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Inspire Liner Notes

My inspiration to play the piano comes from many sources. In concert, I tell a story about what inspired me to either write the song or create my own arrangement for the song I’m about to play. I love to share these stories and I thought I would share a story with you about what inspired me to play the piano in the first place. My family had a player piano in the basement when I was growing up and I use to love to pump the foot pedals and see and hear the piano play and dream that I could play like that. The player piano was really my Dad’s toy though and he loved “entertaining” when we had parties. I saw how people enjoyed the piano and I wanted to be able to give that joy. In high school, I didn’t spend much time playing the piano, (seems girls and sports occupied most of my time), until my junior year when a new band director came along named Gary Brinkman, (Mr. Brinkman to me). Mr. Brinkman was really into jazz and it seemed his greatest energy was spent with the school jazz band. Fortunately for me, the jazz band started using Mr. Brinkman’s electric piano and I talked Mr. Brinkman into letting me play a song on the piano, with the jazz band, called “Superstrut”. I practiced for hours and hours on that song!! Soon a few of us from the jazz band had formed our own rock band and Mr. Brinkman let us perform a couple of “our” songs at a jazz band concert for the school. The auditorium went crazy and students were dancing in the aisles. That’s when I realized this musician thing might be kinda cool.

Jesu (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring) Johann Schop

My brother, James was in college during the time when I first heard about compact discs. I was playing keyboards in a couple bands and was kind of lost as far as how I wanted to be involved with music. CD players weren’t really readily available yet and cassette tapes were still the general format of choice. My brother’s friend, (yes you David), worked at a high end audio store and was one of the first people I know of who owned a CD player. When David got a player for my brother, James came and visited me and brought his player with him for me to hear. The CD he brought with him was by George Winston, playing solo piano. As I listened to the music and looked through the CD booklet, I had an incredible revelation that playing solo piano was what I was supposed to be doing! Jesu, my favorite song from that album, has been a standard for me since that time and I feel a sense of completeness now that I have finally recorded it. George Winston continues to be a musical influence and James remains an abiding force in my everyday life.

Inspire John Michael Gray

This past year I performed over one hundred twenty times. All kinds of venues….malls, bookstores, record stores, colleges, churches, gift shops, art festivals….and each time I played, I had the opportunity to talk with people and hear their own personal stories about the piano….how they only had a few lessons as a child and wished they had more or how they always wanted to learn to play but never had the opportunity or how they had lessons for many years and now can’t play at all or how they learned to play and love it. I’ve never heard anyone say they can play the piano and they hate it! This song is my creation that says “Every second spent practicing has been worth it.” I hope this album inspires and encourages.

My Heart Will Go On James Horner, Will Jennings

This past year, traveling around and performing, I was constantly asked to play this song and asked if I had created and recorded an arrangement of it yet. All I had to do was see the movie and the arrangement came easy. Per request….

Sacred Song (O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)  Hans Leo Hassler

I began playing the organ in church when I was 12 or 13. Our church had a great pipe organ and the one song I always looked forward to playing was “O Sacred”. When I tried it on the piano this year, the arrangement I created was magical to me. The inspiration to record and perform this song must truly be God given. Knowing I was going to record this song, I got curious as to the origin. This song has a very obscure history. This is what I have found….The words to “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” or “O Bleeding Head, Now Wounded” or “O Sacred Head, Surrounded”, were written by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in 1153 as “Salve caput cruentatum”. It was translated from Latin to German by Paul Gerhardt in 1656, and from Latin to English by James Waddell Alexander in 1830. The melody was written by Hans Leo Hassler in 1601, and was made popular by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1729. Simon and Garfunkel used the melody with new words on “American Tune” in the 1970’s. It’s amazing to me how I feel this song is still “alive and well” over 800 years from its beginning.

A Flicker In The Window John Michael Gray

Every Christmas Eve I always go “home” to my parents and spend Christmas with my family. This is one of my favorite times. My parents live in this great, big, one hundred year old Victorian home which they bought in terrible condition and then the two of them completely restored it. When I arrive on the night before Christmas, my Mom has a candle in every window. The flickers I can see as I drive down the street to their house inspired this song.

Sailing Christopher Cross

Shortly after I graduated from high school, I decided to go after my dream of being a “real” musician. I quit my Illinois job and headed to California. It was the early ‘80s and a new artist named Christopher Cross had just released his debut album. I listened to the album and “Sailing” hit me immediately. Sometimes, the first time I hear a song, it inspires me and I have to learn it. I create an arrangement that makes the song my own. I came back to Illinois for a visit and I heard about a talent contest at a local bar. My friend Gerry Bertrand, (Jake), who was the lead singer in my first rock band in high school, and I got together for a day and put together an arrangement of “Sailing” and another song called “Me and Marlon Brando”, which I heard performed at a songwriting workshop at Beverly Hills High School by a pair of LA songwriters. Jake and I performed both songs at the contest and won. Fun memory!

Bunessan (Morning Has Broken) Unknown

Bunessan is an old Gaelic melody named after the village of Bunessan, on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland. It is said to have been taken down from a wandering Highland singer by Alexander Fraser, who published it in “Songs and Hymns of the Gael”, 1900. Other sources say it was written down by L. Macbean, who published it in “Songs and Hymns of the Gael”, 1888. It was published in the Irish Church Hymnal, 1917. It came to be known as “Morning Has Broken” in 1931, when playwright, poet and writer, Eleanor Farjeon, wrote the lyrics as a children's poem. Many people have written new lyrics to Bunessan, but the melody basically remains the same. My inspiration to record the song came from the 1971 recording by Cat Stevens. I love how his rendition begins with solo piano and then mixes in vocals and various instruments and goes back and forth between solo piano and various instrumentation throughout the song.

