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  • Bryon Harris

Kate Magdalena - 'The Waking'

Review by Sylvie Marie & Staff

Kate Magdalena is an independent singer-songwriter out of the San Francisco Bay Area whose songs have been aired on country radio nationally. Most at home in folk-pop and adult contemporary, she calls her genre ‘Timely Americana’, as she is inspired to write for the particular times in which we live. Kate was selected by BWH Music (Boston) as one of 2020 Women to Watch: Best Female Independent Artists, and her recent album “The Water Is Wide” was just nominated for the category of Best Album in the Adult Contemporary genre. The album, released in August 2020, contains 9 songs of water and land. Off the album, the song "The Walking" stirs the soul.

Set to a poem of the same title by American poet Theodore Roethke, "The Waking" is a masterpiece of poetry set to beautiful song. Roethke's poem is a reflection of the cyclical nature of life. He uses natural symbolism to describe waking from sleep, the cycle of life, and the path he takes. Appropriately, the song commences with a healing drone that sets a meditative space as a bright, finger-style acoustic guitar plays light arpeggios. A beautiful flute enters like a bird, gliding in and out phrases. It is always a joy to hear the flute utilized so gracefully in song. Added to the arrangement, a light percussive instrument that sounds like a hand-drum sets the gentle beat. The sound produced by Billy Smiley is peaceful and flowing. Like open space, the musical phrasing inhales and exhales in perfect time.

Kate Magdalena enters singing, "I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.  I learn by going where I have to go." Kate's vocal performance is pure, pristine, and polished. With great diction and phrasing, Kate brings forward the rich words of the poem. Lovely harmonies sung in multiple registers add depth and richness. The poem is about enlightenment and not knowing all the answers, but pondering the mystery and learning by going where we have to go.

Kate Magdalena's "The Waking" is a brilliant example of how two art forms, poetry and music, can come together in a magical way. Never taking away from the poem or distracting from it's meaning, Kate's vocal performance is truly elegant while the arrangement and production by Billy Smiley follow the poem's natural rhythm. The addition of the flute set to acoustic guitar brings out the poem's delicate and wistful nature while

Kate's voice touches the soul.

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