In March 2020, Elena Urioste and Tom Poster decided to record and share one music video for every day spent in isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did they know that their imagined two-to-three weeks of lockdown would turn into 88 days of musical mini-adventures, one for each key of the piano.
After winning the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Inspiration Award for the project, the Jukebox has now finally hit the studio.
JUKEBOX: The Album
1. Overture: Look for the Silver Lining
Jerome Kern and B. G. DeSylva (arranged by Tom Poster)
2. Introduction et cortège
Lili Boulanger (Introduction reconstructed by Tom Poster)
3. An Essay of Love
4. La Vie en rose
Édith Piaf and Louiguy (arranged by Tom Poster)
6. Sérénade espagnole
Cécile Chaminade (arranged by Fritz Kreisler)
7. El día que me quieras
Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera (arranged by Tom Poster)
9. Begin the Beguine
Cole Porter (arranged by Tom Poster)
10. Andante, Op. 75
11. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
Manning Sherwin and Eric Maschwitz (arranged by Tom Poster)
13. Farewell to Cucullain (Londonderry Air)
Traditional Irish (arranged by Fritz Kreisler)
14. Send In the Clowns
Stephen Sondheim (arranged by Tom Poster)
16. Bha là eile ann (There was a different day)
17. Jukebox Toodle-oo
Elena Urioste, violin
Tom Poster, piano, cello, descant recorder, kazoo, swanee whistle
THE JUKEBOX ALBUM
On March 17, 2020, we made the rather ambitious – and, it should be noted, jet-lagged – decision to record and share one music video for every day we would spend in isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In retrospect, it was a bold choice – little did we know that our imagined two-to-three weeks of lockdown would turn into 88 days of musical mini-adventures, one for each key of the piano.
We named our pandemic project #UriPosteJukeBox, a portmanteau of our last names plus a nod to a more old-timey method of enjoying music, and decided that it would be our method of keeping our minds and fingers sharp during the following period of unemployment, when we might otherwise have lost the motivation to practise regularly. We asked our virtual following what they might like to hear us play, and were flooded with requests, from Mozart and Messiaen to Britney Spears and The Wheels on the Bus. Our first few videos drew a much wider audience than we were anticipating, and we soon found ourselves on a rather surreal transatlantic call to BBC Radio 3’s In Tune, discussing Tom’s medley of Come On Eileen, Toxic, and Baby Shark. As the days went by, Tom set to work producing elaborate new arrangements and transcriptions, Elena devised increasingly outrageous costumes (from nuns and giant corgis to the Tin Teletubby of Oz), multi-tracking apps were exploited, imaginary barriers between musical genres were gleefully dissolved, and we found ourselves endlessly touched by the wonderful community that built up around the world, of friends old and new.
A further twist to the project came when one of our dear friends and champions, Victoria Robey, reached out to us to ask if we might use #UriPosteJukeBox as a vehicle to introduce new works commissioned through her generous support. By a happy coincidence, the brilliant British composer Mark Simpson had just been in touch to say he’d started writing us a piece, so his An Essay of Love launched #UriPostePremieres, followed by five more ‘corona commissions’ from Clarice Assad, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Huw Watkins, Donald Grant, and Jessie Montgomery. It means the world to us that these outstanding composers, all of whom we love dearly as musicians and friends, were able to create such meaningful reflections on a deeply strange time at such short notice, and it is a joy to give all six commissions their official studio recording premieres here.
As for the other selections featured on this album, we were determined to stay true to the eclecticism which became such a hallmark of the JukeBox, with all the music given equal commitment, love and care, no matter its origin or instrumentation. We’ve chosen a number of the arrangements Tom made specially for the JukeBox, some duo pieces which deserve to be far better known, and – of course – something with kazoos.
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The opening number, Jerome Kern’s Look for the Silver Lining, was an eleventh-hour addition to the album, arranged by Tom the night before our recording sessions, in true #UriPosteJukeBox style. We were searching for something to welcome the listener with the right sense of optimism and warmth, and found it in this gorgeous song, one of Kern’s earliest hits, from 1919. It’s the first of a number of items on the album featuring Elena layering multiple violin parts in close harmony – our tribute to a golden era of sumptuous string arrangements – and it seemed fitting to open with a grateful nod to our beloved Great American Songbook.
