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Symphony Sessions
Artist: Steve Bell
Label: Signpost Music 
Length: 14 tracks/59:13 minutes
In June of 2006, Canadian artist Steve Bell received a call that would take his music in an unexpected direction. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) wanted to know if Bell would perform with them in the fall of that year.
On November 17, 2006 Bell performed a concert of his music with the WSO at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall. The CD liner notes tell the story: “The combination of Steve’s lyrical style, a world-class orchestra, Mike Janzen’s imaginative, textural orchestra scores and a sold out, enraptured house made for an evening none of us in attendance will soon forget.”
This studio recording captures the freshness of a live performance. The same players perform the same songs in an effort to bring this special experience to a broader audience.
Mike Janzen has done a superb job of writing the orchestration, which includes creative introductions to each song. He also excels in his piano playing.
The song selection includes some of Bell’s best songs. They alternately showcase the depth of Steve’s writing and highlight his worshipful side.
One wonderful example of the latter is “The Wellspring,” which combines a baroque sound with words of adoration to God. It’s on par with what you would hear in Handel’s Messiah.
The violin adds to the beautiful poignancy of the instrumental “Moon Over Birkenau,” inspired by a visit to a former Nazi death camp.
Cello and sweeping strings are such a pleasant addition to the light pop of “This Is Love,” a paraphrase of the prayer of Jesus recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John’s gospel.
There is a yearning and tenderness in the quiet “Even So Lord Jesus Come.”
The orchestra adds to the drama of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lord of the Starfields.” It helps the song reach new highs and adds subtlety to the quieter moments as it does throughout this CD.
It’s not all orchestra. The core group of musicians consists of: Steve Bell – guitar, mandolin and vocals, Gilles Fournier – bass, Mike Janzen – piano, and Daniel Roy – drums and percussion.
This is a first class performance. If you ever get the chance to see one of Canada’s finest perform live, don’t miss the opportunity … even if he is without his new backup band.
Michael Dalton
November 11, 2007
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