Hope For Harmony CD Cover
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R.J. Lannan (New Age Reporter)
         Music Freedom, Honestly

It is one thing to feel the warmth of the summer sun and write a cheerful tune about it. Many do that. Then there is a whole other source of stimulation. The kind that feels like rancid, hot breath on your face with an explosion of heated words that debase and confuse and the pressure and weight of an angry demon upon your breast.

In order to repair a damaged spirit, Kathryn Toyama writes about the latter on her new album Hope for Harmony. Her sweet, free-flowing solo piano compositions are part of her healing process and good medicine for any of us with an ailing spirit. As a child, Kathryn avoided the piano. Instead, she turned to dance. Unselfishly, she helped others attain their dreams while ignoring the internal yearnings of her own delicate heart. After a dubious bout with great personal chaos, she turned once again to music to help sort out her life and dreams. This album is the result. There is a lot to be said for achievement.

The haunting opening track Hope has a sense of fragility, like the tinkling of clear ice or the ringing of a bell from far away. The music box melody is dulcet and charming. My one observation is that it is a short tune that leaves one with a tiny, but lingering impression of doubt. There is also a feeling of optimism that life will get better.

Understanding Each Other (and its reprise) has a sensation of equilibrium and of give and take. It is not just an anthem for the meeting of the minds; it is an engagement of the souls. It is the smile you notice when the elevator door suddenly opens and there she is or it is the light you see when you both light the candle. Many who are in love grow past the physical plane and learn that there is a greater pleasure in the "understanding".

One of the sweetest tunes on the album is called The Light. It is dreamy, pensive song that produces the sound you might hear when you see a hazy orange sunset or witness a bright shooting star. It is also the sound of awareness and the feeling a great discovery.

Floating on Dreams is about the best cut on Hope for Harmony. You can put this on a just float away on so many levels. It is a kind of permission if you will to allow yourself to take the flight. Its fluidity is an emollient for the soul and a facilitator of dreams. This became a favorite instantly.

I guess I like dreamy music because the final cut Beyond a Dream is remarkable. It features guitar by Richard Alan and it closes the album satisfactorily. The guitar adds a drifting, bluesy kind of pallor to the effervescent tune. The song is one of promise; from the gloomy depths of despair to the rekindling of an internal flame.

Kathryn Toyama goes from the influence of monsters to the inspiration of muses to encourage us all. Kathryn's personal objective is for us to use her music as a medium to find optimism. Her music gives credence that there is hope to be found, no matter what the situation. Her wish is to touch but one heart and let fate do the rest. She has touched mine.
Rating: Good +


Kathy Parsons (Solo Piano Publications)

“Hope For Harmony” is a gorgeous debut from pianist/composer Kathryn Toyama. Gentle, subtle, and very soothing, the eighteen tracks flow from one to the next as a seamless whole yet hold up beautifully as individual pieces. Most of the music has the spontaneous feeling of improvisation, and much of it is more ambient than melodic, setting a mood of quiet yet intense peacefulness. Several pieces remind me of George Skaroulis’ music that so effortlessly floats on a cloud of sound. The closing track is a duet for piano and guitar, but the others are solo piano. Passionate yet serene, the music follows the path of a spiritual journey that hopes for harmony within each individual and reaches out to global peace through acceptance and tolerant understanding. What a refreshing journey it is!

The opening track, “Hope,” sets a mood of quiet reflection. “Carefree” is more about a blissful nap in a warm sunny spot than jumping for joy, and has a real sparkle about it. “Finding the Way” is a favorite. The rolling chords in the left hand are a leisurely accompaniment to the poignant and passionate right. The minor key in this piece gives it an exotic, bittersweet feeling that is really effective. Beautiful! “Slowly Healing” is cautiously optimistic, but feels very vulnerable - qualities you don’t often hear in music. As the piece progresses, it becomes stronger and then trails off. “True Friends” reflects the joy as well as the confidence and strength that come from true friendships. “The Light” and “Faith” seem to imply a turning point on the spiritual path to strength and inner peace. “Prayer for Peace” is another favorite. Deeply emotional and heartfelt, this short little gem touches the soul. “As Times Change” is reflective and nostalgic, with a strong sense of longing. “Floating on Dreams” is a daydream set to music - warm and gently smiling, wrapped in inner peace. Another beauty! “Spiritual War” is much more turbulent than the other tracks, and overflows with intense passion. Is this an inner struggle or a battle with a loved one with an opposing spirit? Fascinating! “Beyond a Dream” ends the journey with an uplifting duet with Kathryn Toyama on piano and Richard Alan on acoustic guitar, kindred musical spirits that communicate the peace and joy of hope and understanding.

“Hope For Harmony” is a very impressive and expressive first album from a very promising artist, Kathryn Toyama. It is best listened to with full attention, but also provides a quiet and soothing backdrop for massage, relaxation, and reflection. Recommended!


