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Transitions is the epic final chapter in the award-winning “Naked Piano” series.

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A story of transformation…

The untold story to accompany the album “The Naked Piano – Transitions”

The album and our story follow a boy named  “Apollo” – born in the late 15th century in a small village outside San Marino (present day Italy). He’s the 10th child to a poor, peasant family. His parents are hoping he’ll somehow be “special” (hence, the name “Apollo” –  the Greek God of Love, Music and Poetry).

From the beginning, Apollo is a curious child. Always asking questions. Wanting to know how and why things are the way they are. He works for a local merchant named “Lorenzo” who has a considerable estate and employs many laborers – including Apollo’s entire family.

Lorenzo takes a liking to Apollo – he admires the young boys’ curiosity. He decides to teach the young boy how to read and write. When finished with his daily chores, Apollo sits under his favorite chestnut tree and writes. At night he reads the stories to his family by candlelight.

As Apollo matures, Lorenzo entrusts him with more responsibilities – including bringing goods to the market in nearby San Marino. On one of these trips, Apollo sees the young “Lady Maria” for the first time. Daughter of the royal family of San Marino, she’s the most beautiful thing Apollo has ever seen. Her hair is a fiery-auburn mixed with dark strands of brown, her eyes wonderfully large and velvety brown. Her skin is perfectly radiant. He’s smitten. Unfortunately, nobility and peasants aren’t allowed to socialize, so Apollo begins writing Maria love poems while sitting under his favorite tree. He rolls up the parchment and delivers them to Maria secretly through the market vendors.

Maria un-wraps and reads the letters…and the words cut straight to her soul. She’s never read anything so beautiful or emotional. She’s enraptured by the stories and feels her heart quicken as the poems become more personal. She finds herself falling for this ‘anonymous’ writer. Determined to find out who he is, she waits day after day… until, finally she sees Apollo handing a rolled parchment to a vegetable vendor. As she confronts Apollo, they touch hands and their eyes lock. Time stops. It’s love at first sight.

It’s a dangerous tryst. Meeting secretly, they frolic in the beautiful hills and olive groves of the surrounding countryside. They sit for hours under Apollo’s tree as he tells Maria story after story…They will look back on these days as the most innocent and joyous of their young lives.

As their love grows, their relationship gets more intimate. Maria gets pregnant. Keeping this secret, she figures a way to spend a year “studying abroad” with her sympathetic Aunt Catherine (the Duchess of Siena).  Maria takes the 6-day carriage ride from San Marino and arrives to a welcoming Aunt Catherine.

Soon after the baby is born, Maria decides to return to San Marino and set things right – she’s in love with Apollo and determined to figure out a way they can be together. She gathers her belongings and her courage and heads back to face her family.

On the road, a band of thieves recognize the Royal crest on the carriage, and suspecting a wealthy cargo, they attack. In the ensuing mayhem, Lady Maria is killed.

 

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Part 1

The album “Transitions” begins when news of Lady Maria’s death reaches the city of San Marino, and the ears of her beloved Apollo…

Apollo is devastated. He can’t speak. There’s no one he can talk to. He’s stunned and confused. He knows he needs to get away… and he starts to run. And he runs. He’s blind with grief and tears. He looks up and finds he’s at his favorite tree. As his breathing slows and he gathers his composure, he gets real silent. He slows his mind to try and put together what has just happened. This is the moment which begins all great transitions. It begins in silence. Alone. All great endeavors (including this album) begin with moments of quiet and solitude…

Solitude (3:50)

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In the following days, Apollo can’t help feeling Maria’s death is his fault. He must have driven her away…He’s the one to blame! He begins obsessing over every word and every conversation they had ever had – searching for clues why she left. He’s overcome with guilt. He turns to prayer. He pleads with God for forgiveness. He asks for understanding. He asks for redemption. For Apollo, the first step in this process is not just believing, but knowing he’s worthy of forgiveness…

Redemption (4:00)

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It’s been a couple weeks since news of Maria’s death. Apollo is finding it hard to go on. “What’s the point?” he asks himself. This is a precarious moment. Apollo could easily be thinking “poor me” or, even “why me?!”. This line of thinking leads down a slippery and dangerous path. But, no. He doesn’t take a ‘victim’ attitude. Instead, Apollo thinks back to something Maria had told him when they first met. Nervous their secret would be found out, she had said “we’re the masters of our fate, and the captains of our soul”. For some reason her words come back to him. This is a signature moment in our story – and also a signature song on the album. More than anything else, this fateful sentiment is the critical factor which allows him to continue on, and become the person he’s always wanted to be…

Invictus (4:24)

