It was a rather astonished Mrs. McMillan who watched daughter Laura, age 3, climb up on the piano bench and find the right notes to a Mitch Miller Christmas song she, Laura, had been listening to. This precociousness led to a love for classicalism that was, at the tender age of 10, intercut with the discovery of George Winston's Windham Hill catalogue. After that, I'm pretty sure the rather daunting young girl's mother was no longer all that amazed when, at 15, her offspring opened a piano studio and began taking on students. At that late date, mater no doubt found a constantly spinning head quite pleasant. Who wouldn't?
Storybook Love: A Pianist Perspective is, then, the sort of thing one would expect from just such a history of events, a CD of classically inflected self-written songs owing much to McMillan's love of Chopin by way of Winston's Autumn. At this, she succeeds much better than, say, Liz Story, harking back to Suzanne Cianni's work instead, though Cianni's more pastorally inclined than McMillan, whose background in the fuller classical oeuvre bids her to craft more highly wrought compositions, often in the form of chases and gambols decorously set, then every so often in stately pensées. The entire CD is solo piano, no overdubs, and one of the things you'll most notice is McMillan's perfect touch in the high register, where exactly the right weight and velocity is everything in order that the reed thin sounds not come across as though tin cans. I can't tell you how many times I've winced when pianists savage that end of the keyboard, even Keith Jarrett on occasion, but Ms. Laura understands the ivories perfectly. Again: that Chopin immersion.
And, sigh!, the longer I listen to Storybook, the more I think I may have to go back and re-evaluate my regard of Winston. I fear I've been harsher than I should've. In fact, I just visited YouTube, lent an ear to Forest's Tamarack Pines, found myself as entranced with him as McMillan and thus I'm quite positive I'll have to self-flagellate in the public square, mortify myself in penance, having at this very moment discovered in the guy a kindredness to some of Wim Mertens' work.
Ah me, ah my, how the follies of youth can come back to mock! On the other hand…COOL!! Look at this new avenue of delight I have before me! Sometimes ignorance is an inadvertent blessing. Thanks, Laura, for being the change agent. Mean it. Now if I can just persuade George to set the cleaver back down for all the snipey things I've said about him over an embarrassingly long period………hey waitaminnit! I have it! The insanity defense! That always works! Yeah, that's the ticket. That's what I'm going with. Oh, and Steve Halpern? Don't expect the same, bubba. Yer stuff is still oatmeal and syrup, God help us.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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