Schwartz's "Ave Maria" is not the traditional version,
but a new melody composed around the same text which combines
the stately joy of the old hymn with a rich chamber orchestra
featuring Peter Lale on viola. "Gloria" brings the emotional
moodswings around to intense joy again, opening with an explosive
choral section before blending that with the full-blown orchestra
over a funk intensive dance groove. The tender, closing track
"Let Me" is a piano and vocal piece which, Schwartz
says, "conveys the same positive expressions as 'Gloria,'
but in a small intimate way."
Paul Schwartz grew up with a Jewish father - legendary film composer
Arthur Schwartz - and Catholic mother, and his interest in ancient
religious texts came from singing in choirs and attending a high
school in London that was next to Westminster Abbey, where he
was required to attend services each day. The native New Yorker
(where he lived till he was 12) developed an intense dual affinity
for old cathedrals and religious music, which for him offered
a true and meaningful connection to the spiritual.
Several years ago, he conducted a series of orchestral concerts
at Lincoln Center to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth
of his father, whose credits include "Dancing in the Dark,"
"That's Entertainment" and "The Band Wagon."
While Arthur was considered a grand old man of musical theatre,
Paul Schwartz launched his own career in classical music, serving
as Assistant Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony upon appointment
by Andre Previn. Conducting for such such organizations as the
New York Ballet, San Diego Opera and The Washington Opera, Schwartz
entered the musical theatre world himself, serving as Musical
Director for Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera"
and "Song & Dance" as well as Rogers & Hammerstein's
"On Your Toes." In the late 80s, he worked as a music
consultant to the NYC Ballet, composing two electronic pieces;
he was also the only American commissioned to compose music for
the closing ceremonies of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Based on a 90 second demo tape that he created with jazz pianist
Mario Grigorov, Schwartz was signed to Astor Place Records, which
released his 1997 debut Aria and its sequel Aria 2: New Horizon.
The first album spent over a year in the Top Ten of Billboard's
Classical Crossover chart and re-entered the chart in May of 2000.
Aria 2, featuring guest performances by Tony Award nominee Rebecca
Luker and popular smooth jazz guitarists Marc Antoine and Peter
White, was #3 for the year on Billboard's Classical chart in Billboard's
Indie Special 2000. He made his Top 200 debut in 1997 as producer
with the best selling soundtrack CD Beauty and the Beast: The
Enchanted Christmas. He's also scored various independent films
(including Ratchet by Altar Rock Films) and, while still with
Astor Place, created a chamber music project based on eleven Beatle
tunes called Revolution.
Schwartz's catalog, which also includes 2002's Earthbound, his
first entirely self-composed recording, has sold over 250,000
units domestically. He is currently working on Aria III, scheduled
for release in 2004.
"When I worked on the Aria cds, I understood the characters
and the action in the story," he says. "That made me
develop the pieces with a sense of drama that comes from storytelling.
But when using ancient texts as the subject material, I had to
create the dramas in my mind to work musically. The music on State
of Grace II: Turning to Peace is an affirmation of life, just
as the first one was, but it's more of an independent, self- contained
work. What I enjoy most about the process is, I go in with some
concrete ideas and by the second song, I have come up with completely
new twists that make it so much more compelling. It's always a
In 2000 composer/producer Paul Schwartz created a musical phenomenon
with State of Grace, a collection based or traditional religious
texts which blended vocal, choral and orchestral elements with
his trademark affinity for seductive ambient grooves. The response
to the recording - which was Billboard's No. 11 best-selling New
Age CD of 2001 - fueled a further awakening spiritual passion
which led naturally to the concept of his new release State of
Grace II: Turning to Peace.
Based in part on the Magnificat and the Stabat Mater, two Latin
texts related to the emotional journey of the Virgin Mary, State
of Grace II: Turning to Peace includes six tracks sung by longtime
Schwartz collaborator Lisbeth Scott, whose ethereal vocals played
a prominent role on the original State of Grace (as well as his
2002 hit Earthbound), and emotional performances by the Crouch
End Festival Chorus and harpist Helen Tunstall. The project also
features a powerful guest appearance by legendary guitarist Carlos
Santana, who used the popular State of Grace song "Miserere"
as the basis of the new tune "Curacion."
