Archive for the category: News

Seclusion Discs – Owain Browne

Seclusion Discs – Owain Browne

Music has been a very important part of my lockdown experience. At first there was silence: long-anticipated projects cancelled

Seclusion Discs – Karolyn Curle

Seclusion Discs – Karolyn Curle

We have asked our friends and tutors, while they are marooned in isolation, which 8 tracks mean the most to them, so we can share some new listening ideas with you and find out a bit more about them. This week, Office Manager Karolyn Curle, introduces her picks.

Our Office Manager, Karolyn, joined the Jackdaws team in May 2012 having previously worked at the Merlin Theatre in Frome as the Front of House Manager. If you have booked on to a Jackdaws course or event in the last eight years, chances are that you have emailed or spoken to Karolyn personally.

“I’ve really enjoyed delving through my record collection and musical memory for this piece. Music has always played an important part in my life, and although I’m not a great musician I appreciate the ways in which it has influenced and empowered me. My love of singing in choirs has brought me a lot of pleasure, particularly in recent years, and created some wonderful friendships along the way”

Track One: Abba – Dancing Queen
There was always music playing at home and in the car during my childhood, but this was the first song that made me aware that music could make me ‘feel’ something. The first notes take me right back to my first year at school and a disco in the main hall; the music embraces me and I’m filled with the joy of the moment, it still makes me smile!

Track Two: Vivaldi – ‘Gloria in excelsis’, Gloria
I enjoyed and embraced all musical opportunities at school and was fortunate to have some wonderful teachers. My time at the small village Primary School was filled with recorder lessons and ensemble groups and lots of singing; choirs, assemblies and church services. However, my favourite activity was the weekly BBC ‘Singing Together’ radio broadcast – according to my teacher, Miss Kynaston, I was an enthusiastic member of the class!

At Secondary School I learned piano and clarinet, and continued to enjoy singing in choirs and school productions. The highlight was a performance of Vivaldi ‘Gloria’ under the direction of Head of Music, Ruth Phillips, in a local church. This was my first experience of singing choral music with a large group, as an alto in the chorus, the opening bars still fill me with that sense of nervous excitement.

Track Three: Fairground Attraction – Allelujah
Through my teens I loved having a record player in my room, buying new vinyl with money from my Saturday job at the Roman Baths. I was drawn to music with a folk/roots base and female singers in particular. It was hard to narrow down the choice here, in the end, Eddi Reader won. My choice is not the wonderfully popular ‘Perfect’, still heard on tv and radio today, but the more wistful ‘Allelujah’ which brings the album to a close. I love the dreamy, wistful quality of this waltz, the sweeping range of the vocals and the positive and uplifting lyrics.

Track Four: Oysterband – Love Vigilantes
I had great fun during my ‘year out’ working at Our Price in Bath, where I met so many amazing people who introduced me to an even wider range of music. There were two branches of Our Price in Bath at that time – the cool shop was on Union Street, where new releases and cutting edge sounds filled two floors and then there was the more sedate branch in old Southgate shopping centre, that’s where I worked! We sold an awful lot of Phil Collins and Eric Clapton I seem to remember…

This track is a favourite find from that year and blends my love of folk with a new discovery of Indie; an Oysterband arrangement of a New Order track.

Track Five: The Cranberries – Dreams
I studied English and Drama at Worcester College of Higher Education; Delores O’Riordan and her band provided the soundtrack for my final year and Dissertation writing! Having heard ‘Dreams’ on the radio (John Peel show, I think) I eagerly anticipated the album, which I bought on cassette tape (so that I could also play it in my car, of course!) the day it was released. I played it over and over, singing along with these anthems which seemed to sum up the angst I was feeling at the time.

‘Oh, my life is changing every day, in every possible way’.

Track Six: Hayseed Dixie – Holiday
Fast forward a few years, several house moves, a wedding and two children later and we’re on the road on family camping trips with Hayseed Dixie on the car i-pod. This song reminds me of those days, driving down through France with the car/trailer/van/bikes all packed up, to our favourite spot in the Loire, Le Chant D’Oiseau. Although ‘Holiday’ isn’t actually about a holiday it’s sweeping fiddle and chirpy banjo & mandolin never fail to remind me of family time and these journeys. Hayseed Dixie are an incredibly talented bunch of musicians, I’ve seen them live a few times and they never fail to entertain.

