Review by Kathy Parsons of www.mainlypiano.com
Nocturnes of Faith is a beautiful collection of hymns arranged and performed as piano solos by Mark Looney. Some of the twenty-six pieces are very familiar traditional hymns and some are not as well-known. Looney is a classically-trained pianist from an early age who continued through college as a piano and music major and then expanded into popular, inspirational and jazz piano as well as arranging and composing. He is now a piano instructor in Florida as well as the Director of Music, Media, and Drama at his church. These hymns are warm and masterfully-played without any hint of “showing off.” Looney’s expressive playing brings a very special beauty to songs that are usually performed with lyrics, and his arrangements make even the well-worn chestnuts like “Amazing Grace” new and very personal. Listening to this album is a joy whether or not you are familiar with the hymns because Looney’s touch and heartfelt playing communicate deeply as they lift the spirit.
With twenty-six tracks, I obviously can’t tell you about all of the songs, but I’ll mention some of my own favorites. The album begins with “A Mighty Fortress,” a classic hymn made new with grace and a gentle touch. “Grace, Greater Than Our Sin” is a beautifully flowing ballad. “O Worship the King” is a joyous pianistic celebration that has Looney’s fingers dancing all over the piano keyboard. “Holy, Holy, Holy” is a little unusual in that the melody is played in the bass clef while the upper treble clef has the accompaniment - very effective! “Wonderful Words of Life” has an infectious energy with its lively tempo and sweet melody. “Precious Memories” is given more of a gospel feeling that really sings. “The Old Rugged Cross” was one of my favorite hymns growing up, and I really like Looney’s interpretation - simple and contemporary. “Take My Life and Let It Be” is upbeat and lively with a catchy rhythm. “Kum Ba Yah” has a childlike innocence that I really like! It seems that many pianists have been doing arrangements of “Be Thou My Vision” and this one is especially nice. I love the strong bass in “Faith of Our Fathers” contrasted by the flowing chorus. My favorite track is “Nocturne of Faith,” an incredible piece that reminds me of Chopin. Gracefully flowing and played with deep passion, this one grabs me every time. The closing track is a flowing arrangement of “Blessed Assurance,” a true classic.
Nocturnes of Faith is excellent from start to finish both as a collection of piano solos and as a collection of solo piano hymns. It is sure to bring about a peaceful state of mind from either perspective. It is available from marklooney.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out!
October 9, 2011