Excerpts from Meant for Each Other: a Conversation with Iris Litchfield and Tom Salvatori
FANFARE MAGAZINE, BY ROBERT SCHULSLAPER, February 10, 2013
RS: Iris, I’d like to open our conversation to learn what brought you and Tom Salvatori together.
IL: We met through Broadjam.com—a website where composers and performers meet to discuss and play their work for one another. I’m so very happy that Broadjam existed and that Tom heard my music there and asked if I would do a CD with him. I’ve never looked back musically since that moment. It is wonderful working with Tom!!
RS: His meeting you might have almost been preordained, in the sense that both of you write in such a similar style that an uninformed listener would probably assume that only one composer was responsible for all the music. This aesthetic unity must make you ideal collaborators. Now for the flashback: Iris, how did you get started in music?
IL: I started piano lessons at the age of five with Miss Piper, who was quite a colorful person. She was a very large lady with a large black cat, who would sit on her lap as she taught me. She lived with her elderly mother who had some form of dementia as the mother would sometimes come into my lessons wearing a large corset over her dress saying “Elsie, are these your corsets or are they mine”!!!
Before I went to university, I reached Grade 7 with distinction (eight grades altogether) and because of that award I would have been offered a place to study music at the Royal Academy or Royal College of Music in London. So Miss Piper must have been a good teacher, even though she used to rap me on the knuckles! I was with her until I went to university, aged 18. However, I felt that mathematics was a safer direction to go in as far as work was concerned. (I did not come from a rich family and so I was eager to go out to work and earn some money!) So I read mathematics at London University where I obtained a first-class honors degree. I then took up teaching as a career and climbed my way up the teaching ladder, eventually becoming deputy head teacher of a large comprehensive school. I did continue with piano lessons at university but playing sport (mainly tennis) interfered with my piano practice! About 30 years ago I eventually took—and passed—grade 8. This was when I took up the clarinet. I have to have an aim to make me practice so I took and passed all eight exams with the clarinet. I now play the alto sax as it is easier to blow and the fingering is easier. At present I’ve joined an orchestra with the sax. However, I have never composed for the sax or the clarinet.
RS: One of the four CDs reviewed in Fanfare is Romantic Interludes, a series of classical duets on which you perform with pianist Patrick Meehan.
IL: Patrick is my present piano teacher and he is the best I’ve ever had. He plays so beautifully, which is why I produced the duet CD with some of my favorite duets. It was a pleasure playing with him. Between Miss Piper and Patrick Meehan there have been a few others whose names I forget!
RS: When did you begin to compose?
IL: I only started composing when I took early retirement from teaching due to ill health. Like my mother (who died in 1990 at the age of 85, outliving all her contemporaries) I had breast cancer and six years ago I had a double mastectomy. About four years ago the breast cancer spread to my bones and now I am on oral chemotherapy: Every three weeks I have an infusion to strengthen my bones. I feel perfectly fit and healthy and have just taken up golf! The only side effect from the tablets is very dry hands and feet! I feel very positive and enjoy living each day as it comes. Sadly, my mother died before I began to compose, so she never got to hear any of my pieces. I began composing using my keyboard [electronic] but soon switched to the piano. I have had NO lessons in composition but I was born with a good ear for music and this is why I am able to compose. I inherited my love of music from my mother. She came from a VERY poor family in London. Her parents were both alcoholics! When she first went out to work—at the age of 14— she saved every penny to buy a piano! Her parents used it as a drinks cabinet to store their bottles in! My grandfather was in the First World War where he lost an eye and damaged an arm. Every year he had to go and prove he was disabled in order to get his benefit. As usual when he went, his mind was confused with the drink. When they asked him how far he could lift his arm, he put it up in a kind of Hitler salute. Then they asked how far he could raise it before the bullet hit it and he lifted it vertically and promptly lost the benefit!! Quite an amusing but true story!
RS: One last question: How would you like people to be affected by your music?
IL: I think that as far as people responding to my music, Tom summed it up perfectly when he wrote about “a ripple effect helping to spread peaceful vibrations throughout the world....”
2013 / Salvatori Productions, Inc.
