With the release of Jeanne Newhall’s eloquent and heartfelt new project, a compendium of eight beautiful original compositions collectively titled Cantata Amorosa, the veteran composer, pianist and vocalist invites us to time travel with her back to a special and sacred day– her wedding to her beloved husband Philip in October 1998. To celebrate the momentous occasion, she drew on her classical training and love for ambient, romantic music to create for her 44 guests a soundtrack of original compositions reflecting both the joy of the day and the solemness of the couple’s vows.
Perfectly fitting each moment and in spiritual tune with the setting in the shadow of Camelback Mountain at her aunt’s historic1929 casa in Phoenix, each piece was performed by a special guest, playing the piano provided by Steinway & Sons. Notably, a female friend and former student sang “Cavatina,” a tender piano and vocal adaptation of Emily Dickinson’s poem “I Shall Not Live in Vain.” One of Jeanne’s male friends was entrusted with the moody, hypnotic “Aria,” adapted from the text of Robert Burns’ “A Red, Red Rose.” A voice student who blossomed under Jeanne’s guidance performed the eloquent incantation “Prosodia (A Chant),” a soul-stirring spiritual invocation acknowledging the divine and its many blessings and attributes of light, joy and compassion. Jeanne herself performed “Falsobordone (Kyrie Eleison),” a deeply spiritual and reflective piano meditation featuring angelic voicings.
Cantata Amorosa took root during the COVID-19 lockdown, a few months after Jeanne had recorded and mixed her 2020-released singles “House of Time” and “Never Lose Your Peace.” Unable to do live shows or even leave her house at times, she began revisiting previous material she had always loved but never recorded and released. Always “uber-organized,” she found all the wedding music in a folder, and with no time restrictions, used the opportunity to expand the arrangements and adapt the tracks for her as the featured pianist and lead vocalist. She called upon renowned Arizona based flutist Mary Petrich to perform the exquisite main melodies of “Fanfara e Romanza (Fanfare and Romance)” and “Cantico Sacro (A Sacred Song).”
“Through time and love, I have found that the music has matured,” she says. “There’s always a dialogue going on, as music has its own energy that speaks to you as you work with it. It felt sensational to remember and revive these eight monumental pieces of emotion from that magical, deeply spiritual day. It was wonderful to develop the tunes with no time restrictions. Creating these new arrangements was also a meaningful way to pay tribute to several of our guests who are no longer with us, including my brother who gave me away – whom we lost in 2008 – and my friend who recorded everything on a Super 8 camera.”
There is a special story behind the eloquent solo piano ballad “Shimmer,” a wonderful new piece and the only song on Cantata Amorosa that was not a part of the original wedding canon. Working with her longtime engineer Don Murray, Jeanne recorded all the piano and vocals at United Recording in Hollywood on their stunning vintage 9-foot Steinway. When she first sat down to check out the piano, even before she could start tinkling at the keys, the music for “Shimmer” just “spilled out, and it was hard to tell if I was playing it or it was playing me. It was like light shining through me.” Her husband Philip was there during the serendipitous creation of the song. “I kept it as the closer to the whole album because destiny seemed to play an essential part,” she adds.
Rather than drop a full album up front as she has done for most of her multi-faceted 30-year recording career, Jeanne has created a unique schedule throughout 2023 to individually release the songs from Cantata Amorosa. Starting March 16 with the pensive piano meditation “Notturno d’Amore (Night Of Love),” she will be putting out each tune as a single every four weeks throughout the year, culminating in the release of the full album on October 25, which is Jeanne and Philip’s 25th Anniversary.
Come join the celebration!