a r t i c l e s & r e v i e w s

The Forum review by Tom Pantera

Some local artists have released new CDs that might be worth a look especially if you're in a quiet mood...captured by local singer/songwriter Sarah Morrau on her new release, ...To Hold You.

Singing both old standards like "Autumn Leaves" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me," and her own compositions, Morrau often sounds like a hybrid of Connie Evingson and Beth Nielsen Chapman, with a little Lisa Loeb (minus the whininess) thrown in.

Morrau's two original compositions on the CD, "Voices" and the title track, are among its prettiest. The latter, particularly, is heartfelt without being schmaltzy in the least (it's particularly reminiscent of Chapman).

[Sarah's] CD, produced here by Barking Dog Records [sic -- recorded and co-produced by Mike Coates at Raptor Studios] prove talent runs deep and wide in Fargo-Moorhead.

Tom Pantera, The Forum, Sunday, February 13, 2000


Sarah Morrau: Impacting people with music

It is a late Saturday morning at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo. With its relaxing ambiance, The museum is a great place to meet friends or colleagues to admire art or listen to some great music, but that's not what I'm doing this morning. Today, I'm planning to interview local vocalist Sarah Morrau, who has performed here three times as part of "Unplugged at the Plains: the Rush Hour Concert Series."

A year has past since she released her first CD, Storm Warning, and I thought the anniversary of her debut CD would be a good time to check in with her. Although several articles about Sarah's music have run in local publications in the past 12 months, many would still like to know more about what she is like as a person.

It may suprise readers to find out that even though her singing has been one of her passions throughout her life, when she attended college at MSU during 1985-91, she didn't pursue a music major. Instead, she focused her efforts on studying mass communications, English and French. Her love for music wasn't entirely on the back burner, however. Inspired by the song "All I ask of you," from The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, she did enroll in one voice/music theatre class and then later took private voice lessons.

After graduating from MSU, Sarah moved on to NDSU, where she graduated in 1995 with a masters degree in counseling. She then accepted a counseling position on campus. Since her position left her with summers free, in 1996 she joined Merrill Piepkorn's Really Big Show as backup singer and keyboard player. It was in this band that she met a talented guitar player named Josh Harty. After discovering they had similar tastes in music and enjoyed perfomring together, Sarah and Josh decided to become a vocal/guitar duo.

To say that things have taken off for them since then is an understatement. With CD sales doing well and frequent gigs booked throughout the area, these are certainly busy days for Sarah and Josh.There's no doubt that Sarah, who juggles many roles when she is off stage, could teach many people a thing or two about time management.

Besides her "day job" as an alcohol-educator in the counseling department at NDSU, she is also the host of Northern Plains Native News at the campus radio station, KDSU, as well as a weekend radio personality at Lite Rock 105. Believe it or not, she also serves as executive assistant to Tony Grindberg, the executive director of the New Skills and Technology Center in Fargo. For a little variety she teaches aerobics at the YMCA.

Getting tired just reading about her schedule? When I asked her how she finds time to do it all, Sarah calmly explains that she functions better if she stays really busy. If her daily planner is any indication, things won't be slowing down for her any time soon. For now, this interview gives Sarah a chance to take a break and reflect about how things have been going for her musically during the past year,

Kathy Sigler, High Plains Reader, Fargo, Sept. 24, 1998


Singer releases debut CD

Eight years ago, in a homemade studio in faraway New Zealand, a Midwestern college student, church soloist and sometime wedding singer stepped up to the microphone and redorded her first track. Last year at Raptor Studios in Fargo, Sarah (Crow) Morrau, MS '95, laid down 11 more and released a CD on her own record label.

Morrau was a Moorhead State University student in 1990 on a two-month getaway to her mother's homeland when her brother-in-law invited her to sing in his basement studio. It was then, Morrau recalls, she first felt the spark that would grow into a consuming fire, a desire to record and perform. "It was always a dream," she said. "I've always known that I'd love to do a recording of music, of songs that I love. I just wasn't sure about the venue."

While pursuing her master's degree in counseling at NDSU, Morrau landed a part-time job at KDSU. During an interview with Mike and Linda Coates, local musicians who also own Raptor Studios and record label, an idea took hold.

