We are absolutely thrilled that the Jukebox Album has WON a BBC Music Magazine Award, in the prestigious Premiere category.
There are seven wonderful new works on the album and you can listen to all of them below, with words on each piece from Elena and Tom.
Mark Simpson’s dazzling, passionate An Essay of Love was the piece that inspired and began our series of six premieres. Responding to the worldwide lockdown
in spring 2020, Mark writes: “I wanted to write something that attempted to bridge the gap between the desire to carry on performing and the questioning nature that a period of introspection brings. In Robert Frost’s poem Too Anxious for Rivers, the search for and exploration of the Ultimate Truth resonated with these sentiments. At the end, the only thing that counts is ‘the essay of love’, the impetus that moves the world and man. This piece is also a celebration of the love between Tom and Elena, and a belated wedding gift to them.”
Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s radiant miniature Bloom drew inspiration, in her words, from “the blossom on local fruit trees that I have watched developing and blooming in the past weeks. I have taken comfort from paying really close attention to nature in the Close where I live on the outskirts of Bedford, closely watching the daily changes, and hope the meditative effect this has had on me comes across in the piece. When writing, I simply had the idea of a slowly opening bud in my mind, and in the music this is reflected in the piano chords, which gradually cover more and more of the piano!”. One of our guidelines to all the commissioned composers was that the piano where we were staying with Elena’s parents was quite out of tune; Cheryl kept that in mind when writing, choosing harmonies and intervals which “I hope can be played without aural irritation on slightly out of tune home pianos anywhere at this time…”
Composer-singer-pianist Clarice Assad is a member of one of Brazil’s most acclaimed musical families. She describes her soulful lament, Emotiva, as “an emotional response to the early days in quarantine solitude, filled with nostalgia, and a certain amount of anxiety about the future. The melodic phrases are imagined as spoken words, either as questions or answers, by a character who expresses their emotion to someone who listens without judgment – never asserting or interrupting – simply accepting facts and offering comfort in the wisdom of their silence.”
There’s a feeling of suspended time in the translucent Arietta of Huw Watkins, which the composer describes as “a quiet moment of introspection, where the violin’s melody unfolds slowly, suspended above the piano’s gentle harmonic web.”
Jessie Montgomery’s haunting Peace was originally going to be entitled Melancholy, but she “didn’t want to be a downer for the people”. Reflecting many of our feelings, she says: “I’m struggling during quarantine to define what actually brings me joy. And I’m at a stage of making peace with sadness as it comes and goes like any other emotion. I’m learning to observe sadness for the first time not as a negative emotion, but as a necessary dynamic to the human experience.”
Donald Grant’s heartfelt, folk-inspired compositions have the air of instant classics. Donald describes how he “grew up in the Highlands of Scotland and was surrounded by both folk and classical music. My father was a Gaelic singer and teacher and my first introduction to music was through Gaelic song. This title Bha là eile ann (There was a different day) is an old Gaelic proverb used by the older generation to describe the days gone by and the feats that are no longer possible. It seemed apt for this time. I hope it reminds Tom and Elena of their recent honeymoon in Scotland and driving up through Glen Coe. As soon as this isolation period ends I will jump in my car and be there myself. I’ll toast to their good health and to sunnier times for us all.”
And by way of a sunny conclusion, a premiere recording of a work written specially for us by the enigmatic Pteromost, rumoured to be part-goblin, and to travel only by mooseback. Strangely, he and Tom have never been sighted in the same room as each other. We have every reason to believe that Pteromost’s Jukebox Toodle-oo is the only work in existence scored for three violins, cello, piano, two recorders, three kazoos and swanee whistle.