Thad Fiscella – Free to Fly
Reviewed by: Cathy Oakes
Enlightened Piano Radio
It has been said that true art allows the observer to connect on a spiritual level. If that is true, then “Free to Fly” by Thad Fiscella is, indeed true art! I love it when a listener can hear an artist’s music and, immediately “get” what he or she is trying to convey. I wish I had the words to describe the beauty of his music. Alas, I simply have no words. However, I will attempt to convey to those who are reading this as much as this human mind can portray.
“Free to Fly,” Thad’s latest CD is dedicated to his father, Jim, who passed away unexpectedly in 2014. Quoting the dedication, “He was a man full of wise counsel, a visionary, inventor and one who defined what it meant to work hard and give 100%.” In that case, this CD is a beautiful tribute to his father, mentor and friend. In this beautiful music, Thad gives 100% of his heart and soul. Every note, every nuance, every piece is filled with hope, faith, love and beauty.
The work begins with “When You Said I Do.” It is lively, yet tender and overflowing with joy. “Unbroken” is a perfect follow-up. It is slower and contemplative with a melody that catches in your soul and touches you. “Everlasting Joy” is almost ethereal at the beginning. It has a simple melody that floats above a walking bass. His development of the theme in this piece is wonderful!
“Hope Remains” is my favorite piece on the album (and that’s saying a lot!). When I first heard this beautiful dance-like piece, I wept. The melody is absolutely gorgeous and literally caused music to rise up in my soul! The title track, “Free to Fly” has a lilting melody that soars. It is free and flowing and gives the listener a true feeling of freedom and contentment. “Lighthouse has a light, catchy melody with syncopated rhythms and a soothing, rocking motion.
“Joyous Turmoil” is the longest of the tracks. It develops and states the theme over and over again in new and interesting ways. It brings to my mind the thought of a journey with twists, turns and obstacles leading to a beautiful place of rest. “Sweet Surrender” is a truly sweet piece with a melody that is almost childish in its beautiful simplicity at the beginning. Once again, Fiscella’s development of this theme is outstanding! “When Someday Comes” is dreamy and reflective. “Emma Lee” has a sweet, music-box feel and melody.
The beautiful “Innocenza” is an almost haunting waltz. So simple, yet so emotional and expressive. “Saving Sophie” is so tender and loving – even prayerful. “Mother’s Devotion” is so rich with changing rhythms, but always returns to a statement of the simple, “other worldly” theme. “Always and Forever” is a love song in its most beautiful form. The melody literally pulls at the heart-strings and leaves one with a warm feeling.
“When We Meet Again” expresses such hope and faith that parting is but a brief sorrow. It is hymn-like with a simple, yet gorgeous, almost folksy melody. “Hope Lights the Way” is almost ambient with the ethereal melody in a minor key. It keeps returning to that theme, expressing hope for a brighter tomorrow and ends perfectly with a picardy third, hinting that hope truly does light the way. And just when you think things can’t get any better, Fiscella ends his CD with an orchestrated reprise of “Hope Remains.” I thought I couldn’t hear anything more beautiful than the solo piano version of this piece. But there it is – right at the end with gorgeous strings to emphasize the beauty of this piece.
In the liner notes, Thad says, “I pray this CD will help bring comfort to you during difficult times in your own life and that you will truly sense a spirit of peace and freedom through this music.” His prayer has definitely been answered for this listener! The peace, hope, joy and love expressed so beautifully in this album surely will bring comfort to any listener in any circumstance.
I am, unfortunately limited to 5 stars in my rating system. I would like to give this CD at least 10. But I will play by the rules and give it 5++ stars. I highly recommend this CD. Amazing job, Thad!! Please keep the beautiful music flowing!