"I got a call from my manager one day, asking me if I wanted
to do a song with Santana. He apparently loved 'Miserere,' and
wrote new harmony parts and lead guitar melody to it," says
Schwartz. "Carlos and his producer KC Porter sent me his
tracks, to which I added synth, choir and orchestral parts before
mixing it at Abbey Road. We put it all together via Pro Tools.
It's a wonderful addition to the feeling I was aiming for on Turning
Schwartz likes that his listeners make emotional connections to
his music based on their own personal experiences. On State of
Grace II: Turning to Peace, he notes, "My concept was to
use the Latin texts as springboards that could either suggest
the dynamics of a personal relationship or a global message, as
we move from a time of stress and strife to a time of peace,"
"The Magnificat is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke
in the Bible. It is the prayer of Mary expressing her joy in the
knowledge that she will bear a son," Schwartz continues.
"The Stabat Mater is a medieval poem that describes the sorrows
of Mary as her son's life is taken. I wanted to oppose the two
images: the rejoicing expectant mother, and the eventual tragedy
that overcomes her. I broke the Magnificat into five sections,
but left the Stabat Mater whole. These texts and the other songs
on the album form a journey from joy to sorrow to joy again."
"This record had a sense of freedom for me that I didn't
feel on the first State of Grace. I think it's because earlier
this year, I had a chance to collaborate with (Grammy-winning
producer) David Foster on a new tune for Josh Groban, and saw
how quickly David worked, how relaxed he was about the process.
I convinced myself to let go and enjoy the ride, and it made all
State of Grace II begins majestically, with the Crouch End Festival
Chorus declaiming the word "Magnificat" before segueing
into Schwartz's distinctive, easy funk, trippy ambient groove
realm; he then sweeps this fascinating mix of the ancient and
modern into a powerful orchestral swirl. "This was a good
way to begin, with a powerful declaratory statement before we
relax into the overall vibe of the project," says Schwartz.
"It has a dreamy quality that conveys hope." The title
track then re-introduces the listener to the haunting, then soaring
voice of Lisbeth Scott, singing images of a peaceful world over
a groove that flows like a gentle heartbeat. The easy mid-tempo
ballad vibe continues on the Santana track "Curacion,"
which features the guitarist's crackling and colorful electric
rock energy surrounded by a classical flavored atmosphere.
Schwartz dubs the thoughtful, contemplative "Stabat Mater"
the "tragic center of the record," and his artful blend
of the harmonic textures of the choir with Scott's moving lead
vocal takes the key track to truly transcendent places. He combines
intense choral texturing with film-score like orchestral passions
over a cool, moody groove on "QUIA Respexit," whose
title stems from the second portion of the Magnificat text. "I
wanted this tune to be somewhat trance inducing, something of
a slow emotional build," says Schwartz. "It has the
sense of musical waves crashing over and over, in a mesmerizing
way." "Fear Not," whose Scott penned lyrics offer
comfort amidst a childlike sense of optimism, finds Schwartz scaling
down for a beautiful melody he felt was best conveyed on the acoustic
piano before the drama of the orchestra comes in. "The strings
take over from the piano on a key change, adding to the contrast
between simple and majestic," he says. "There's that
optimistic sense, but it's really about someone saying goodbye."
Helen Tunstall's beautiful, angelic harp adds a whimsical, folksy
texture to the next two pieces, the medieval plainchant inspired
"Et Misericordia" and the thoughtful, reflective "Suscepit
Israel." Schwartz says, "Helen is such a great player
and adds so much versatility to the project, and I thought it
would be interesting to connect the two songs using the harp,
which is an instrument I've always loved. It adds a touch of the
ethereal to the production, just as Lisbeth's vocals do on the
first song. The title 'Et Misericordia' means 'And he takes pity,'
which invokes a feeling of mercy, while 'Suscepit Israel' is about
how God has helped his servant Israel. I kept that one in a dark
place, playing it all in a minor key."
More information about purchasing Paul's musical masterpieces
on CD's, all of which I recommend highly, can be found at his