Life’s Journey is the latest solo piano release from British pianist/composer Iris Litchfield. This collection of fourteen original classically-styled pieces is relaxing, uplifting, and a joy to listen to. Six of the tracks are new compositions and eight are newly-recorded versions of pieces previously released. Iris’ style is direct and sincere without a lot of flash and fanfare - heartfelt musical interpretations of nature’s beauty, new experiences, and reflections on a life well-lived. The music is immediately accessible and very melodic, with layers of depth that reveal themselves the more you listen. Fellow pianists will be delighted to know that a companion sheet music book is also available.
Life’s Journey begins with “First Steps,” a delicate confection that expresses the tentative emotions of doing something completely new. Graceful and hopeful, it’s a lovely opening. “Dancing Dolls” is light and carefree with the sweetness and innocence of a child captivated by her imagination. “Clear Waters” is a favorite, evoking images of sunlight dancing on a rippling stream as it gently flows to no particular destination - so peaceful! I also really like “Dancing Shadows,” a lively minor-key waltz with a bittersweet Russian flavor. “Nature’s Serenade” first appeared Litchfield’s 2007 award-winning album with Tom Salvatori, When Evening Falls, and this new version has been expanded a bit - another beauty! “Colours of the Rainbow” has the warm and wistful feeling of a pleasant daydream. “A Mountain to Climb” is another favorite, conveying gentle strength and determination. I love the way the piece picks up momentum as it evolves and develops, always moving forward. “Reminiscing” recalls the joys and sorrows of life, softened by time and distance. “Summers of Long Ago” is more bittersweet and melancholy, but oh so beautiful! I love this one, too! “Twilight Time” brings this wonderful collection to a quiet and dreamy close with a melody so clear you can almost hear the piano singing lyrics.
Iris Litchfield has composed a very impressive body of music over the past several years and just keeps getting better. if you are new to her music and looking for some gentle, sweet solo piano, be sure check this one out. If you are a longtime fan, you won’t be disappointed with Life’s Journey. It is available from Salvatori Productions, Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, and Tutti (UK and Europe). Recommended!!!
- Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com, 8/10/13
Iris Litchfield & Patrick Meehan
2012 / Salvatori Productions
Romantic Interludes is a collection of nineteen classical piano duets performed by British pianists Iris Litchfield and Patrick Meehan. Litchfield has released several CDs of original compositions over the past decade or so, both solo and with guitarist Tom Salvatori. Her lovely, heartfelt music has touched many a heart all over the world. She started her piano studies at the age of five, but her life’s career was in teaching mathematics. When she retired, she found more time to devote to her music, resulting in a steady stream of charming and optimistic piano music. On this latest release, Litchfield teamed with her own piano teacher, mentor and friend, Patrick Meehan, performing an impressive selection of four-hand piano music from Edward Elgar, Leon D’Ourville, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Moritz Moszkowski, Gabriel Faure, and Robert Schumann, most of whom would be considered Romantic composers of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. None of this music is particularly flashy or difficult to comprehend, making it accessible to all listeners with an appreciation for classical piano music. The pianists are a great match, as the music is seamless and it isn’t obvious to the ear that these are duets.
The first of the Romantic Interludes is Elgar’s lovely “Salut D’Amour,” a sweet love song without words. I had never heard of Leon D’Ourville and very little information about him is available online, but the four selections from his Soirees Musicales are positively delightful in their brevity and lighthearted expression. The two pieces by Ralph Vaughan Williams are quite different from each other. First is “Prelude Rhosymedre,” a graceful composition with a strong Baroque influence. The second is his “Fantasia on Greensleeves,” a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable theme and variations on this ancient and very familiar folk song. The five “Spanish Dances” by Moritz Moszkowski are bright and effervescent (I love #2!), and I’m sure it’s quite a triumph when both pianists end at the same time! Faure’s “Sicillienne de Pelleas et Melisande” is a stunning beauty - elegant and more than a little melancholy. Robert Schumann’s “Six Etudes en Forme de Canon” are quite a tour de force and demonstrate Schumann’s versatility as a composer as well as the versatility of these two excellent pianists. I’m thinking I’m going to have to pull out some of my four-hand music and try some of these!
Romantic Interludes is sure to please classical music lovers and fans of four-hand piano repertoire. It is available from Amazon.com. Recommended!
- Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com, 8/21/12
2012 / Salvatori Productions
After two highly-acclaimed duo releases by pianist/composer Iris Litchfield and guitarist/composer Tom Salvatori, Iris Litchfield has released Dream Clouds, her first full-length solo piano CD - and what a joy it is! The fourteen original compositions have a very strong classical influence, but they also have the easy, graceful flow of the best “new age” piano music. A retired math teacher in England, Litchfield has been composing music for about twelve years, although she has been playing the piano since she was five. Salvatori Productions is again the producer of this album, and the sound quality is perfect. Recorded on a Steinway A (6’2”) grand, the piano has a warmth that beautifully conveys all of the nuances and subtleties of Litchfield’s lovely compositions. The title, Dream Clouds, very accurately describes the overall mood of this album - light, gentle, and optimistic. It’s not musical “fluff” by any means, but spending some time with Litchfield’s music will definitely elevate your mood and calm your spirit.
The first track is “A New Beginning.” The opening melody has a haunting, bittersweet flavor - reflective and nostalgic. It resolves to a major key which is tentative, but very beautiful, returning to the minor key with more confidence - a lovely start! “Passing Memories” is a graceful and wistful daydream. Several themes weave in and out, creating a wonderful tapestry of musical memories. The title track is very free, moving at the whim of a gentle breeze. I love the visual images this one evokes! “Joy of Summer” is a delight. Dancing lightly and freely in the warm sunshine, it’s a heavenly “ode to joy.” My favorite track is “Dancing Dreams,” a minor key waltz that has just a slight edge to it - not menacing, but not all sweetness and light either. Two graceful major key themes alternate with the main theme, making it a colorful and fascinating piece. “Promise of a New Day” overflows with hope and optimism, providing a soothing musical antidote to the stresses of a long day. My other favorite is the poignant and graceful “Falling Leaves,” which conveys so much emotion so simply and honestly. “End of the Day” is a warm and peaceful lullaby that provides a healing massage for a tired mind and body. “Morning Mist” brings this wonderful album to a dreamy and wistful ending.
I really love Iris Litchfield’s two collaborations with Tom Salvatori, but I really like that this album is just Iris at the piano. It gives us more of a chance to really hear her music and to enjoy the soothing atmosphere she creates with her compositions. Dream Clouds is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
- Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com, 5/5/12
Ever Ever On
Tom Salvatori and Iris Litchfield
2010 / Salvatori Productions
2 CDs, each 47+ minutes
Ever Ever On is the anxiously-awaited new album from Tom Salvatori and Iris Litchfield, following their award-winning 2007 release When Evening Falls. This new release is a 2-CD set with one disc featuring solo versions of each of the twelve pieces and the other featuring ensemble versions of the same twelve songs. The ensemble CD is not just a re-recording with someone playing keyboard instrumentation - these are live chamber musicians playing additional parts lovingly created by John Catchings in Nashville. The sound quality is stellar! The CDs alternate between piano pieces composed by Iris Litchfield, a classically-trained pianist and retired math teacher from England, and acoustic guitar pieces by Tom Salvatori, a classically-trained American guitarist. John Catchings appears with his soulful cello on all of the ensemble tracks. The rest of the chamber group includes violins and viola, bass, oboe, and French horn. The music itself is classically-styled with a contemporary attitude - gorgeous and heartfelt. It is difficult to choose which CD I like best. I love the simplicity of the gentle tunes played solo, but the additional musicians on the ensemble CD create so much depth and color that I love that one, too. The good news here is that no one needs to choose a favorite and the only decision to be made is which one to slip into the CD player first! Lucky us!
Ever Ever On begins with Ms. Litchfield’s “You’re With Me Still,” a tender love song that is haunting as a piano solo and becomes achingly beautiful with the addition of cello. What a way to start! Next up is Salvatori’s elegant and mysterious “Ghosts of Levigliani,” arranged for nylon string guitar and string quartet. “Escher’s Lullaby” is a fascinating trio for guitar, cello, and oboe - an unusual combination that really works with each instrument’s unique voice. I love both versions of “Blue Horizon” - solo piano and piano with string quintet - graceful, melancholy, and full of longing. “Whirlpool Song” returns to the guitar/cello/oboe trio - enchanting and soulful! “Dark Round” is a lovely slow, somber duet for cello and guitar. “To You With Love” is another favorite, this time a trio for piano, cello, and bass. Tender and gentle yet passionate, it soars while touching the heart. The closing track is the dark and mysterious “Folk Dance” for guitar, violin, cello, and bass. It is a slow and serious dance with a distinct Renaissance flavor. A gorgeous ending to an outstanding album!
