I spend many quiet nights alone with Thelonious Monk’s Himself and Bill Evans’s Conversation With Myself. For the holidays, however, I’ll be hanging out with Pham Hong Hanh—a fine pianist with a master degree in solo piano performance and pedagogy from McGill University—and her inspirational Give Thanks album for a spiritual, semi-classic experience.
When it comes to church music, I must confess that I am not too familiar with religious compositions. In fact, the only recognizable tune for me on the album is “O Holy Night,” and her rendition is a glorious one. She begins with a choppy intro, which reminds me of Monk’s angular style, but her virtuosity reveals once she glides into the harmony, and gives a fresh and lively delivery.
Give Thanks is an ingenious solo piano album that is filled with divine power. From the opening “I Sing Praises” to the ending “Give Thanks,” she expresses her love to Christ through music, and she connects with music through her piano. While “Glory to His Name” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” are relax, calm with breathless ease, “Praise Him! Praise Him!” and “Awesome God” are spontaneous with sonorous details. And the recitals that keep me coming back again and again are “As the Deer” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Her nimble style, in which she sprinkles the high keys to produce a cascading sound, is irresistable.
Thank goodness, the album was shipped on time for the holiday season. I was expecting it to be in my office a couple of days ago; therefore, I kept on checking my work mailbox, and nothing showed up. As I shut down my computer, and ready to hit the road, something prompted me to check it one more time before I leave, and there it was. As a result, my four-hour trip from Poughkeepsie, New York to Lancaster, Pennsylvania was a smooth ride with nothing else in my car stereo but soul-soothing solo piano presentation from Pham Hong Hanh. I left at 2:30 in the afternoon, and by the time I arrived, which was around 6:30 in the evening, the album’s spellbounds, aesthetic beauties, and ethereal chords had already crept up on me, especially when the darkness of the night took over.