Michael Diamond (Music and Media Focus)

“Musical improvisation,” as defined in Wikipedia, “is the creative activity of immediate (‘in the moment’) musical composition, which combines performance with communication of emotions and instrumental technique. Thus, musical ideas in improvisation are spontaneous.” One such practitioner of this particular school of artistic creation is Kathryn Toyama. Although she is a classically trained pianist, for her: “the feeling is foremost and when it comes to me, I find that I must first open my heart, and then the music begins to flow.” In fact, most of the songs on her Hope For Harmony CD were created in this manner and purely for her own emotional catharsis without the intention of making a commercial recording. Interestingly, in spite of having musical training earlier in life and being influenced by Chopin, Debussy, and Beethoven, due to a number of traumatic life circumstances, there was an almost 30 year period where Kathryn retreated from playing the piano or even listening to piano music.

There is an interesting dichotomy in the music world between those who formally compose music and those who improvise. Add to that the developments in technology, which allow almost infinite modifications to a piece of recorded music in the studio. As Kathryn sees it: “In today’s digital era, recording artists have the liberty to edit and enhance their compositions with creative tapestries, and there is definitely a place for that. But it was important to me with this album to offer the bare truth of my emotional expression.” She goes on to say: “I felt that the truth of my solo performance could only be captured by recording it ‘in the moment’ while preserving the original expression from start to end, just as a live performance would be recorded without any changes. I also believe that the freedom of improvising and allowing the music to develop intuitively rather than through conscious design, allows a channel to open which connects to God, the universe, or the spirit world, and flows through the artist’s soul, energetically translating into a musical imprint.” This connection between music and spirituality is the cornerstone of Kathryn’s creativity and she firmly believes in the power of consciously created positive music to effect change, both personally and globally.

One of the avenues Kathryn puts her beliefs into practical expression isthrough her work as a spokesperson for a non-profit organization called Healing with Harmony. Their mission is to provide custom configured healing music programs to health care providers for their patients at no cost. They do this by making available what they call a Harmony Kit which includes a collection of specifically chosen music and spoken word CD’s, players, and accessories. In her words: “Discovering this incredible foundation was a beautiful dream that materialized into reality, and it has been one of life’s most fulfilling experiences for me to contribute to their cause and create an awareness for what they do.” Kathryn’s own Hope For Harmony CD, is among the many albums the organization distributes free of charge to provide relaxation and comfort to those undergoing difficult medical situations.

One of the things I enjoyed about listening to Hope For Harmony is that among the eighteen songs, were a number of shorter vignette-like pieces. Each one reflecting its own emotional color, bringing to mind a necklace with a variety of colorful gems all strung together by Kathryn’s creativity and focused intention. Right from the beginning, I appreciated the contrast between the opening track, “Hope,” with its heartfelt yearning, and the next piece entitled “Carefree,” that had a light, airy, dancing in the wind feel to it. Kathryn’s spirituality and belief in the healing power of music is evident in song titles like “Open Your Heart,” “Another Chance,” “Finding The Way,” “Slowly Healing,” and Prayer For Peace.” While there is musical diversity in her songs, the omnipresent ambience is one of serenity, gentleness, and comfort. Hearing her music, I got the impression of an artist who has transcended difficult life circumstances and is able to channel that experience into uplifting others – a musical alchemist who has found a way to transmute emotional lead into gold.

Although Kathryn’s music could be described in terms of technique, structure, melody, etc. for me it was more about the feelings it evoked. A good example is on one of the shorter pieces entitled “The Light.” While it is less than two minutes in length, in that short span of time it managed to convey a sense of quiet majesty that had a cinematic quality, one which was also shared with another track entitled “Floating On Dreams.” On “Acceptance,” a rolling arpeggio created a foundation for cascades of tinkling notes to dance upon. As could be expected from its title, “The Parting,” while elegant in its presence, is tinged with a trace of sorrow.

Being primarily a solo piano album, the final track brings a surprise in the form of guitar accompaniment by Richard Alan. The pair played beautifully together, with the guitar perfectly complimenting the graceful piano melodies. Kathryn’s CD Baby page recommends Hope For Harmony to fans of George Winston, and I would agree that her music could appeal to listeners of that genre with its blend of new age and neo-classical elements. Kathryn’s music displays a true purity of heart born of her commitment to the potential of harmony to heal. In her words: “I believe that music is a sacred gift because it transcends all boundaries, and I believe that music not only can comfort and heal the mind, body, soul, and spirit, but it can also spiritually influence humankind to evolve beyond the need for violence.” Putting her beliefs into action, a portion of proceeds from the CD is donated to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In a fitting conclusion to this article Kathryn shares: “When the intention behind the musical vibrations are emotionally positive, I believe that they can reach the heart and help to improve how we relate to each other.“


Alejandro Clavijo (Reviews New Age)

Hope For Harmony es el álbum de debut de la pianista Kathryn Toyama. Un álbum compuesto por dieciocho cortos cuyo fin es que el corazón del oyente conozca el valor de la comprensión, la tolerancia y la aceptación de las diferencias y creencias con sus semejantes. Que aprenda a cultivar el respeto en su corazón. Un artista que compone música con este fin, es simplemente admirable y digno de elogio. Asimismo, cabe destacar, que parte de los beneficios que se recauden con este álbum, serán donados a la Coalición Nacional Contra la Violencia Doméstica en Estados Unidos.