Just five years before Kern’s song, in 1914, the tragically short-lived Lili Boulanger penned her unusually upbeat, sparkling Cortège (a term more often used to describe a funeral procession). We have preceded it with the slow Introduction which appears only on the 1930 recording of Cortège made by violinist Yvonne Astruc and Lili’s sister Nadia Boulanger, and which appears never to have been published. The Introduction is so bewitchingly beautiful that we were absolutely determined to include it on our recording, so – in the absence of an existing score – Tom decided to transcribe it by ear from the old scratchy record.
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.”
A nostalgic classic needing little introduction, La Vie en rose was the subject of multiple listeners’ requests; as it happens, Elena had also been asking Tom for some time for an arrangement of Édith Piaf’s signature song. Written in a pavement cafe on the Champs Elysées shortly before the end of World War II, La Vie en rose is a song of giddy romance, of seeing the world afresh.
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…”
Cécile Chaminade was among the most successful composer-pianists of the late romantic period, though her exquisite salon music gradually fell out of fashion. The irresistible Sérénade espagnole was originally published in 1895 as a song for voice and piano, but is here re-arranged by one of our musical heroes, Fritz Kreisler, with his trademark elegance and an inspired use of violin harmonics to conjure up the effect of whistling in the final refrain.
And from a French composer inspired by Spain to the wonderful French-born Argentine singer-composer Carlos Gardel, often described as the King of Tango. Written in 1935, very shortly before the tragic plane crash which ended Gardel’s life, we can think of few melodies more beautiful than El día que me quieras (The day that you love me), in which Elena gets to duet with herself.
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.”
The beguine is a slow, sensual dance from the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, whose fame beyond the Caribbean is largely due to one of Cole Porter’s most beguiling songs, Begin the Beguine, written on an ocean liner between Indonesia and Fiji in 1935. Unusually for a popular song, it’s entirely through-composed – rather than repeating the same melody for each stanza of text, Porter takes the music somewhere new every time. The composer’s own highly evocative lyrics, in which the strains of the beguine (here harmonised by three Elenas) stir memories of a lost love, conjure up a world of romance and enchantment.
Something of the beguine’s syncopated rhythm is echoed in the gently pulsing piano writing which underpins Fauré’s exquisite and little-known Andante, believed to be reworked material from the slow movement of his ill-fated (and never-completed) violin concerto. Even in this miniature, Fauré’s music – serene eloquence enclosing sensuous passions – transports us to another world.
Often described as being quintessentially British, the evergreen classic A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square was actually written in a French village by the American composer Manning Sherwin, shortly before the outbreak of World War II. We were unable to resist adding a few hints of birdsong to this arrangement of a song that has been a favourite of Tom’s since his teenage adventures as an occasional hotel lounge pianist.
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.”
And out of the silence comes the album’s second delectable Kreisler arrangement, this time of a much-loved traditional Irish melody which goes by multiple names. Kreisler himself refers to it as Farewell to Cucullain; the melody itself is more commonly called Londonderry Air; but it’s probably best known by a lyric added in the early 20th century, Danny Boy. It was a request from Tom’s old friend Tam, whose son – named Danny – was born during the lockdown.
Stephen Sondheim has been a hero of Tom’s since childhood, and his 90th birthday occurred in the early days of the 2020 pandemic. Send in the Clowns, his most famous song, was a suggestion from multiple listeners, including Tom’s mum Kay, and Elena’s grandma Mary. Written at the eleventh hour for Sondheim’s 1973 masterpiece A Little Night Music, Send in the Clowns is a song of regret and vulnerability, of roads not taken – though thankfully it leads to happier places, as a nod to which we added the ‘orchestral’ climax from its reprise in the show.
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.
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We are endlessly indebted to all of our listeners who requested the music which shaped the JukeBox journey (and ultimately this album), and of course to Victoria Robey OBE for enabling six brilliant new pieces to spring to life. Additionally, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Elena’s parents, Annette and Marcus, who very kindly and patiently tolerated nearly three months of shushing, closet ransacking, and the occasional expletive as we filmed each day, sometimes for hours at a time. We must also credit their dog, Joey, for his (mostly) good behaviour and his acting cameos throughout the series. Thanks too to the community of Maryland’s Eastern Shore for their encouragement and auxiliary instrument loans; to our generous supporters around the world who donated quarters and more throughout the project; to the multi-talented composer-artist Lila Wildy Quillin for her amazing cover design; and to the Royal Philharmonic Society (and all those who voted) for recognising #UriPosteJukeBox with the honour of a 2020 Inspiration Award. Lastly, the hugest thanks to Matthew Trusler at Orchid Classics and our brilliant producer-engineer-filmmaker Patrick Allen, not least for their staggering open-mindedness when we announced that we’d like to make an album with multi-tracked kazoos.