Butterfly Kisses Bob Carlisle, Randy Thomas

A song that made such a powerful impression on me that I had to learn it and play it as soon as possible. I can’t explain it and it amazes me how individual it is. A butterfly kiss, described by songwriter, Bob Carlisle, happens when the delicate lashes of your baby’s eyes sweep across your cheek.

Canon In D Johann Pachelbel

Growing up playing the organ in church and also playing keyboards in popular local rock bands was an unusual combination that for some strange reason made me a favorite pick to play for weddings. Maybe it was also because I played by ear and I was always looking for creative ways to play songs differently than I had before, which was important considering how many weddings I played songs such as “Sunrise, Sunset” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”. Pachelbel’s “Canon In D” was often selected as the song for the bride’s maids to walk in on. The maids procession typically didn’t take that long and Pachabel’s arrangement is long and so I was ever creating arrangements that could set the “mood”, and give everyone a taste of the song in the few precious minutes I had. This past year, someone approached me after one of my performances and said when I stated playing my latest original song at the time, “Now Everything Is Okay”, they thought I was starting to play “Canon in D”. That was the first time I realized that the first two chords of these two songs are the same. I think when I write songs, it’s a response to all the music I have heard throughout my life coming back out of me in the form of something new, and sometimes, you will hear parts that sound familiar.

Now Everything Is Okay John Michael Gray

People often ask me if any of my songs have words. I have always loved words and more importantly, stories. If I hear a song with great words and consonant music, I am hooked! The first songs I ever wrote had words and I continue to write lyrics. In fact, the first solo recording I ever released, I sang every song on it, (try to find a copy of that one). Even though I enjoy singing, writing lyrics and playing acoustic guitar, (I originally wrote this song on guitar), I feel at this point, my place is with the purity of the solo acoustic grand piano. It is what I do. It is where I feel right. I may record vocals again in the future, but for now you can only imagine. See if you can make the words fit.

When she comes through the door she immediately hugs me
And tells me she’s missed me all day
And the fight that we had last night disappears completely
She kisses me gently, I pull her close to me
Now everthing is okay
So we sit for a while and she tries to explain
How she’s sorry for treating me that way
I pick up her hand and I tell her I’m sorry
She kisses me tenderly, I hold her close to me
Now everything is okay.
Sometimes we disagree
And sometimes we say things we really don’t mean
But it never fails, we always come around
And show how we really feel
As she lays by my side I can tell that she loves me
Her touch says what words cannot say
She smiles when I touch her she closes her eyes
And kisses me gently, I hold her close to me
Now everyting is okay
Sometimes we disagree
And sometimes we say things we really don’t mean
But it never fails, we always come around
And show how we really feel
When I walk through the door I immediatley hug her
And tell her I’ve missed her all day
She picks up my hand and she knows that I love her
She kisses me tenderly, I pull her close to me
Now everything is okay
You see it never fails we always come around
And now everything is okay

I Believe I Can Fly  R. Kelly

Whenever I’m attracted to a song that has vocals, it’s about a 50/50 chance the song will appeal to me as an instrumental. The first time I worked on an arrangement for this song, it didn’t appeal to me, but the lure to R. Kelly’s recording compelled me to keep pursuing a translation until finally I came upon something I could be comfortable with.

One of my greatest sources of inspiration when I was growing up was my Grandpa Oscar Hansen. Grandpa loved music and I knew when our family got together Grandpa would expect to hear my "latest" stuff. I would work and work on something special to try to impress him, (he always made me feel I did). My family would gather in the music room to hear me play and when I wanted to stop, Grandpa would ask me to play more. I now realize the greatest inspiration that anyone can have is an audience who just can't seem to get enough.

This album is dedicated to the memory of Grandpa Hansen. 
March 10, 1909 - April 26, 1991.
I know if Grandpa heard it he would act impressed.

Special thanks to Jennifer, Chris, Ron, YAMAHA Corp. of America, Apple Computer, Inc., Everyone involved at Flexdar & WMG, My family, friends, fans and all the stores and radio stations who continue to give their constant support.

All arrangements by John Michael Gray
Recorded on a YAMAHA, the week of December 27th, 1998 at Number Five Studios, Ashkum, IL
Engineered by Chris Witt
Produced by Chris Witt, John Michael Gray & Jennifer Gray
Mixed at Number Five Studios, Ashkum, IL and Twin Tone Recording, Kankakee, IL
Mastered by World Media Group, Indianapolis, IN
Photography by Jennifer Gray
Art design & layout by Jennifer Gray and John Michael Gray
Liner notes by John Michael Gray
Filmwork by Flexdar, Indianapolis, IN
Manufactured by World Media Group, Indianapolis, IN

Inspire, A Flicker In The Window & Now Everything Is Okay published by Daicapo Publishing (ASCAP)
Jesu, Sacred Song, Bunessan & Canon In D arrangements published by Daicapo Publishing (ASCAP)
My Heart Will Go On p
ublished by Famous Music Corp., (ASCAP) Ensign Music Corp., (BMI), Irving Music Inc., (BMI). Butterfly Kisses published by Diadem Music Publishing (SESAC), Polygram International Publishing, Inc., (ASCAP). I Believe I Can Fly published by Zomba Songs, Inc., (BMI), R. Kelly Publishing, Inc. (BMI).

Copyright 1999 Daistar Company. All Rights Reserved. DC 0299
Marketed and Distributed by Daistar Company, P.O. Box 195, Ashkum, IL 60911.
authorized reproduction, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcast prohibited.