In the spring of 1996 Morrau began singing backup in a 10-piece rhythm and blues band called Merrill Piepkorn's Really Big Show. But center stage was calling. When the group broke up after a few months, she and fellow band member Josh Harty, a guitarist, mixed their talents and started performing in the area.

Meanwhile, Morrau spoke to the Coates about doing a demo tape, but eventually decided to record a full-length CD instead. She co-produced "Storm Warning" with Mike Coates and released it in September of 1997 on her own label, Oceansky Productions. The debut CD includes folk, pop, and blues, including "Fare Thee Well," written by the Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers, "Steamroller," by James Taylor and jazz standards such as "Lover Man" and "Come Rain or Come Shine."

Morrau says the recording has a "mellow" feel to it. "Music has been so healing for me, and I'm hoping that people who listen to the CD might experience something along those lines, something soothing or comforting," she said. "one of my biggest goals, or a measure of success, was if I have somebody say to me they've been moved in some way by this, then I know that it was right. I've more than had that."

Morrau and Harty perform in cafes and variety shops, college and museum events, arts and music festivals and private gatherings. She's writing songs for a second CD, to be a mix of originals and covers, and has put together a lounge act with Recekka Schumacher, BS '98, a pianist.

In addition to singing, Morrau was host of the weekly "Northern Plains Native News" on KDSU and a part-time alcohol educator at NDSU's Center for Student Counseling and Personal Growth. She recently became executive assistant to the director of the new Skills and Technology Training Center. She and her husband, Jeff Barch '94, live in Fargo.

M. Fredicks, NDSU Alumni News, Fargo, Winter 1998


Sarah Morrau

The trouble with the local music scene here in the Valley is that for all the diversity there is in musical styles, there is still a much of a muchness to it all.

Granted, there is a lot of great music in this area. There are great punk bands, afew good ska bands, and some great young songwriters (see Brenda Weiler review). My problem has been that what the area has been in dire need of is a really good lounge setting and signers.

I'm not talking about the trendy knid of lounge life we have been exposed to lately. None of this retro fawning over Esquivel's "Space Age Bachelor Pad" or Martin Denny's "Music for Lovers". I'm not talking about all these young hipsters who have seen Swingers and are busy extinguishing their cigars in vermouth at martini parties where the likes of Love Jones and Combustible Edison are cranked.

What I want, what I really, really want is a real torch-song singer. A woman who wears her emotions on her sleeveless evening dress. A woman who is not afraid to perch herself atop the piano and belt out a song that would make a young man's heart ache. A woman who has seen The Fabulous Baker Brothers and can match Michelle Pfeifer's sultry performance note for note.

The Skol Room at the Tree Top would serve as a perfect setting for such a chanteuse. And so, it was fitting that Fargo vocalist Sarah Morrau picked this location for the release party for her first CD, Storm Warning.

Morrau, a former Pizzazz stand-out at Fargo South High, carefully hand picked the songs that appear on this disc. Although she did not write any of the material she feels that the individual artist can put their own twist on the songs through the interpretation they record.

To Morrau, all the songs have a common theme of love, loss, and longing. "I know how music has touched me and been a healing force-my hope is that people who listen to this album might experience this as well."

Although lyrically the osngs are in the same vein, musically the material ranges from pop nuggets to smooth jazz to contemporary folk classics.

The disc opens with a slow burn of the title track, a number that was also discovered by Bonnie Raitt recently. From the first note Morrau shwos that she is not so much covering otehr people's material, as much as breathing a bit of her own life into the song's body.

The emotional range in her voice stands as Morrau's greatest asset and one that she uses effectively throughout the course of the album. She treats material like Janis Ian's "At Seventeen" with a sense of mature restraint, not letting the song's somewhat mature theme get over dramatic and spin into a campy tear-jerker.

One would think that a lot of performers would pass on Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" after the Fugees scored big with the song in the summer of '96. Morrau takes a chance, however, and the move pays off. Not suprisingly, she strays from the hip-hop presentation Lauryn Hill offered up and instead gives a nod to Miss Flack with a strong, vocally emotive performance.