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Like any catastrophic event, this is a turbulent and painful period for Apollo. Maria’s death has left a void – a seemingly-impassable abyss between the joyous days when they were once together – to a future when he prays they will be reunited. Apollo must cross a chasm of pain and uncertainty. But he knows peace awaits him on the other side…

Cross the Chasm (3:38)

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Apollo spends a lot of time sitting under his favorite tree. It brings him a small measure of peace. He thinks back to those innocent days when he’d run through the olive groves with Maria. They’d sit under this tree and talk about the future. Some days, she’d bring a basket with bread, figs and olives and they’d sit and eat while telling each other stories. He’d tell her tales of faraway lands, places to see and things to do. She’d tell him the latest gossip and rumors from royal families around Europe. Time would disappear. They made a pact to explore the world together – the future was theirs! With a kiss and a whisper, Apollo would bid Maria farewell with the words “not today…but beyond tomorrow…”

Beyond Tomorrow (3:50)

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Apollo thinks back to the first time he saw Maria. She was beautiful. She had her hair delicately woven in a lace headband. Her skin shone beautifully against her dark maroon tunic and scarlet dress. Her hair was like the setting sun bursting through a dark horizon. And… those eyes! They cast an enchanting gaze he could never forget. She moved wth the grace of water and cast an aura which illuminated the market. Her hands were covered with black velvet gloves, but as she surveyed the fruit he could see her delicate and elegant fingers. As he thinks back on all these impressions, he can’t help feel how unfair it is they were kept apart. He fast forwards to today – and realizes he’ll never see Maria again. Was she an angel here on Earth? He looks up at the sky as he ponders this question and the powers of the world. Whatever entities are controlling humankind’s destiny, Apollo can’t help thinking Maria has always been a Forbidden Love…

Forbidden Love (3:31)

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Lorenzo returns from his travels. It’s the first time he’s been back since the tragic news of Maria’s death. He’s been establishing trade routes for his commercial enterprise. He’s known the royal family his whole life and he’s always suspected there may have been something going on between Apollo and Lady Maria. When he first sees Apollo – he sees the pain and anguish which confirms his suspicions. He wants to console and advise Apollo, but he’s wise enough to know this would be impossible. Instead, Lorenzo tells Apollo a story of the ancient Greeks. For many years, Lorenzo has been fascinated with the ideals of classical antiquity. The Greeks, Lorenzo says, believed in two primary forces in the world. One is “Chronos” – the chronological passage of time (seconds, hours, days, years). The other, more important force, is “Kairos” – the perfect or opportune moment – the present moment. The only moment that truly matters. “To get in touch with Kairos”, says Lorenzo, “you must find a peaceful spot, close your eyes, concentrate on your breathing… and just…. BE. Focus on what’s around you.”

As Lorenzo departs, Apollo goes to his favorite chestnut tree…. closes his eyes… takes a deep breath…. and sits. quietly. alone. He focuses on his breathing. Ahhh.. Exhale. Silence. He hears a bird. More silence. He hears..no, he feels the leaves of the tree rustle in the wind….

Kairos (3:49)

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The next day a carriage arrives. Apollo has been summoned to Siena by the Duchess Catherine. Apollo makes the 6-day journey not knowing what to expect. He arrives, and greets the Duchess. The Duchess is known throughout the region as a generous and kind woman. There’s a rumor she sells royal artifacts so she can give generously to the poor and sick. Catherine tells Apollo she knows everything about his secret relationship with Lady Maria. In fact, she continues, she knows even MORE. She tells him he has a daughter. This is the reason Maria had to leave San Marino – to protect Apollo. The Duchess informs him Maria was on her way back to San Marino to tell her parents the truth when the carriage was attacked. Things are becoming clearer for Apollo. Then, the Duchess introduces him to his baby girl. She has Maria’s auburn hair and beautiful, large brown eyes – and in that moment, something inside him shifts. There is a sudden peace and joy he hasn’t felt in a long, long time.

He decides to name the baby girl… “Serenity”…

Serenity (3:32)

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Part 2

In just a brief period of time, Apollo’s world has been turned upside down. He’s just been informed he has a baby daughter. The story resumes with the Duchess of Siena. She informs Apollo that Serenity is of royal blood, and as such needs to be cared for in a particular manner. Apollo isn’t worthy of taking care of baby Serenity and the Duchess will not allow her to leave under his care. The Duchess, however, puts forth a challenge: “Apollo, prove you are worthy to care for this beautiful child, and I will grant her to you.” Apollo is perplexed and pained. The Duchess continues “to help you get started, I have something for you…”. She hands Apollo a beautiful hand-painted trunk about the size of a picnic basket. It’s locked. “It will not be opened until you reach your home outside San Marino”. As Apollo boards the carriage, his mind is awash in confusion. He realizes he must become a new man. He must shed his past and figure out a way to prove his worth to the Duchess – he must win back his daughter Serenity. Not just for himself – but for Maria too. He must become the man Maria believed him to be. Apollo spends the 6-day carriage ride at war with himself. He doesn’t eat. He doesn’t sleep. He’s tormented by angels and demons alike. Like the Chrysalis to the butterfly, Apollo begins his transformation…

