Reflections & Relaxations

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

There has been a spate of music books offering calming, relaxing piano music of late, and this new title from Dallas-based piano pedagogue Mona Rejino looks, on the surface, to be another addition to that growing trend. However, it proves to be something a little different, as we’ll discover in this review…

A Composer Showcase

Mona Rejino’s name will be familiar to all who use the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library or the Hal Leonard Adult Piano Method books, as she not only co-authored those series but contributed many of the included pieces and arrangements.

Rejino has also composed a number of her own piano collections in the Composer Showcase series, an imprint through which Hal Leonard provides a platform for their best pedagogic composers to take the spotlight and present their latest repertoire.

Regina’s collections in this series have proven stimulating and musically diverse, from the fun of the elementary Colour Wheel and Circus Suite (both of which I have enjoyed delving into) to music for intermediate players such as the sunny Impressions de España and superb Impressions of New York, which is a slightly more advanced jazz suite in three movements.

Like those collections, Reflections & Relaxations is suitable for late intermediate players, and I would say that a player around UK Grade 5 would find enjoyment and sufficient challenge in these eight “peaceful piano solos”.

Introducing the collection, Rejino tells us,

“In today’s fast-paced environment, we often forget to take time to simply breathe, reflect and relax. This collection of pieces is designed to give you the opportunity to reflect on various elements of life, past and present. It provides a musical avenue for you to relax, to stop and smell the roses, even on a busy day. It includes six original compositions, an Irish folksong, and a traditional spiritual. Wishing you peace and joy as you contemplate life through this music.”

Contemplating Life…

The last point is a telling one. Rather than contemplative mediations which nod towards eastern spiritual traditions, these prove to be easy-going pieces in a popular western style that isn’t too far removed from the music of Disney cartoons, so beloved by younger players.

These are happy pieces which stir warm emotions and reflect nostalgically on life’s better moments, encouraging relaxation and emotional connection through accessible tunes with evocatively suggestive titles:

  • New Beginning
  • Restless
  • Dreaming of Home
  • Whimsy
  • Danny Boy
  • Deep River
  • Evening
  • Joyful Contentment

Remembering that Rejino is also responsible for several Hal Leonard piano songbooks of music ranging from Frozen to arrangements of songs by Adele, we should perhaps not be surprised in the least, and the book certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the quality of Rejino’s work.

With gentle syncopations, pop piano gestures, gentle melodic lines, elevating key changes, and harmonies lightly infused with a soft jazzy hue, these are pieces which will have wide appeal without breaking any conventions in the process.

There is a high consistency, but Rejino’s superb bluesy arrangement of the classic spiritual Deep River deserves a special mention and is my immediate favourite. Her original composition Restless, with its flowing melody and syncopated groove, is also a particular delight.

The publication itself has an attractive glossy card cover, staple binding, and is printed on white paper with spacious notation that has a larger than usual font size for this level.

Ample suggested fingering, detailed pedalling instructions and a wealth of performing instructions are all present and correct, and the book begins with an engaging introduction in which the composer introduces each of her eight pieces.

Closing Thoughts

For players at late intermediate level who enjoy delving into single-composer folios to discover new music, Reflections & Relaxations is certainly an easy recommendation, a consummately crafted collection of classy compositions in a contemporary popular style.

The book will undoubtedly bring musical enjoyment to players and listeners, while teachers will also welcome the publication as a fresh repertoire source.

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based on Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.