Patrick Hawes is the
Composer-in-Residence for Classic FM
for 2006-7. His music – rich, tonal,
and melodic – has its roots is the rather
melancholic agrarian music of Bax, Delius
and, above all else, Ralph Vaughan Williams.
The notes that accompany this disc tell
us that Hawes also has an interest in
Baroque and Renaissance music, and this
interest allowed him to pursue a degree
at Durham University. From 1990 to 1997
he was the Composer-in-Residence at
Charterhouse School in the UK. His key
works are The Call (1999) for
soprano and orchestra, The Blue Bird
Variations (2002), The Lazarus
Requiem (2004), Quanta Qualia
for choir (2004), and Lullaby
for violin and piano (2005). With
his brother, the poet Andrew Hawes,
he wrote the children’s opera A King’s
Ransom. From there they went on
to pen The Wedding at Cana and
The Far Seeing Land. Hawes has
also written for television and film
and seems to move from one genre to
the other rather easily.
That said, what sort
of music is Toward the Light
and is it any good? I’m of two minds
about this music and only hesitate to
voice my own impressions up-front based
on my lack of knowledge of the kind
of classical music – or any other kind
of music – that is programmed in England
for Classic FM. Toward the Light
would not normally appear on classical
music stations in the United States.
I say this regardless of its expert
playing and the disc’s intimate sound
quality – the kind of quality we expect
from Sony/BMG who partnered with Classic
FM on this disc.
In the States, this
would be classified as New Age music
and, I’m sad to say, rather unexcelled
New Age at that. I tried listening to
this music all the way through twice
before I fell asleep or moved on to
other things. There are sixteen short
pieces on this disc and each one is
quite indistinct from the others. It’s
almost as if Mr. Hawes wanted to write
the least engaging, least offensive,
least characteristic music he could.
Even Mr. Hawes’s playing is inoffensive;
his fingers barely touch the keys, so
light is his touch – all of which is,
I’m sure, by design.
I could be doing Mr.
Hawes and the listeners of Classic FM
a huge disservice by being so negative
about this music, even though I’m a
long-time New Age music fan. I have
all of the music of George Winston,
Suzanne Ciani, Karl Moeller and a good
dozen others from all over the world.
I’ll listen to anybody who has something
to say or at least has a hint of personality.
Mr. Hawes probably does have quite a
lot to say – the notes tell us he’s
a Christian and that much of this music
comes from his spiritual inclinations
– but what’s here is far too gentle
and unassuming to make me pay attention.
I can see this music being piped into
a chiropractor’s office or someone who
practices shiatsu – someone who is a
healer, for there is something of a
healing quality to this music, a sure
cure for insomnia.