Transformation (4:03)

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Apollo steps off the carriage back home in San Marino a new man. The sun is shining. Everything is familiar, yet it all looks new. The carriage driver retrieves the painted chest and opens it for Apollo. There, inside, are all the letters he had ever written to Maria. She had saved them! A tear rolls down his face as he thinks back to all the times he’d sneak the parchment letters to Maria through the market vendors. He’d re-write the love poems over and over until they were perfect. While he was “anonymous” he’d take chances expressing his innermost thoughts and emotions. He was free to be himself. As he looks at his current situation, he realizes he needs to have this same level of courage and creativity. This is new territory for Apollo, but he knows he’ll need to take some chances to win back Serenity…

Nebula (2:54)

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Apollo needs to consult with someone – and Lorenzo is the only person he can trust and who will understand. Apollo confesses everything. The secret relationship with Lady Maria. The ensuing guilt. The meeting with the Duchess – and the battle for Serenity. And, of course, the trunk full of love poems. Lorenzo scratches his beard. After a few moments of silence, he looks up at Apollo with a steely, determined gaze. “Publish the letters”.

The Gutenberg printing press is making great progress throughout Europe and gives a man of skillful writing the opportunity to reach people all over the continent. Apollo is hesitant. If he publishes the letters, his secrets, his innermost thoughts and desires, will be revealed. Even worse, he risks death at the hands of the royal family! This signals a critical decision point for Apollo. It’s also the nexus in human history which will lead to enlightenment, widespread knowledge, and the “network society” which continues to this day…

Nexus (3:26)

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What do you think Apollo decides to do? With the help of Lorenzo and his trade partners, Apollo publishes the letters. It’s an instant success. Nobility throughout Europe are enchanted by the stories – and seek out Apollo to write odes and poems to immortalize themselves and their beloveds (Apollo’s writings would eventually influence the great bard himself – Sir William Shakespeare). Apollo becomes fabulously wealthy – but more importantly, extremely powerful amongst the leaders and top thinkers throughout Europe. He now receives the summons from the Duchess of Siena. He’s proven he’s worthy of being the noble father of young Serenity. To make it ‘official’, she annoints him a “Lord”. He returns to San Marino with Serenity and is welcomed into the Royal residences of Maria’s family. He becomes a kind and generous nobleman and loving father. They live peacefully ever after…

This is the happy-ending to our story. But it doesn’t truly end here…

On his death bed, Lord Apollo thinks back on his life. He thinks about Maria. He realizes it wasn’t the individual chapters which were the transitions. No, each of these chapters contributed to what he had finally become – who he always strived to be.

Interestingly, as an older woman on her deathbed, Serenity thinks back on her life. She’s gone through the same series of transitions – from regret and guilt, to ‘forbidden’ motherly-love, and eventually to her own transformation. She, too has become the woman she always strived to be…

Transitions (4:35)

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The end.

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The story ends, however, there are still several tracks remaining on the album!

The key song “Invictus” was inspired by the poem by Helmsley. He was the one who penned “we are the masters of our fate, captains of our soul”. That poem and line – and the sentiment itself – was one of the driving forces behind this album. So, I took the solo piano track and added orchestration (orchestration by brilliant musician/friend Doug Hammer). This piece is so personal for me – and I hope it will have a powerful effect on you as well.

Invictus (Orchestrated) (4:32)

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I’ve also added two “Bonus” tracks on the physical CD. These were two tracks that I didn’t want to insert in the story, but which had significance for me in the concept of “Transitions”.

Bonus Track #1 – Chronos (3:56)

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Tick-Tock…The clock keeps ticking. “Chronos” is the Greek word to explain the passage of chronological time. Whereas Kairos is qualitative (“moments”), Chronos is quantitative (seconds, minutes, hours…years).

Bonus Track #2 – Taken (3:26)

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It hurts when something is taken away. It hurts even more if it’s a small child. Inspired by the tragic events of Sandy Hook, I had composed this piece as a way for me to deal with this horrible atrocity. Dedicated to those killed on December 14th, 2012 in Newtown, CT – and to the parents, family and friends who must somehow find peace in this transition. I’m so sorry for your loss.

 

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