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 In 2000 composer/producer Paul Schwartz created a musical phenomenon with State of Grace, a collection based or traditional religious texts which blended vocal, choral and orchestral elements with his trademark affinity for seductive ambient grooves. The response to the recording - which was Billboard's No. 11 best-selling New Age CD of 2001 - fueled a further awakening spiritual passion which led naturally to the concept of his new release State of Grace II: Turning to Peace.

Based in part on the Magnificat and the Stabat Mater, two Latin texts related to the emotional journey of the Virgin Mary, State of Grace II: Turning to Peace includes six tracks sung by longtime Schwartz collaborator Lisbeth Scott, whose ethereal vocals played a prominent role on the original State of Grace (as well as his 2002 hit Earthbound), and emotional performances by the Crouch End Festival Chorus and harpist Helen Tunstall. The project also features a powerful guest appearance by legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, who used the popular State of Grace song "Miserere" as the basis of the new tune "Curacion."
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  "I got a call from my manager one day, asking me if I wanted to do a song with Santana. He apparently loved 'Miserere,' and wrote new harmony parts and lead guitar melody to it," says Schwartz. "Carlos and his producer KC Porter sent me his tracks, to which I added synth, choir and orchestral parts before mixing it at Abbey Road. We put it all together via Pro Tools. It's a wonderful addition to the feeling I was aiming for on Turning to Peace."

Schwartz likes that his listeners make emotional connections to his music based on their own personal experiences. On State of Grace II: Turning to Peace, he notes, "My concept was to use the Latin texts as springboards that could either suggest the dynamics of a personal relationship or a global message, as we move from a time of stress and strife to a time of peace," he says.
 
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  "The Magnificat is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke in the Bible. It is the prayer of Mary expressing her joy in the knowledge that she will bear a son," Schwartz continues. "The Stabat Mater is a medieval poem that describes the sorrows of Mary as her son's life is taken. I wanted to oppose the two images: the rejoicing expectant mother, and the eventual tragedy that overcomes her. I broke the Magnificat into five sections, but left the Stabat Mater whole. These texts and the other songs on the album form a journey from joy to sorrow to joy again."

"This record had a sense of freedom for me that I didn't feel on the first State of Grace. I think it's because earlier this year, I had a chance to collaborate with (Grammy-winning producer) David Foster on a new tune for Josh Groban, and saw how quickly David worked, how relaxed he was about the process. I convinced myself to let go and enjoy the ride, and it made all the difference."
 
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  State of Grace II begins majestically, with the Crouch End Festival Chorus declaiming the word "Magnificat" before segueing into Schwartz's distinctive, easy funk, trippy ambient groove realm; he then sweeps this fascinating mix of the ancient and modern into a powerful orchestral swirl. "This was a good way to begin, with a powerful declaratory statement before we relax into the overall vibe of the project," says Schwartz. "It has a dreamy quality that conveys hope." The title track then re-introduces the listener to the haunting, then soaring voice of Lisbeth Scott, singing images of a peaceful world over a groove that flows like a gentle heartbeat. The easy mid-tempo ballad vibe continues on the Santana track "Curacion," which features the guitarist's crackling and colorful electric rock energy surrounded by a classical flavored atmosphere.
 
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  Schwartz dubs the thoughtful, contemplative "Stabat Mater" the "tragic center of the record," and his artful blend of the harmonic textures of the choir with Scott's moving lead vocal takes the key track to truly transcendent places. He combines intense choral texturing with film-score like orchestral passions over a cool, moody groove on "QUIA Respexit," whose title stems from the second portion of the Magnificat text. "I wanted this tune to be somewhat trance inducing, something of a slow emotional build," says Schwartz. "It has the sense of musical waves crashing over and over, in a mesmerizing way." "Fear Not," whose Scott penned lyrics offer comfort amidst a childlike sense of optimism, finds Schwartz scaling down for a beautiful melody he felt was best conveyed on the acoustic piano before the drama of the orchestra comes in. "The strings take over from the piano on a key change, adding to the contrast between simple and majestic," he says. "There's that optimistic sense, but it's really about someone saying goodbye."
 