Ever Ever On is certain to be on my Favorites list for the year! Give your ears and your mind a real treat and check this one out! It is available from Amazon and CD Baby. I give it my highest recommendation!
- Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com, 9/14/10
TOM SALVATORI & IRIS LITCHFIELD
WHEN EVENING FALLS – AWARDS AND RECOGNITION:
- 2014 – When Evening Falls achieves over Two Million plays per quarter on Pandora
- When Evening Falls: Winner, Best Neo-Classical Album of the year, 2007 NAR Lifestyle Music Awards
- When Evening Falls debuted at #2 on the Top 100 NAR radio play charts, September, 2007
- Bill Binkelman (NAR) recommends When Evening Falls as a Best of 2007 pick
- RJ Lannan (NAR) recommends When Evening Falls as a Top 10 Recording for 2007
- Kathy Parsons (MainlyPiano.com) recommends When Evening Falls as a 2007 CD Favorites selection
- Jelke Bethlehem, Time Trek radio program host (The Netherlands) recommends When Evening Falls as a Best of 2007 pick
- Mark Jayne, Program Host, Night Breeze, KCCK Cedar Rapids, IA recommends When Evening Falls as a Top 10 CD of 2007 selection
TOM SALVATORI & IRIS LITCHFIELD
WHEN EVENING FALLS – PRESS REVIEWS:
When Evening Falls…is a wonderful, dusky dream-filled album with fourteen tracks of pastoral and contemporary tunes that will inspire, relax and alleviate stress. Tom Salvatori and Iris Litchfield, both classical trained composers, have united on this contemporary album in the spirit of harmony in a figurative and literal sense. Tom is from Illinois and Iris is from Kent, England, but the miles could not separate the kindred spirits of these two gifted performers. Additionally, the music is far more mellifluous for the talents of cellist John Catchings who joins them on several cuts. When Evening Falls is pensive, relaxing music that is enjoyable at any hour. The mating of guitar and piano with an infrequent visit by the cello makes for several agreeable duos, while the solos are as welcome as are old friends. For a soothing interlude of warm, peaceful music, you cannot do much better than Tom Salvatori and Iris Litchfield.
- RJ Lannan, The Sounding Board, NAR, 2007
“When Evening Falls” is an utterly charming collection of original solos, duets, and other ensemble works by pianist Iris Litchfield and guitarist Tom Salvatori, often accompanied by cellist John Catchings. The cover artwork gives you a clue that you are beholding something exceptional, and you are. Iris Litchfield is a classically-trained pianist who recently began composing for the piano after retiring from teaching math in England. It is interesting to note that the demo tape she sent to Salvatori Productions was recorded on an upright piano with a squeaky pedal and a ceiling fan humming overhead. Tom heard something special in the music and worked hard to find a studio in England with a good grand piano (a 1934 Steinway D) for Litchfield’s first studio recording. The final take of her music brought the grown men in the studio to tears, and it’s easy to hear why. The music is not overly complex, but is honest and heartfelt, with a slight touch of innocence – truly a fresh voice on the music scene. Litchfield has released CDs in Europe, but “When Evening Falls” is her first release in the US. Tom Salvatori is also classically-trained, and his guitar pieces are equally moving, with their gentle, straightforward messages. Catchings adds just the right contrast to the piano and guitar, and brings a soulful quality that only comes from a masterfully-played cello. “When Evening Falls” will definitely be on my list of favorite CD’s for 2007!
A haunting piano solo called “Autumn Colors” opens the CD. Fall often evokes feelings of melancholy as nature prepares the world for winter. Those feelings are captured perfectly in this piece, and it wonderfully sets the tone for the album. Next is the first duet, “Sleepy Eyes Lullaby,” a soothing, caressing piece for guitar and cello. “Breath of Spring” is a quiet duet for piano and cello, full of hope and optimism. “Guitar Lament” is a gorgeous guitar solo that seems to tell a story. “Nature’s Serenade” is a sweet and graceful piece for all three musicians. Very simple and uncomplicated, it suggests warm sunshine and a gentle breeze – lovely! “Reflecting Absence” is a stunningly beautiful piece for guitar and cello. Comprised of several movements that range from slow and reflective to more impassioned and emotional, this seven-minute masterpiece is worth the price of the CD alone. (I can’t imagine that the studio guys didn’t need their hankies for this one, too!) “Carousel” is mostly a piano solo, but Salvatori comes in for two of the verses, bringing additional charm to this warm, happy little piece. “Labyrinth 2” contrasts the smooth, deep cello with the bright finger picking on guitar, creating an aura of intriguing mystery. The piece ends rather abruptly, intensifying the mystery. “Come Stay a While” is like a hug from a long-lost friend. Violin and viola are added to the piano and cello, making this a chamber piece that overflows with emotion and love.
