SPARX - "Delaware's Award Winning
Flute and Harp Duo - Joan Sparks, Flute and Anne Sullivan, Harp."
Music Composer Scott Lavender -
He has written or arranged musical scores
over 300 pieces for symphony orchestra and smaller ensembles. Chamber
orchestras, jazz bands to harp and flute duos, as well as their
listening audiences, have been blessed with his innovative arrangements.
SPARX's new CD "Christmas Echoes" is SPARX's
third inspired contribution to the chamber music world, that truly
is a fulfillment of their goal when it comes to performing music.
Their performances are full of energy, virtuosity, and commitment,
and is highly recommended by this reviewer to Christians who would
like to use music to prepare to have the right heart attitude as
we enter into the Advent and Christmas season, and/or wish to keep
the joy of Christmas as a focus for the coming year.
The music truly envelopes the listener lifting
the listener to another state of awareness, away from the hassles
of reality, away from the busyness of our lives, into the realm
of delicate, elegant, versatile harp and flute performances of not
only three different medleys of traditional Christmas carols, but
the works of two Christian master composers, Baroque Period composer
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), and Romantic Period composer
Henri Busser (1872-1973). All the compositions are all flawlessly
executed musically, and are truly played from the heart, enabling
the listener to catch the true essence of this special season of
Christmas, which celebrates the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus
The five compositions on this CD, "Christmas
Echoes," are all uniquely different, each creating its own aura
and feel, which washes away all of one's annoyances / troubles of
the day and leaves one in a state of inner peace, and reflection,
empowering one to focus on the reason for the season.
Reviewing this well-crafted CD was a real
blessing to me. I have always enjoyed both flute and harp performances,
but the powerful combination of the two, plus great talent, a high
standard of musicianship and inspired arrangements was quite a renewing
experience. SPARX's music made a personal connection with me, as
"the sparks, the emotion, and intimacy of the SPARX experience" washed
over my being.Their energy, virtuosity, and commitment is truly showcased
in this very fine CD, "Christmas Echoes."
Review of Music
1) SLUMBER SWEET - (An eleven minute medley
of Christmas lullabies for the baby Jesus, all creatively arranged
by Scott Lavender)
* The transcending ride begins with a truly
lovely introduction of a tender, slightly sad flute solo (in a minor
key), playing the melody of "Lully-lulay" which flawlessly segues
into a beautiful C major rendition of Silent Night, starting with
the magical sound of the harp, which carries the melody. For the
second verse, the flute takes the melody with the harp providing
a combination of an echo of the main melody, broken chords, and harmony
to support the flute.
DORMI DOLCISSIMO - The harp plays a variation
of the first introduction which once again evolves into a major
key for this second carol. Flute and harp once again take turns
carrying the melody, providing nice harmony for each other, for
this sweet, pure Christmas lullaby.
Two unnamed Christmas lullaby carols, plus
"Infant So Gentle" - Melodies are sweetly, tenderly played by the
flute, with delicate harp accompaniment, which also carries the
melody periodically throughout the pieces.
*AWAY IN THE MANGER - A tender and loving
rendition. The flute once again caresses the melody of this beloved
carol. I love the versatility of the harp that can play the melody
and provide the broken chords at the same time to support the song.
The swirling sounds of the harp in some measures adds magic to this
* 2) SINFONIA - (5.09 minutes) One can describe
this piece as light - floating, yet is an energetic, precise, sublime
rendition of Johann Sebastian Bach's composition, which was part
of his Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, called "Shepherd Music." "The
lilting rhythm portrays the pastorale feeling so well. Thank you
Bach!" comments Joan.
Once again the listener is taken away by
SPARX's great technique, uplifting performances; both the precise,
supportive harp chords and the soaring sounds of the flute, which
effortlessly, smoothly brings Bachs music to life, making the interval
jumps seem easy. These talented musicians make it all sound so easy,
as they play Bach's difficult composition with precision, great
technique, expression, putting their creative gifts into this marvelous
performance. Those who have played woodwind / string instruments
know otherwise; Bach's music isn't easy, and has been known to separate
the men from the boys, the women from the girls.
3) CHRISTMAS BELLS (WEINACHTSGLOCKEN) (9.01
minutes), which is medley of "Bell" carols, wonderfully arranged
by Scott Lavender, which includes "Carol of the Bells", one of my
Excelerated tinkling of the harp (imitates
the sound of bells), and the bright, energetic, flute starts this
perky, cheery composition out on the right foot, with the first
carol,"Suonate," written in a waltz rhythm.
* Well known carol, "Ding dong, Merrily on
High," is precisely played with spirit and joy. Wonderful interplay
between harp and flute, each taking a turn to play the melody, offer
a counter harmony, supportive chords, etc.
Composition has an interesting major to minor
key transition into Carol of the Bells, which has impressive spirited
harp part and great energetic flute moments as well, especially
when the flute carries the main melody. Can be described as precise,
energetic and nicely accented on beat one of each measure.
"Ring Christmas Bells", "Weinnachtsglocken", and "Come Shepherds Come", and few other carols round out this
composition nicely. Each is captured in its own persona, own character,
nicely expressed by this dynamic duo!
4) LE SOMMEIL DE L'ENFANT JESUS, (The Slumber
of Baby Jesus) by French composer, Henri Busser (1872-1973) - Absolutely
beautiful rendition of Busser's piece. Harp expressively plays introduction.
Starts off with a solemn, plaintive harp solo, which melts into
lovely broken chords. Expressive, Legato soulful flute carries the
melody, while the Harp plays smooth, precise broken chords and arpeggios.
Great dynamics of both players is the icing on the cake!
5) CHRISTMAS ECHOES - Another pleasurable
medley of Medieval carols, arranged by the talented Scott Lavender.
*"Domino"- (12th century plainsong).
This piece begins with a simple flute solo and exact harp chords,
working into interesting variations, with intricate interplay between
the harp and flute. A waltz tempo is intermixed.
*"Divinum Mysterium"- Piece is stately,
expressive rendition, with flute carrying melody, supported by expressive
*"Nowell"- Nowell- Begins quietly, and
Other beautifully played carols flow along,
each with its own spirit and mood.
*"Good Christian Men (Friends) Rejoice" - (Words were originally written in Latin in the 14th century, coupled
with a traditional German tune to create this carol. Song was translated
into English by John Mason Neale in 1855).
Another favorite of this reviewer. The performance
of this carol is a great finale, like a cherry on top of an ice
cream soda. Creative introduction that evolves into a rousing rendition
of this traditional Christmas praise song that is Dulci Jubilo;
bright, intricate, with interesting variations, counter melodies,
Nice dynamics and spirit. Ending of carol diminishes to a quiet,
To find out more about SPARX, about their
CDs, and to order this must have Chrsitmas CD, "Christmas Echoes,"
visit their website, www.sparx-flutenharp.com.
Julie Carr - Reviewer for ChristianMusic.com