Darla Bower is a composer, pianist, and vocalist who was singing on stage when she was four and taking piano lessons by age six. She attended the Judy Jones School of Music and graduated from the University of North Texas. She has served as an elementary school music teacher and enjoys teaching and performing all styles of music; as a composer, her music has been influenced by David Nevue, Philip Wesley, and Michael Logozar. Her second release, “Blue Butterfly,” features twelve tracks “chronicling life’s journey through loss, grief, and hope” and is dedicated to her mother, Ethel Mary Dawson (1926-2017). Recorded and mastered by Michael Logozar, the album was recorded on a Shigeru Kawai and the piano sound is exquisite. Logazar also produced the album and created the beautiful cover.

The somber opening track, “Woodland Fairy Dance” is a delicate, whispering waltz and the perfect introduction to the title track, “Blue Butterfly,” which was Darla’s nickname for her mother, who loved butterflies. Dark and intense, this piece expresses the anguish Darla experienced waiting for her mother’s passing. “Gentleman Bailey” pays tribute to the artist’s dog Bailey. The plaintive melodic theme, played in the deep lower register of the piano, alternates with a short section of undulating, open intervals, and the piece ends with a gentle ascension into the upper registers of the instrument. Clocking in at just over two minutes, the piece seems almost too short – just like the lives of our cherished pets. Elegant yet haunting, ”Mourning Doves” pays homage to Darla’s mother-in-law Judy Bower, and tells the tale of an event that brought great comfort to the family the morning after her passing in January, 2016. Its repetitive rhythms, motives and phrases put me in mind of the solo piano music of Philip Glass. The mood shifts ever so slightly with “November Skies,” written to reflect Darla’s love of the fall season and the month of November in particular. Slow paced and gently rocking, the music is somber without quite being sad and took me back to gray fall afternoons spent walking through the woods, a smoky chill in the air, reminiscing about years past and mentally preparing for the long winter to come. “Falling Petals” alludes to the inevitable losses that come with the passing of time. The sweet cascade of sound from the upper register of the piano over a softly pulsing bass represents the dropping of rose petals from open blooms – very effective!

“The Swan’s Song,” dedicated to Darla’s three sisters, relates the complexity of family relationships. This mysterious, atmospheric melody over left hand triplets is reminiscent of  Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”  Dedicated to her goddaughter, “Sleepy Star Lullaby” is a soothing cradle song. Simple and repetitive, with nods to the childhood songs “This Old Man” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” this one made me smile. “Spring Rain” celebrates a much- needed rainfall on the heels of a drought. The open intervals and sparse construction give it a bit of a native American feel. Darla describes “Blue Day” as “bluesy funk,” and is evocative of the pain and nostalgia experienced many days in the wake of her mother’s loss. The album concludes with a lovely arrangement of the beloved hymn “The Lord’s My Shepard” (sic) and “Prelude – New Beginning.” While it seems unusual to end an album with a prelude, in this case it is entirely fitting, as the music heralds Darla’s mother’s transition into a new journey and beginning.

In “Blue Butterfly,” Darla Bower lays bare her soul, with music that expresses intense grief in the wake of devastating loss tempered with courage and hope. Highly recommended!

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