Free to Fly
2014 / Thad Fiscella/Fourth Hour
Kathy Parsons - MainlyPiano.com
I have thoroughly enjoyed all of Thad Fiscella’s albums, but Free to Fly is something very special. Dedicated to his father, Jim Fiscella, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year, Fiscella says in the liner notes: “I pray that this CD will help bring comfort to you during the difficult times in your own life and that you will truly sense a spirit of peace and freedom through this music.” While some of the pieces are very poignant, others express joy, hope and an abundance of love. Sixteen of the seventeen tracks are solo piano and the last one is a reprise of “Hope Remains” with synth strings. Beautiful from the first note to the last, I expect Free to Fly to be one of my Favorite Albums of the year. Although much of Fiscella’s music is created for relaxation, meditation and background music, I think it’s much too well-written and well-performed to not listen more actively - so much nuance and detail is lost in the background. A classically-trained musician, youth pastor and father of three, Fiscella brings a wealth of life experience and heart to the contemporary piano genre.
Free to Fly begins with “When You Said I Do,” a buoyant love song that overflows with joy and would brighten anyone’s day. “Unbroken” is much more serious and oh so beautiful, expressed with passion and a delicate touch. Love it! “Hope Remains” is one of those pieces that stays with you - simple and yet it says so much with emotions expressed from deep within. The lighthearted title track conveys the freedom and contentment that come with inner peace. “Joyous Turmoil (William’s Song)” is one of the more intriguing titles, and what a gorgeous piece. At 6 1/2 minutes, it has plenty of time to evolve and tell its story - a favorite. “Sweet Surrender” is a tender lullaby - so spare and so touching. The fragile “Innocenza” catches me every time - so much emotion flows through this poignant piece. The graceful, lyrical “Always and Forever” would be lovely in a wedding or any occasion where a heartfelt love song-without-words would be enjoyed. “When We Meet Again” offers hope rather than tears at a difficult parting, knowing that it’s a temporary separation. The first part of “Hope Lights the Way” is more ambient and atmospheric, becoming melodic and flowing with warmth and confidence that better days are ahead. The reprise of “Hope Remains” includes strings and closes the album with an elegant grace and peaceful beauty.
Thad Fiscella’s albums seem to get better every time he releases a new one and Free to Fly is his best work to date. It is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
The Road Home
Fourth Hour Music
R.J. Lannan/Zone Music Reporter
Thank God, My Street Is Just Up Ahead
I know somewhat of the plight of Thad Fiscella as he composed his album The Road Home. For years I used to travel for work and although I was home often, sometimes the road got way too long and way too lonely. What helped me keep it together in hotel rooms and classrooms was the thought of what was waiting for me when I returned. I remember watching TV late one night in a Kansas City hotel and as the conclusion of the movie, Sophie's Choice revealed itself, it tore my heart open like a giant can opener and it was all I could do to just breathe. Thad's music, fourteen tracks of contemporary piano and light orchestration is made up of stories on the road. The experiences you have are grand, but the memories stored away deep in the heart are what keeps you going. Make no bones about it; Fiscella wears his heart on his sleeve. As far as this music goes, it is right where it belongs.
There has to be a starting place and this is it. If I believe Thad's music, then the subject of the first cut, Surrey Hills is a place of unsurpassed quietude and a source of joy. It must be quite special with nothing but bright, sunny days, blue skies with clouds that are perfect for three little imaginations to ponder, and people so loved that it aches when you leave them. I believe the music.
Beauty of Grace is one of the most beautifully sad songs I have ever heard. This is a tune chock full of memories and hidden deep down inside, wrapped firmly around the notes like the grip of a small child, may be the sound of one heart breaking. I listened to this more than any other song on the album, delighting in the delicate music box melody, and I think it is actually a song of gratitude. The kind only a grateful parent might know.
Evening Song is not a lullaby so much as it is a tune to welcome the night. With the mauve and gold of dusk come starlight, prayers, and hopefully, sweet dreams. Thad does this one on solo piano, offering a calming, quiet ballad. It segues perfectly into Sharing the Silence. No time is really ever silent, but when all is quiet and only the creak of the rooftop cooling after a warm afternoon and the whisper of the autumn wind is outside are in the background, you might hear the sound of peacefulness.
The title song, The Road Home, again on solo piano, is a story of years of giving wrapped up in five minutes of yearning. No matter what you do for a living, there are sometimes regrets, second thoughts and changes of heart, but sacrifice carries its own inimitable cost. Thad's tune somehow tells the tale of every woman and every man that does what they do for faith and family.