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  Helen Tunstall's beautiful, angelic harp adds a whimsical, folksy texture to the next two pieces, the medieval plainchant inspired "Et Misericordia" and the thoughtful, reflective "Suscepit Israel." Schwartz says, "Helen is such a great player and adds so much versatility to the project, and I thought it would be interesting to connect the two songs using the harp, which is an instrument I've always loved. It adds a touch of the ethereal to the production, just as Lisbeth's vocals do on the first song. The title 'Et Misericordia' means 'And he takes pity,' which invokes a feeling of mercy, while 'Suscepit Israel' is about how God has helped his servant Israel. I kept that one in a dark place, playing it all in a minor key."
 
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  Schwartz's "Ave Maria" is not the traditional version, but a new melody composed around the same text which combines the stately joy of the old hymn with a rich chamber orchestra featuring Peter Lale on viola. "Gloria" brings the emotional moodswings around to intense joy again, opening with an explosive choral section before blending that with the full-blown orchestra over a funk intensive dance groove. The tender, closing track "Let Me" is a piano and vocal piece which, Schwartz says, "conveys the same positive expressions as 'Gloria,' but in a small intimate way."

Paul Schwartz grew up with a Jewish father - legendary film composer Arthur Schwartz - and Catholic mother, and his interest in ancient religious texts came from singing in choirs and attending a high school in London that was next to Westminster Abbey, where he was required to attend services each day. The native New Yorker (where he lived till he was 12) developed an intense dual affinity for old cathedrals and religious music, which for him offered a true and meaningful connection to the spiritual.
 
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  Several years ago, he conducted a series of orchestral concerts at Lincoln Center to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of his father, whose credits include "Dancing in the Dark," "That's Entertainment" and "The Band Wagon." While Arthur was considered a grand old man of musical theatre, Paul Schwartz launched his own career in classical music, serving as Assistant Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony upon appointment by Andre Previn. Conducting for such such organizations as the New York Ballet, San Diego Opera and The Washington Opera, Schwartz entered the musical theatre world himself, serving as Musical Director for Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" and "Song & Dance" as well as Rogers & Hammerstein's "On Your Toes." In the late 80s, he worked as a music consultant to the NYC Ballet, composing two electronic pieces; he was also the only American commissioned to compose music for the closing ceremonies of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
 
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  Based on a 90 second demo tape that he created with jazz pianist Mario Grigorov, Schwartz was signed to Astor Place Records, which released his 1997 debut Aria and its sequel Aria 2: New Horizon. The first album spent over a year in the Top Ten of Billboard's Classical Crossover chart and re-entered the chart in May of 2000. Aria 2, featuring guest performances by Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker and popular smooth jazz guitarists Marc Antoine and Peter White, was #3 for the year on Billboard's Classical chart in Billboard's Indie Special 2000. He made his Top 200 debut in 1997 as producer with the best selling soundtrack CD Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. He's also scored various independent films (including Ratchet by Altar Rock Films) and, while still with Astor Place, created a chamber music project based on eleven Beatle tunes called Revolution.
 
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  Schwartz's catalog, which also includes 2002's Earthbound, his first entirely self-composed recording, has sold over 250,000 units domestically. He is currently working on Aria III, scheduled for release in 2004.

"When I worked on the Aria cds, I understood the characters and the action in the story," he says. "That made me develop the pieces with a sense of drama that comes from storytelling. But when using ancient texts as the subject material, I had to create the dramas in my mind to work musically. The music on State of Grace II: Turning to Peace is an affirmation of life, just as the first one was, but it's more of an independent, self- contained work. What I enjoy most about the process is, I go in with some concrete ideas and by the second song, I have come up with completely new twists that make it so much more compelling. It's always a fascinating journey."
 
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