I can’t sing the praises of “When Evening Falls” enough. It is simply one of the most beautiful CDs I’ve heard in a year of unusually good instrumental CDs. Sure to be a favorite for a long time to come! It is available from cdbaby.com and amazon.com. Samples of the music are also available at www.salvatoriproductions.com. I give “When Evening Falls” my highest recommendation!
- Kathy Parsons, Mainly Piano, 2007
Take three talented artists, mix and match them in various combinations and who knows what will result. In the case of When Evening Falls, you end up with a beautiful collection of soothing and introspective instrumental pieces. Featuring the considerable talents of acoustic guitarist Tom Salvatori, pianist Iris Litchfield and cellist John Catchings (with some violin and viola assistance on one track and bass on another one), the fourteen selections on this album are divided up into solo numbers by Salvatori and Litchfield or assorted permutations of one or the other or both with Catchings. The album is cohesive with a consistent mood maintained throughout. The two composers (Salvatori and Litchfield) were obviously simpatico when it came to the aim of When Evening Falls, the title of which aptly portrays the mood evoked by the music. Peaceful, somber, warm, nostalgic and reflective, the CD is emblematic of what I refer to as “autumn afternoon music,” meaning it’s suited for grey skies, falling leaves, and a crisp bite to the air. Whether one bathes in this music while seated before a fire, or perhaps driving through rolling hillsides and small rural towns dressed in gold and red for the season, When Evening Falls weaves a comforting web of warm yet often sad or reflective music.
As if the music itself wasn’t enough, the CD’s artfully-designed Digipak (by Stephen Ravenscraft) is a veritable work of art as well. Hell, even the font choices are spot on (you’d be surprised how rare that is). From every perspective, When Evening Falls is a splendid recording and a must have for lovers of gentle “nighttime” acoustic instrumental music. Highly recommended. Rating: Excellent
- Bill Binkelman, New Age Reporter, 2007
He’s known as a guitarist’s guitarist, an expert at both classical guitar and the combination of classical with any number of musical genres. Tom Salvatori enchanted listeners with his last album from 2002, Late Night Guitar, which was a children’s album disguised as an excellent, meditative study in the healing power of the nylon string guitar.
In 2007 Tom joins forces with pianist Iris Litchfield for a gorgeous duet album of timeless instrumental music–supplemented by the cello arrangements of John Catchings. A seamless blend of vintage classical music and the curative vibes of the New Age meditation genre that was so popular in the mid-90’s. When Evening Falls is the most appealing outing yet from the versatile guitar imagination of Tom Salvatori.
- Robert Silverstein, 20th Century Guitar Magazine, 2007
When Evening Falls is the perfect CD to cure writer’s block and inspire you. On a sunny autumn afternoon, I sit in Berlin listening to the tender beauty of the guitar caressing ever so gently the piano. It is true, I never took time to contemplate why this should be such an unusual mix, but after I listened, I realized that I had never heard these two instruments in union. It is a marriage made in heaven. Touchingly pure, innocent as all first loves should be. And listening, I’m smiling at its simple beauty. When Evening Falls is the perfect CD for curing writers block and reflecting upon the joys of life! Now I am going to make a cup of tea and start writing the novel I have always dreamed of…thank you Tom and Iris. You have given me the gift of inspiration.
- Kara Johnstad, Web site posting, 2008
I love Iris’s compositions and piano playing and Tom’s compositions and guitar playing so putting the 2 together is for me perfection.
- Dr Catherine Galatola (Turin-Italy), Web site posting, 2007
I am so impressed with Iris Litchfield, Tom Salvatori. Hope there are more coming. - 5.0 out of 5 stars - Classic
- Roberta H. Matzke, Amazon review 2008
Thoughtful and mature original contemporary compositions, expertly arranged, that bring to the surface deep emotions. Beautiful performances, complemented by excellent sound recording and mixing. Overall, a work which is obviously the result of talent, love of melody, care and meticulous attention to detail in composition, arrangement and production.