First Dance starts with a slow waltz created for tiny feet and little fingers. It is the music of the innocent, the melody swirling, swaying, perhaps a few faux pas, but then the music builds as if we see her growing up right before our very eyes.
With the seasons come changes. The tune Bittersweet September is such an occasion. The leaves begin their final transformations, the winds change from murmurs, some becoming more blustery than before and the sun is about to lose its warmth. It is time to be back out on the road again. The word away seems to sum it up. Away from days filled with discovery and the wonder of a favorite story read. Away from breakfast for supper at the noisy dinner table. And away from hearts that make you whole.
The last tune on The Road Home is called At the Cross and it is a testament to one man's unshakable convictions. The music tells me that there is no doubt that Thad balances family and faith like a man on a tightrope. Only this tightrope is made of something longer, wider, and stronger than any earthly design. The hymn is beautiful and even though it is an instrumental, it seems the heart supplies the unheard lyrics rather easily.
I could give you a long list of Thad Fiscella's accomplishments and awards, but that does no justice for his glorious music. There is so much heart in it that it just overflows from every note, every rest, and every line. The compositions are a careful mixture of memoires, faith, and love translated perfectly by Thad's emotional ballads.
The Road Home
2012 / Thad Fiscella/Fourth Hour
Kathy Parsons - MainlyPiano.com
The Road Home is pianist/composer Thad Fiscella’s fifth CD to date, and this time he has added strings to a few of the fourteen original pieces. A youth pastor and the father of three children, Fiscella’s music is designed for meditation, relaxation, and to soothe the soul. His graceful melodies come from a place deep within, expressing passion, love, and life experiences that are both personal and universal. The gentle themes make lovely background music, but are complex enough for more careful listening to savor the nuances as well as the beauty of each piece. Fiscella is a classically-trained pianist, and his music reflects that influence as well as that of the church music he is very involved in, blending to create a contemporary piano style that crosses into several genres.
The Road Home begins with “Surrey Hills,” a piece that evokes images of tall grasses moving to the rhythms of a gentle breeze - very peaceful and warm. “Together Again” is a tender love song that goes right to the heart. Very slow and simple, there is a tremendous amount of passion in the depths of this piece - a favorite. “Orchard Skies” is another favorite and makes me think of lying on the ground and looking up at the sky through a canopy of leaves, watching the light dance as the leaves move. “Beauty of Grace” is the first of the songs for piano and strings (including cello which gives the strings a full, rich sound), and would be lovely in a film soundtrack. “Annie’s Song” is a very sweet, uncomplicated piece that overflows with love. “Evening Song” is possibly my favorite track (I can’t decide - a good thing!). A simple melody is played over a lively and flowing accompaniment in the first theme, becoming very serene and quiet in the second, returning to the first theme in the third section, and then fading into peaceful dreams at the end - a great piece! “Yesteryear” is a nostalgic look back on fond, bittersweet memories - graceful and poignant. “First Dance” has been nominated for the Hollywood Music and Media Awards. An ensemble piece for piano and strings, it conveys the deep feelings of new love - another great movie piece! “At The Cross” closes the album with a simple, heartfelt hymn that expresses deep reverence, devotion, and peace.
The Road Home is a beauty that shows Thad Fiscella maturing into a very exceptional artist. It is available from www.thadfiscella.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
Love Without Words
2010 / Thad Fiscella
Kathy Parsons - MainlyPiano.com
Love Without Words is Thad Fiscella’s third solo piano album of original compositions, and what a delight it is! Inspired by the love of family and friends as well as cherished memories of time spent with them, this album overflows with warmth, joy, and spiritual peace. A husband (for ten years!) and the father of three children, Fiscella’s love for and devotion to his family really sings throughout this music. A pianist who grew up studying classical music, he also played violin, guitar and percussion throughout his school years. Fiscella’s understanding of a variety of instruments and musical styles is readily apparent in his original music. He is also a youth pastor and worship leader, and brings a deep sincerity and humility to his musical style. His original intention was to compose background music or music for meditation or relaxation - especially for his three young children - so the music has a gentle, peaceful flow, but his touch and the pieces are so beautiful that the music really deserves to be listened to with full attention.
