Merrill Collins - 'Songs Well Done' Featuring Hannibal Means, Tenor
Review by Daniel Deprè
“Songs Well Done” is an incredibly dynamic and expressive song. Its atmosphere is so emotive and passionate, your mind will be flooded with imagery and nostalgic feelings. The song is very cinematic, and the harmony and vocal performance are operatic. I can just imagine the singer standing on stage singing to a crowd that is completely silent and transfixed by the music’s wonderful storytelling. Despite being just piano and vocals for the entirety of the song, Merrill Collins knows how to keep the song interesting and keep the listener on their toes.
The lyrics are telling a beautiful story and it’s a story that conjures up images of a big home filled with family and loved ones. The word “home” is repeated a lot, and decidedly so as it creates the overwhelming sense of nostalgia that this song emanates, but also can refer to the biblical or spiritual idea of home as Collins grew up hearing the word "mansion" in reference to biblical teachings. Wherever one may be in the world, listening this song will make you want to visit your home, where you spent your formative years growing up. “Home is where I came from, and I am moving in, Into my own high place, safe and warm in my upper room, what a beautiful room is this”. The lyrics are so warm and welcoming, they create a world safe from suffering, petty tribulations, and hate.
The performance from both the piano player and operatic singer are so dynamic and expressive. Vocalist Hannibal Means not only has an impressive range with how high and low he can sing, but his control over dynamics is breathtaking. At times he sings so soft and low, holding the energy in a tiny ball until he lets the music expand and sings high into the sky again. This back and forth from both he and the piano playing makes for such an amazing and emotional journey. The piano is often very busy, but it is perfectly in sync with the vocalist, waiting for pauses in the melody to play a powerful phrase and following the energy level of the singer.
All in all, “Songs Well Done” is an awe-inspiring and operatic piano ballad that will likely make you tear up thinking of loved ones and your home.
About Merrill Collins
Music for artists like Merrill Collins is more than just a technique, a career or a lifestyle. It is a part of the essence of life itself. “Music is naturally, organically and inseparably connected to life, just as the shapes of DNA/RNA are spirals within our bodies," explains Collins. "Spirals have movement and constant flow and are an integral shape in nature." As such, the composer gathers her favorite musicians and creates the sounds of life.
Collins, who was born and raised in New Jersey, dedicated her life to music at age four. Her parents advised her teacher, a graduate of the Julliard School of Music, to help Collins develop her skills naturally. Years later, she attended Ithaca College School of Music and Humboldt State University where she completed her Bachelor's Degree in Piano, with a minor in composition. Merrill then completed a Master's of Music Degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on a full scholarship.
The artist created Spiraling Music in order to produce and promote her unique and personal music, which features a catalog filled with various instrumental albums influenced by the work of artists such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Oliver Messiaen, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Herbie Hancock and many others. Many of her projects involve vocal tracks as well as instrumental ones.
Collins’ music combines her classical music training with contemporary improvisation, collaborating with other top-tier musicians. "My players often interact with each other like a musical conversation, where each person's intuition guides their commentaries and input," she explains. "We all work off the same basic chart, chords, melodies, and phrases which I compose, adding our various individual instruments to the collective sound." Every album is unique.
Her impressive resume extends to other areas as well. She's performed and composed music for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations, UNCHR Human Rights Day, Amnesty International, United Way, UN World Habitat Day, Earth Day. In 1986-87, Merrill was composer-in-residence for Pathways to Peace, during which time she developed human rights curricula including Every Man, Woman and Child, and the curriculum she developed with Avon Mattison became the Pathways to Peace model for peace education still in use today with the United Nations. At the Council for the Parliament of the World's Religions in Capetown South Africa 1999, her works were cited as "Gifts of Service to the World." Her production of Minute of Silence was featured in three languages in a global broadcast for the International Day of Peace. Merrill received a Global Peace Song Award 2016 for her composition "Every Man, Woman, and Child" which was included on the 2017 Project Peace on Earth compilation. She is a voting member of the Grammy Foundation (NARAS). Merrill's video collaborations with her husband, photographer Yvon Chausseblanche, can be seen on YouTube. Merrill is available for live presentations and performances at conferences and events in the Los Angeles area. Contact Merrill as the publisher of all Spiraling Music titles to negotiate synchronization licenses.