Review by Kathy Parsons of Mainlypiano.com
Where The Ocean Meets The Sky is the third solo piano album from Oregon pianist/composer Julie Hanney. Introduced to the piano at the age of five, Julie started writing her own music a few years later. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in music with special emphasis on piano and composition. She continued to study composition at the graduate level and is a published composer of works for piano, choir and various instrumental ensembles. Julie released her debut album, Painting in Sound, in 2019. She released her Christmas album, A Peace-Filled Christmas, the same year and it was nominated for "Holiday Album of the Year" by SoloPiano.com. The fourteen original piano solos on Where The Ocean Meets The Sky are intended to impart a sense of rest, wonder, peace and healing, and I think this music does all of that very well. I even love the album cover with its fluffy white clouds reflected on the lid of a grand piano! The music itself has the natural grace of someone who has played the piano since early childhood. There are no dazzling pianistic fireworks, but Julie's ability to communicate via the piano is warm, magical and very sincere.
Where The Ocean Meets The Sky begins with "Peace Hymn," a piece that conveys a reverent sense of calm and tranquility - a four-minute mind massage! "Flow" suggests the relaxed groove of a slow jazz improvisation. "The Echo of a Seashell" seems to tell the life story of a sea creature from the time it was "born" and lived in the watery depths of the ocean until it washed up on the shore waiting to become a found treasure for someone walking along the beach. I can really feel the gentle movement of the water as well as a sense of wonder. "Soul Dance" is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and there is a wonderful video that includes several dancers as well as Julie playing the piano. Graceful and very expressive, it's an outstanding piece! I've always felt like I must have salt water in my veins and love living a short distance from the ocean. "Ocean Song" beautifully captures the feeling of the ocean at its calmest, reflecting the colors of the sky and moving at a very relaxed pace - also a favorite! A simple waltz, "Reverie" feels like a daydream on a spring afternoon with gentle breezes and new life all around - I really like this one, too! Lullabies often express the innocence of early childhood, and Julie's "Lullaby" is a light and delicate waltz that will gently soothe the soul of a "child" of any age. "You and Me" is a gentle, tender expression of love - another favorite. The title track expresses the peacefulness of looking to the horizon line where the sky seems to meet the ocean, creating awe-inspiring colors and images. Who hasn't wondered who or what was out there and what were they doing? I love this piece! The album closes with "Small Things With Great Love," a beautiful example of a "less is more" approach and how poignant that can be.
If you like peaceful solo piano with substance, be sure to check out Julie Hanney's music! Where The Ocean Meets The Sky is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Bandcamp, and streaming sites like Spotify and Pandora. Recommended!
Review by Rob Benny of On the Fringes of Sound
Julie Hanney is an Oregon based Pianist who is well versed in multiple genres while showing her own unique voice within it all. Having been Classically trained since a young age, Julie went on to earn her degree in Music from the University of Oregon. In addition to a number of impressive achievements – composing music for Jones Road String Quartet and the Bend Cello Collective, just to name a few – Julie has released a few albums of her own which demonstrate her impeccable skills as a Pianist. Expressive without being pretentious or needlessly flashy, Julie’s music is performance with an aura – one which will emotionally move you in many ways.
Released on January 22, 2021 through Heartdance Records, Where the Ocean Meets the Sky contains some remarkable, memorable, melancholy, and inspiring piano compositions. “Peace Hymn”, the album’s opening number, is a lovely introduction into everything that sums up her style of composition, performance, and expression. Not settling for a dull moment, the follow up number, "Flow", showcases an impressive piece set in a modal key (D mixolydian, to be precise) with some sparse chromatic measure transitions that appear on occasion. Although only Pianos are recorded on the album, I really found Julie’s “less is more” approach to recording to work extremely well throughout. Her technical prowess allows her to compose and record with such depth that it isn't even necessary to add any additional instruments or orchestration to any of these selections. The music is so vividly expressive, I end up finding myself in another place where the music portrays the very landscape I imagine myself in. On “Echo of a Seashell”, for example, I can picture a calm, abandoned beach where the ocean waves bring me solace. A similar ambiance can be experienced on another piece such as "Celtic Dream", where the listener's own imagination can be taken to the breathtaking, lush scenery of the Emerald Isle.
“Reverie” is one of my favorite pieces on the album; its brilliant minor key transitions and clever, modal shifts in key really impressed me while keeping my undivided attention to its overall somber and pensive mood. The glorious title track, “Where the Ocean Meets the Sky”, has an ethereal, reflective, and yet uplifting mood to it. I can almost see this being a nice song to play around the Winter Holiday season during moments of nostalgia or relaxation from the everyday madness that builds up to that time of year. The closing track, “Small Things With Great Love”, closes the album on a wonderful note. Cinematic, thoughtful, and with a touch of mystery, I’m left with a sense of awe and wonder; I eagerly look forward to see what Julie comes up with on her next release to start the next chapter of her musical journey as a composer and performer.
Julie Hanney’s new release Where the Ocean Meets the Sky is a compendium of some truly breathtaking, light Classical Piano music. If you’re an enthusiast for music straight from the heart with no samples or unnecessary effects that allows your mind to be drawn to a place of serenity, happiness, reflection, or wonder, I highly recommend checking this album out..