Love Without Words opens with “Lovely (Laura’s Song),” composed for Fiscella’s wife. Tender yet strong with a gentle grace, it’s a gorgeous love song. “Forever (The Proposal)” is another beauty. It begins very quietly, almost tentatively, but gradually gains more confidence and passion - a favorite! I love the lightly percussive right hand against the flowing left hand in “New Rain.” Dreamy, reflective, and very soothing. I also really love the passionate “Devotion.” A bit darker (in a minor key), this one comes from the depths of the soul. “Mayapple Road” has the sunny warmth and simple joy of a perfect day. “My Sweet Girl” conveys the heartfelt and protective love of a devoted dad. Another stand-out is the introspective “October Fade.” Melancholy and full of longing, it’s an incredible expression of deep emotions. “Never Goodbye” brings this lovely album to a close with the warm embrace of a reassuring musical hug.
Love Without Words is Thad Fiscella’s best album yet, so give your ears and mind a treat with this one! It is available from Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Recommended!
2008 / Thad Fiscella
Kathy Parsons - MainlyPiano.com
“Vast” is pianist/composer Thad Fiscella’s solo piano follow-up to his debut, “Grand Design,” and what a beautiful second album it is! Created with relaxation and meditation in mind, Fiscella’s music becomes a musical massage for the spirit without ever becoming simplistic or resorting to ear candy. A composer from a young age with a solid background in classical music, Fiscella blends a wealth of experience with deep emotion, creating a distinctive sound that is accessible to all yet complex enough for a more discerning ear.
“Vast” begins with “Adorn,” a sunny, upbeat piece with a gentle energy that sets the tone for the album. “Angel Kisses” is sweet and tender, overflowing with love. “Ivory Hymn” has a quiet, pensive grace that captivates as it soothes. “Gentle Whisper” is one of my favorites. A bit less structured than some of the pieces, it seems to flow from deep within - reflective yet comforting. “Evenscene” has a gentle motion underlying a soft-spoken melody - another beauty! “Opalescence” is more free-form, shimmering in the light as the title implies - graceful and elegant. “Child In My Arms” is my favorite on this album. A sense of joy mixed with the awe one feels while holding an innocent child comes through the tender notes of the music. I’m reminded of Debussy’s approach to playing the piano as though it has no hammers - Fiscella has that kind of velvet touch. My other favorite is the closing track, “When Leaves Fall.” Wistful and melancholy, this is a deeply emotional musical soliloquy where only heartfelt truths are spoken - stunning!
“Vast” could very well be on my Favorites list for 2009. I give it my highest recommendation for solo piano music for relaxation - it’s a beauty! It is available from www.thadfiscella.com,www.cdbaby.com, and iTunes.
Kathy Parsons - MainlyPiano.com
“Grand Design” is the first full-length CD by pianist/composer Thad Fiscella. Quiet and reflective, the music relies more on emotional depth than pianistic flash, making it an excellent choice for background music as well as for active listening. I really enjoyed listening to it while driving from California to Oregon a few weeks ago - very calming and uplifting.
The CD opens with “Letters of Grace,” a piece that reminds me of David Nevue in places. A bit more energetic than some of the tracks, the feeling is lighthearted and optimistic. “Close to Home” conveys warmth and deep contentment - very peaceful and comfortable. “Remember Me” is a favorite. Somewhat nostalgic and bittersweet, a strong sense of longing pours out of every note and phrase. Fiscella’s use of rubato is especially effective here, making the piece sound very spontaneous and sincere. “Longing For Emma” is another beauty. The gentle rhythm and occasional pauses make it sound almost conversational. “My Eve” has a lovely, dreamy flow that is both evocative and soothing. “Reed’s Song” is full of innocence and playfulness, a love song for a child. The title track also reminds me of David Nevue in places. Its subtle energy is infectious, and then the piece pulls back to a more thoughtful space, and then alternates between lively and reflective - a fascinating piece! “Mother’s Love” is full of grace, comfort, and warmth - something like a long musical embrace. “With Love” concludes the album with a simple, tender “so long.”
“Grand Design” is a very enjoyable debut, and shows great promise for Thad Fiscella. It is available from cdbaby.com. Check it out!