Phyllis Taylor Sparks
Venus Model: Gold Venus Aria Concert Grand
Gift of Love
A Harp For All Reasons
by LeAnne Harrington / Marketing Director, Voyager Records
When people are talking about music and they hear the words “Nashville, TN”, they are most likely to think of it as the home of the Grand Ole Opry and country music. They may think of the depth of an upright bass or the cry of a pedal steel guitar. They might think of the haunting sound of a fiddle, or music laced stories punctuated by the high tenor of a mandolin. Thoughts of an ornate gold harp, whose beauty is surpassed only by the music it produces, usually do not spring to mind. But Phyllis Taylor Sparks is doing her part to change that.
As owner of a 23 KT Gold Venus Aria harp and the creator of the beautiful music emanating from its strings, Phyllis Taylor Sparks is a dynamic live performer, savvy composer, prolific recording artist, and in-demand session player. Unlike some musicians, Ms. Sparks is not limited to a single genre of music, and her repertoire reflects that. Equally at home playing light jazz, pop standards, Celtic hymns or one of her original compositions with a flamenco flavor, Ms. Sparks is broadening musical horizons. Several years ago, Nashville made a big push to be known as Music City USA in order to reflect the wide divergence of styles being created and recorded. Similarly, Ms. Sparks reflects that diversity in her musical choices. She says, “I specifically came to Music City in order to take advantage of the eclectic musical landscape that Nashville has to offer”.
Having played other instruments first, she approaches the harp as a lead instrument. Ms. Sparks states, “Too often, audiences have the preconceived notion that the harp is a beautiful instrument to look at, but not very forceful in its own right When people think of the harp, they think in more visual terms instead of what it can do musically. I’m attempting to break down those barriers”.
Ms. Sparks‚ recordings are a reflection of her diversity. “I Remember You” a tribute to Johnny Mercer features the works of one of the best composers of the 20th century, arranged and played by Ms. Sparks and her band, the Dream Machine, in a new age/light jazz style. “Harp For Christmas” features classic holiday tunes and gives them a jazzy new sound, and “Heart Strings” is a collection of some of the greatest love songs of all time. Ms. Sparks‚ original compositions reflect an even greater diversity. “Two of my original songs are featured on a compilation Christmas CD released by Coldwater Creek this season. The feedback has been great, especially for “Caribbean Carol”. In addition, her four CDs have sold well internationally, with “Celtic Harp Sparks!” a collection of traditional Celtic tunes, receiving airplay on radio stations around the US and Canada. Her new CD, “Harp Horizons”, which is a mix of standard Celtic hymns and new original music, is tentatively slated to be released March 15, 2005 on the Voyager Records label.
The list of people whom Phyllis Taylor Sparks has played for reads like a virtual Who’s Who, including the wedding of Natalie Cole, numerous parties for Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, and for H.R.H. Prince Edward on his recent trip to Nashville. In addition to her work as a solo artist, Ms. Sparks has played with the Nashville Symphony on their Carnegie Hall Tour and on the Amy Grant 2001 Christmas Tour. Ms. Sparks and her jazz trio, The Dream Machine, have played Nashville’s prestigious Swan Ball. She has also accompanied Josh Groban, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lorrie Morgan and the legendary Ray Charles. While playing with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Phyllis accompanied Trey Anastasio, of the rock group Phish, at the 2004 Bonnaroo Festival. “That had to be one of the most surreal gigs I’ve ever played. Being on stage at a world-known music festival in front of 90,000 screaming people was indescribable. Just the roar of the crowd made you feel like you could do anything”.
So the next time you hear someone mention Nashville, think of Phyllis Taylor Sparks and her golden harp. Or better yet, give her a listen. You will be amazed at the range of styles she plays and the depth of feeling she conveys. And remember: Nashville isn’t called Music City USA for nothing.
For more information or to purchase CDs go to www.jazical . com .