We should note that it was a surprisingly wistful process looking back on all of the JukeBox repertoire in preparation for this album, almost exactly a year after our first episode launched. There’s always been an element of nostalgia to the project, with the jukebox itself representing a throwback to a simpler way of listening to music – you put a quarter in the machine, choose your song, and your request is honoured. Looking back through our 88 daily music videos brings up a multitude of emotions: that specific brand of uncertainty that we all felt at the start of the first lockdown; the collective sorrow we grappled with as our lives as we knew them disappeared out from under us; and that unifying sense of being all in this together, even though we had no idea for how long or to what degree. While we as musicians hope never to find ourselves in such an uncomfortable spot again, we do hope the feeling of community – which brought us so much joy and solace – sticks, and that we can again and again turn to music to help us through times of uncertainty and bring us all together.
When the pandemic struck early in 2020, violinist Elena Urioste and pianist-composer Tom Poster responded by channelling their creative energies into #UriPosteJukeBox, a portmanteau of their surnames and a nod to the retro feel of the jukebox with its eclectic selection of songs to be chosen by the listener. The original intention was to produce one video of the duo performing together for every day of the lockdown (which at the time was anticipated to be relatively brief). What followed was a project that took off in ways the pair had never dreamed of, capturing the imaginations and hearts of listeners across the globe, embracing requests that traversed many musical genres, featuring commissions by contemporary composers, and entertaining followers with increasingly elaborate costumes, props, additional instruments, and multi-tracking.
In all, they made 88 videos – one for each key on a piano. The impact of the endeavour and the joy it brought in an extraordinarily challenging time were more formally recognised when the Jukebox won a Royal Philharmonic Society Inspiration Award. This album captures the spontaneous and varied feel of the original videos, drawing together some of the duo’s favourite pieces in a way that celebrates this joyous project and all those who contributed to it.
The album’s opening track, Tom Poster’s arrangement of Jerome Kern’s Look for the Silver Lining, embodies the spirit of the whole Jukebox project. Their work abruptly cancelled, the pair decided to look for a silver lining by creating something uplifting at a time when the music industry had been plunged into darkness. Tom explains that “the last thing we wanted to do was to do nothing”, and as Elena puts it, “we respond to goals. I probably would’ve put the violin in its case and not seen it for a month or two; Tom pre-empted this by suggesting that we create a daily goal for ourselves.” What began as an almost meditative approach to music-making, involving the daily discipline of creating something that reflected the ups and downs of isolation, quickly found an audience of listeners craving music, connection and catharsis. As Elena remembers, “the requests started coming in: firstly quite traditional, for violin and piano, then we let it be known that Tom is a phenomenal arranger. From there it took off! Requests got very strange very quickly…”
These requests spanned the erudite (Mozart and Messiaen) and the more mainstream (Britney Spears and ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’). Elena recalls their surprise at “just how large and far-reaching a community would form around the project; we received messages from people all over the world. People with very different tastes in music somehow found their way to the Jukebox.”
One of the most famous numbers was Tom’s mashup of Come On Eileen, Toxic and Baby Shark, which led to an interview on BBC Radio 3’s ‘In Tune’: “We had a very surreal call in our bathrobes talking about Britney Spears, which is not something I ever imagined happening”.
The repertoire expanded even further when Victoria Robey, OBE, offered to sponsor composer commissions. Elena describes what happened:
“Victoria Robey approached us a few weeks in, wondering whether we might consider using the platform as a place to premiere new works that she would generously sponsor. It was a tough time not just for performers but for all people in the industry and she wanted to create an incentive for composers to create something quickly. We put together a shortlist of six people and she made it possible for all of them to write something at short notice.”
All six commissions appear on the album: An Essay of Love by Mark Simpson (conceived for the pair even before they approached him), Bloom by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Emotiva by Clarice Assad, Arietta by Huw Watkins, Bha là eile ann (There was a different day) by Donald Grant, and Peace by Jessie Montgomery.
