The music of composer/pianist Craig Urquhart (pronounced "irk-hart ") is a continuing renewal of faith in beauty and the healing power of music.
The year 2008 has brought Urquhart further international recognition. On July 17 the Festival Euro Mediterraneo presented the composer/pianist in a sold out recital at the Mausoleo de Cecilia Metalla in Rome, Italy. This concert was followed up by another sold out recital in Stadthagen, Germany. In December the composer's new work for chorus and orchestra The Moon, My Man and I was premiered by the Halle Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Sir Mark Elder, CBE with soloists Roderick Williams and Rebecca Bottone. This composition was the first movement of a secular Requiem based on the words of poet Jackie Kay, commissioned for World AIDS Day to benefit Mission Malawi. And through out this year Craig has been an on going featured artist on the globally syndicated Essence Radio Program.
After his most recent acclaimed recording of songs, Urquhart returned to the solo piano on his newest album SECRET SPACES. As a believer in the healing power of music and nature, this album expands this belief to the more personal emotional level. Each of the compositions reflects an aspect of these beliefs. The title cut Secret Spaces sets the stage for this reflective and contemplative album. The titles Contemplation and Meditation reflect the inner journeys of the heart. Reunion, Romance, Embrace and Forgiveness are all examples of acts of Love between people and also an individual's soul. Cathedral Pines, Along the Seine and Venetian Snowfall call to mind the healing and contemplative power nature wields in our lives. The final cut Virginia Mountain Morning was written at the Virginia Center For The Creative Arts and celebrates the creative power of being surrounded by a nurturing environment. Secret Spaces debuted at #3 on the NAR Broadcasting chart and was nominated for the NAR Lifesyle Award for Best Instrumental Recording- Piano as well as making numerous Top Twenty lists for 2007.
His previous album Secret and Divine Signs with tenor Michael Slattery received Five Star ratings from the BBC Music Magazine and FM Classic Music Magazine . Andrew Stewart in FM Classic Music Magazine wrote: "... the songs of Urquhart, with their seamless tonal melodies and rippling keyboard accompaniments ... transport the listener into a state of tranquil contemplation by Slattery's sincere delivery."
His album Streamwalker was honored in the Contemporary Instrumental Top Twenty of 2004 by Michael Debbage of Wind and Wire and named one of the Top Ten of 2004 by Solo Piano Publications. Urquhart creates rich melodic landscapes which blossom into dramatic journeys from the heart. Expressing his passion for the environment and drawing upon the influences of music's keyboard masters, Urquhart has become one of modern acoustic piano?s most transcendent voices. He is a master of touch, moving beyond virtuosity and returning the keyboard to its original subtle radiance as an acoustic instrument.
His six solo piano albums are conceived as separate journeys, exploring the power of nature and music. He has released six original solo piano CDs: Secret Spaces (2007); Streamwalker (2004); Evocation (2000); Songs Without Words (1990); The Dream of the Ancient Ones (1993); and Epitaphs and Portraits (1994).
Urquhart's timeless sound and compositional focus has gradually shifted from academic classical music to a more lyrical personal voice. His music draws upon the influence of such iconic keyboard composers as Chopin, Debussy, Satie and Copland, but Urquhart also considers pop/rock musicians as creative influences. His contemporary voice is both a reflection of our times and a commentary on humanity's need for refuge.
Urquhart's love of the piano began at age six, when he began taking piano lessons as a child growing up in Michigan; however he credits Leonard Bernstein?s CBS series The Young People's Concerts with The New York Philharmonic as "literally educating a whole generation of kids about music, including myself."
Moving to New York City after receiving his Master?s in Composition from the University of Michigan, Urquhart left some of his music with Bernstein's Manhattan doorman; the Maestro called Urquhart back, and the two became acquainted. In 1985 Urquhart was hired as Bernstein?s musical assistant, and worked for Bernstein until the composer?s death in 1990. He also served for many years as a member of the music faculty at the Harlem School of the Arts, and was actor Tom Hulce's musical coach for the Academy Award winning film Amadeus. He is a member of ASCAP, serves on the Board of Directors of the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, is a Whisperings Artist and is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (The Grammys).
Urquhart is also a well-known composer of art songs, including musical settings of poems by Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. His songs have been performed and recorded by Thomas Hampson, Michael Slattery, Lauren Wagner, and other artists. His new art song album - Secret and Divine Signs with tenor Michael Slattery has received critical acclaim receiving five stars from both the BBC Music Magazine and Classic FM Magazine.
Urquhart has been actively involved in a wide array of social and environmental causes over the years, performing at the United Nations for National AIDS Awareness Day and Earth Day, as well as at benefit concerts for such organizations as the Tidewater AIDS Taskforce of Norfolk, Virginia, Momentum AIDS Project in New York and Bread & Roses AIDS hospice in Connecticut. The Turtle?s Dance Company for a memorial concert at the Cathedral St. John the Divine choreographed his "The Wonder of Miracles." His career has taken him around the world; he has been been presented by the Indiana University Foundation, has performed in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, with other Whisperings Artists in York, Pennsylvania, numerous apperances at Klavierhaus in New York City, as well as concerts in Berlin, Germany and Paris, France. In April, 2006, Craig made his inaugural visit to Japan performing six sold-out solo piano recitals in Tokyo, Kobe, and Kawaguchiko, April 4 - 9.
In early 2006 Urquhart was named The New Jersey Music Teachers Association (MTA) Commissioned Composer for 2006. Craig was chosen as a fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts (VCCA) in October 2005 and asked to return in December 2006 as well as April 2008.
Naming Streamwalker in the Top Ten of 2004 in Solo Piano Publications, reviewer Kathy Parsons stated, "The grace and depth of emotion conveyed in Urquhart's music is a reminder of how profound and colorful the piano can be in all its glory as a solo instrument."
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