“Hope” abre el álbum, una pieza tranquila que como su nombre revela, la esperanza es la principal protagonista; llena de ternura es perfecta para momentos de paz. Desde las notas más bajas, las progresiones de acordes que acompañan a la frágil melodía que se dibuja en la zona alta del teclado.

“Carefree” comienza con un toque continuado en notas bajas, un sonido relajante, al que segundos después le acompaña un repique de notas altas. Una melodía dulce, sensible, perfecta para momentos de sosiego. Fantástica!.

“Understanding Each Other” es un tema con un valioso significado; todas las emociones que puede llegar a sentir una persona, emociones buenas, malas, alegres, tristes... y el don de poder sentirlo uno mismo con sólo mirar sus ojos. Una melodía con un vaivén de acordes que da juego a una mano derecha nerviosa que puntea notas rápidas . Reflexiva pieza!.

“Open Your Heart” es perfecta, armoniosa. Un juego de manos reproducen una dulce melodía, un ir y venir de progresiones de acordes introducen al oyente en un estado de relax absoluto. Perfecta!  

“Another Chance” comienza con una melodía suave y pegadiza, marcada por progresiones que dibujan una sutil sintonía. Una pieza introspectiva que muestra las distintas posibilidades que pueden existir en la vida.

“Finding the Way”, lenta y sentida pieza, una melancólica melodía con momentos de silencio que invitan al oyente a reflexionar, a tomar la acertada decisión. Como en piezas anteriores, Kathryn reproduce un vaivén de acordes, mientras su diestra dibuja la intima canción. Introspectiva pieza!.

“Slowly Healing” es quizás el track más triste del álbum que muestra el sufrimiento de un corazón roto por el dolor y su lenta recuperación. Un track abatido, que fluye lento en las notas del piano.

“True Friends” refleja la importancia que Kathryn da a los amigos, los verdaderos amigos. Una melodía alegre, corta pero sentida, es quizás la pieza más afable del álbum. Un verdadero regalo para ellos!.

“The Light” es un tema optimista, esperanzador. Idóneo para la introspeccion, su melodía dibuja una sonrisa al oyente y transmite mucha paz. Esperanzadora pieza!

“Faith” es una pieza dedicada a su sobrino Matt, que gracias a unos escritos, inspiraron a Kathryn a crear esta hermosa pieza. Un tema con muy positivo, donde la mano derecha, muy expresiva, dibuja una dulce melodía en las notas más altas, mientras le acompaña la mano izquierda en las notas más bajas.

“Prayer For Peace” es una conversación con el Creador. Una pieza íntima, desperada por mantener la paz en los corazones. Una melodía sensible y dulce que invita a reflexionar.

“Acceptance” encierra una bella melodía, con tono optimista ambas manos dibujan una tierna sinfonía, relajante. Perfecta para evadirse.

“As Times Change” es una llamada a un tiempo pasado, un toque nostálgico en su melodía traslada al oyente a momentos vividos, tiernos, inolvidables. Fantastica pieza!.

“Floating On Dreams” es posiblemente la pieza más conocida de este álbum, llena de ternura, nos pasea por espacios imaginarios, un sueño creado por el autor, lleno de color y vida. Sublime!.

“The Parting” es triste, colmada de amarga emoción. Las notas fluyen de una lado a otro, como si de una improvisación se tratase, reproduciendo exactamente lo que el corazón dicta en ese momento. Melancólica pieza.

“Spiritual War” refleja una batalla interna, indecisión por no saber que camino elegir. Las manos lidian sobre el teclado, lo que genera una de las más sentidas melodías de este trabajo.

“Echoes Of Healing” es el tema más extenso del álbum, poco más de seis minutos. Continuas progresiones de acordes en ambas escalas y pocos silencios dan origen a una melodía insistente, pero decaída, triste.

“Beyond A Dream” es la sorpresa del álbum, un piano que rasguea acordes da paso a una guitarra clásica, la guitarra de Richard Alan, una sintonía perfecta entre ambos instrumentos. Una melodía positiva y llena de alegría. Un track sublime como desenlace de Hope For Harmony.

Hope For Harmony es un trabajo esperanzador, lleno de paz y buenas vibraciones. Muy recomendado para momentos de sosiego y paz, un álbum idóneo para Spa.

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