The arrangements made by Tom Poster included on the album reflect the often tender, nostalgic tone of the Jukebox repertoire: La vie en rose, El día que me quieras, Begin the Beguine, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, Send in the Clowns. There is also Lili Boulanger’s Introduction et cortège, for which Tom Poster has reconstructed the Introduction.
The remaining programme includes the Sérénade espagnole by Cécile Chaminade and Farewell to Cucullain (Londonderry Air), both arranged by Fritz Kreisler; Fauré’s Andante, Op. 75; and – featuring their trademark multitracking, kazoos, recorders and swanee whistle – the Jukebox Toodle-oo. The duo relishes this vibrant breadth of genres.
As Tom explains:
“This is the music we’ve loved our whole lives. The music world likes to pigeon-hole people, but this felt like the most authentic version of ourselves musically that we’ve ever been able to be publicly, because this is the music we’ve always loved playing.”
Elena Urioste is a musician, yogi, writer, and entrepreneur. As a violinist, Elena has given acclaimed performances as soloist with major orchestras throughout the world, including the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Minnesota Orchestras; the New York, Los Angeles, and Buffalo Philharmonics; the Boston Pops; the Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, National, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Detroit Symphony Orchestras; the London Philharmonic, Hallé, Philharmonia, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Malaysia Philharmonic, and Chineke! Orchestras; and the BBC Symphony, Philharmonic, Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and National Orchestra of Wales, among others. She has performed regularly as a featured soloist in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium and has given recitals at Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Kennedy Center, Konzerthaus Berlin, Sage Gateshead, Bayerischer Rundfunk Munich, and Mondavi Center. Elena is a former BBC New Generation Artist (2012-14) and has been featured on the covers of Strings, Symphony, and BBC Music magazines.
An avid chamber musician, Elena is the founder and Artistic Director of Chamber Music by the Sea, an annual festival on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She has been a featured artist at the Marlboro, Ravinia, La Jolla, IMS Prussia Cove, Cheltenham, Bridgehampton, Moab, and Sarasota Music Festivals, and is co-director of Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective.
Elena is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and The Juilliard School. Notable teachers and mentors include Joseph Silverstein, David Cerone, Ida Kavafian, Pamela Frank, Claude Frank, and Ferenc Rados. The outstanding instruments being used by Elena are an Alessandro Gagliano violin, Naples (c.1706), and a Nicolas Kittel bow, both on generous extended loan from the private collection of Dr. Charles E. King through the Stradivari Society of Chicago.
Elena has being practicing yoga for over a decade and received her RYT-200 hour certification from the Kripalu Center in June 2019. She is the co-founder of Intermission, a program that combines music, movement, and mindfulness, aiming to make music-making a healthier, more holistic practice for students and professionals alike through yoga and meditation.
Tom Poster is a musician whose skills and passions extend well beyond the conventional role of the concert pianist. He has been described as “a marvel, [who] can play anything in any style” (The Herald), “mercurially brilliant” (The Strad), and as having “a beautiful tone that you can sink into like a pile of cushions” (BBC Music).
Tom has performed over forty concertos from Mozart to Ligeti with Aurora Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, China National Symphony, Hallé, Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic and Scottish Chamber Orchestra, collaborating with conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Nicholas Collon, Robin Ticciati and Yan Pascal Tortelier. He has premiered solo, chamber and concertante works by many leading composers, made multiple appearances at the BBC Proms, and his exceptional versatility has put him in great demand at festivals internationally.
Tom is co-founder and artistic director of Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective, appointed Associate Ensemble at Wigmore Hall in 2020. With a flexible line-up featuring many of today’s most inspirational musicians, and an ardent commitment to diversity through its creative programming, Kaleidoscope broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3 and has recently been ensemble-in-residence at Cheltenham Festival, Kettle’s Yard and Ischia Music Festival, in addition to its frequent appearances at Wigmore Hall.
Tom’s extensive discography includes two solo albums, recordings with the Aronowitz Ensemble (former BBC New Generation Artists), and collaborations with Elena Urioste, Guy and Magnus Johnston, Alison Balsom, Aurora Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra.
Tom studied with Joan Havill at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and at King’s College, Cambridge. His compositions and arrangements have been commissioned, performed and recorded by Alison Balsom, Matthew Rose, Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott. His chamber opera for puppets, The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak, received an acclaimed three-week run at Wilton’s Music Hall in 2017. He is a lifelong fan of animals with unusual noses.
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