easy to laugh and measured in her response to all the possibilities that her music has brought her way. Her priorities remain her children, family and her students, to whom she is a profound inspiration and mentor.
Spring’s music will both delight and move any lucky person who takes the time to listen. More important, it is the continued work of an artist in transition and creative transformation.
Learn more about Sarah Spring at sarahspringpiano.ca.
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