Lois Herbine: Interview and Album Review

Lois Herbine’s latest CD, Alight, is a beautiful collection of three beautiful works, two by contemporary beloved composers. The CD opens with Prayer (2011) by Amanda Harberg (with Harberg on the piano). This is a gorgeous piece with beautiful melodies, deeply emotional, and played with depth and insight by the two artists who play together with so much understanding and love.

Harberg says about her piece:

My music is often an emotional reaction to personal experience. I composed Prayer shortly after finding out that a close family member was seriously ill. The piece is a prayer for hope and healing through the powerful language of music.”

Lois tells us a story about playing “Prayer” for her mom who was in advanced stages of Alzheimers and was no longer in a communicative state. The miracle of the piece was that the beautiful performance and music helped Lois’ mom communicate more fully than she had in a very long time. “Prayer” was able to bring her to another level of cognizance, understanding, and response.

Tweet by Daniel Dorff, written and premiered at the International Piccolo Symposium, is a joyful, fun, and challenging piece for solo piccolo. It is played here with style and technical accuracy, and Herbine is a truly excellent piccolo player!


Daniel Dorff says about his piece:

The robins waking me up early every morning that May provided great inspiration, and one morning the opening theme and its contrasting theme poured out quickly. The form and development became a lot of fun to compose, with lots of elements of rondo, variations, and particularly using timbre contrasts as a way to make a full sonorous experience out of an unaccompanied piccolo work.


I loved the contrast with the opening piece, how first we prayed and then we became joyous! The final work in the collection is “Meditation from Thais” by Jules Massenet. Originally written for violin, here it is performed on piccolo with incredible control, beauty, musicality, and command of the instrument.

A few words on the title:

Alight is a bird in motion that comes to rest or perch

It is feeling a strong emotion,

something afire or illuminated,

or to come upon accidentally.

These words aptly describe the CD, as I didn’t expect to be so fully satisfied by these three short works, but it is a pleasure to hear them and how they relate to the conception of the collection.  If you get the chance give “Alight” a listen!


Notes from Lois Herbine:

I recently experienced a phenomenon with my mom like nothing I’ve seen before. I had just finished creating the raw files for Alight, my recording project with the composer Amanda Harberg at the piano, and had them with me in my phone when I went to visit my mom in her memory care facility. She is 96 and has been at this level of care for four years as she is nearing the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. Although she is still mobile and can feed herself with physical cuing, she does not have the ability to communicate or understand even basic verbal cues.

We have been active in the Music and Memory project that I helped get accredited in her community, and I know that music opens up another level of cognizance and strengthens her ability to listen, understand and respond, but it is all within what is now becoming for me a more predictable range.

I shared the recording I made of Prayer (which incidentally was composed by Amanda for her loved one who was in the hospital) and it took much of the four minutes getting mom to understand that I wanted her to listen; she thought that I was trying to get her to see something. At the end she said, “that was nice!” so I knew she was listening.

I told her that she was the first person to hear my recording and she held her head up in pride and said “well”.

In the past year this might be the extent of having a good listening day, and I would be very happy.

As I jotted down on my phone what transpired, mom asks what I’m doing! I told her I’m writing the things down that she said and then she asks “what did I say?!”

I said that we were having this great conversation because we were just listening to my music. When I put Prayer back on I mimed me playing the flute and I knew she grasped that. I then pulled out some photos and showed her my girls and told her my daughter is marrying and showed her the photo of her fiancé. Mom lit up, and I knew she understood me. She said, "how old is he?" And made a nice reply about him that made sense.

So as we walked along the hall together I am thinking about what just happened and how my music got through to my mother and I begin to tear up. Mom said, “what’s wrong?” That’s when I lost it, crying and laughing, at the same time, saying “nothing’s wrong, I’m just really happy.”



--Barbara Siesel

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