Fiona Bennett trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, going on to become a regular performer of her own material. She spent many years as a singer, pianist, song writer and band leader before putting her career on hold to devote herself to her family. She has now recorded an album of her own material, playing keyboards and singing on the final track.
The first six tracks on this disc, form A Country Suite, a suite inspired by Bennett's love of costume dramas from the 19th century, each a snap shot of country life in that era. The movements' titles suggest a hidden story, The Landscape, A Country Gathering, The Harvest, A Lad and A Lass, Up River and Winter draws in.
Bennett's style is lyrical and free flowing with surprisingly rich textures. Her lilting style seems to be rather folk influenced, with a highly developed melodic gift. The movements all sound like song transcriptions, Bennett's highly melodic lines almost cry out to be sung. When you listen to the suite you feel as if there are words, just behind each movement, each a song without words.
Bennett's writing is passionately romantic and richly textured. Her playing is expressive but not virtuoso, with a gentle pastoral feel plus a hint of modern country music. The results evocative and though highly approachable, never feels hackneyed. I enjoyed A Country Suite but kept coming back to the feeling that I was listening to songs and wondering what the words were, perhaps next time Bennett should actually think about using words as well.
Bennett follows the suite with three more short pieces. Tempus Fugit feels like the evocation of keyboard music from an earlier age, a glimpse of a heroine from one of Bennett's costume dramas playing the piano. Tristesse is a lovely melody given an attractive treatment. Finally comes Tymhorau a song with Welsh words by Nia Williams which really feels like a modern folk-song arrangement.
Light music is not a genre which seems popular in contemporary circles. But Bennett writes charming, unhackneyed music which almost feels like film music. Bennett clearly enjoys telling a story and you feel that there are charming stories behind these pieces.
Fiona Bennett - A Country Suite
Fiona Bennett (keyboards)
Recorded October 2011
Available from http://www.fionabennettmusic.co.uk/