Another popular cover Morrau lends her voice to is Billy Joel's signature song "New York State of Mind." Morrau may not make you forget that this is the Piano Man's song, but she gives it a little life of it's own. In her version, Morrau's voice is the main instrument as it scales and crawls all over the accompaniment supplied by her collaborator, guitarist Josh Harty.

Morrau gets a little help from a lot of her friends on this disc. While Hart is almost always playing at her side, she enlists guitar and piano help from Mike Coates, who also helped in the production of the album. Also appearing is Rob Hanneman on keyboard, piano and bass, Tom Christianson on percussion, Bill Law on bass, Deborah Harrisr on flute and Linda Coates on background vocals.

This album covers a diverse range of material, but in my opinion the best songs are the ones that are either blues or jazz standards. Songs like the classic "Loverman" allow Moorau to show a sensual side.

Morrau's real gift is her voice and knowing just how and when to work it. She can get sultry and saucy one minute and turn sentimental the next. That is something people who know her as a DJ on KDSU and Lite Rock 105 may not always be aware of.

John Lamb, High Plains Reader, Fargo, February 26, 1998


SU counselor and musician releases CD

Rising musical talent Morrau releases first album

A star is born. Sarah Morrau is a rising star from SU. Morrau, an alcohol awareness counselor at SU, released her first CD, entitled "Storm Warning," last month. This release may be a first for Morrau, but music is not a new thing for her.

Music has always been a real passion for Morrau. She has always loved to sing and has been singing since she was a child. Her first big step toward doing something with music was when she took a voice class in high school.

"I lacked the ability and confidence to really pursue a career in music. A CD has always been a dream but the dream has become more intense in the last few years," Morrau said.

Morrau has always loved musicals and that is partly the reason she has such a passion for music.

"I saw 'Grease' 13 times," she said.

Since singing professionally had been merely a dream, Morrau only took one class at MSU.

"I couldn't decide what success would mean and I didn't have enough confidence to really put myself on the line," Morrau said.

In just the past few years, Morrau feels she has gained the confidence it takes to be a performer.

"I had this intense desire to see how far I could take it," Morrau said. She felt that it was the right time and she was ready to try, regardless of the outcome.

"I realized that I really had to go for what I want. I don't want to be wondering later in life 'what if.' It's true that we need to do whatever it takes to be as good as we can be, even if there is risk involved," Morrau said.

Morrau feels there is a message in every song written and these songs are no exceptions.

She had hoped for a haunting theme. She hoped to achieve something that people could be moved by. Since Morrau is so moved by music, she would like everyone who listens to her CD to find those same feelings. Morrau feels she can measure her success by how people are moved by hermusic. If people are able to interpret something in each of these songs and relate something to their own lives then she feels she has been successful.

"I feel like this is just a beginning for me," Morrau said.

Morrau finished her master's degree in counseling in 1995 and worked for two years as a part-time counselor. She has a bachelor of arts degree in mass communication, english and french. Morrau worked at KDSU for three years as a jazz host and interviewer.

"Storm Warning is available at Media Play, Barnes & Noble, Zandbroz Variety, the Full Circle Cafe, and Frankton's for Hair.

Abby Lewton, The Spectrum, Fargo, October 24, 1997


"Storm Warning" combines musical styles to evoke memories

The soothing sounds of Sarah Morrau's newly released album, "Storm Warning" will take you into a world of crashing waves and gentle rhythms from the very first note of this title track.

Morrau's voice is clear and soft and reminiscent of a lullaby. A person will be taken into a world of memories and dreams by the music from this album.

With tracks like "At Seventeen" you will be brought back to memories of first loves and first heartbreaks. These songs are songs of everyone's experiences. Anyone can easily relate to the feelings that are portrayed in the soft, silky sounds of the vocal stylings of Morrau. These songs are the songs of life, love, and loss.

"Storm Warning" has something for everyone. A wide range of life experiences are reflected in Morrau's performance. Her warm style is inspiring and it is a pathway for remembering. It leaves each song open for interpretation. The one sure thing is that everyone who listens will be able to relate it to their own life and experiences.

Abby Lewton, The Spectrum, Fargo, October 24, 1997


Barking Dog Records & Raptor Studios