Track Seven: Handel – ‘His Yoke Is Easy’, from ‘Messiah’
This is one of my favourite choruses to sing, especially the way in which the music starts to sweep along towards the end, with longer notes and beautiful harmonies.
My Mum and I joined the choir of the first Frome Voices project in 2012, to rehearse and perform Handel’s ‘Messiah’. It was wonderfully uplifting and challenging at a time when I needed the support of music in my life, having recently been made redundant from my job at the Merlin Theatre due to cuts in Arts funding. Little did I know that the job at Jackdaws was just around the corner…

In January this year, Frome Voices again chose Messiah, and I once again found myself in the community of altos, making new friends and enjoying the sheer pleasure of singing the score. However, coronavirus restrictions arrived; rehearsals were stopped and the performance remains postponed, but this definitely isn’t the end of my journey with Frome Voices.

Track Eight: Johnny Flynn – Treasure
This song is the title music for the tv series ‘Detectorists’, one of my favourite programmes; currently available on i-player if you’ve not yet experienced it’s quiet charm. For me, this song evokes a feeling of appreciation for seeing the beauty in our surroundings and the small pleasures to be found in nature. I’m missing being at Jackdaws in my riverside office, but have been taking walks along the riverpath locally in Frome instead, listening and watching the spring unfurl day by day.

I’ve been a member of Jackdaws Songbirds community choir since 2007. Caroline Radcliffe our choir leader arranged ‘Treasure’ for us a few years ago, it was a delight to sing!

‘I heard the calls of all the songbirds, they sang all the wrong words’

Seclusion Discs – Mark Tanner

Seclusion Discs – Mark Tanner

We have asked our tutors, while they are marooned in isolation, which 8 tracks mean the most to them, so we can share some new listening ideas with you and find out a bit more about them. This week, pianist Mark Tanner, introduces his picks.

Mark Tanner is a concert pianist, composer, B.I.F.F. adjudicator, teacher and writer. His performing and academic work takes him regularly to all five continents. Solo appearances include many recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall, South Bank Centre and St John’s Smith Square, as well as St George’s Bristol, where he performed in piano duo with Alan Schiller at the Mozart 250th Anniversary Celebrations. He appears regularly on luxury cruise liners, having given in excess of 300 recitals on all of the Cunard, P&O and Saga ships.

Track One: Chabrier – Idylle, from ‘Dix pieces pittoresques’ (played by Richard McMahon)
Richard was my piano teacher while studying for my MA in performance during the early 90s, and I’ve always greatly admired what he stands for as a pianist, teacher and musician on so many other levels. This particular performance is ideal (or should that be Idylle?) for its sense of freshness and immediacy. Just listen to that dancing left hand accompaniment, which in itself deserves our attentive listening, but also the melodic line, which sits above it so poetically and sings with what could also almost be a French accent.

Track Two: Vaughan-Williams – Symphony No.5 (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Vernon Handley, 1990)
There’s something rather epic and rousing about this work, composed across the WW2 years. Its wonderful tunes, dense harmonic texture and slow, patient unfolding gives it such a satisfying impact. A coming together of pastoral charm, suave tunes and all things British.

Track Three: Ravel – Gaspard de la nuit (played by Ivo Pogorelich)
Although there have been plenty of critics who’ve sought to pick away at Ivo Pogorelich’s eccentric behaviour at the piano, and in particular his tendency to tug at the normal bandwidth of acceptability for speeds and dynamics, I’ve always been a great admirer. Pianists simply can’t win when it comes to garnering the affections of audiences, critics and fellow pianists; it seems they’re either too similar, or too daring. Listen to Pogorelich’s pristine fingerwork in Gaspard, and I bet you won’t find another interpretation to rival it. There’s the famous Argerich one of course, which many prefer, though the darkness and vitality of Pogorelich’s, for me, wins hands down. In Ondine, his playing ripples impossibly fluidly; in Le Gibet, the hangman’s noose is scarily real to my ears, and in Scarbo, the repeated notes surely couldn’t sound crisper if you fired off a few rounds from a Browning machine gun.

Track Four: Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No.3 (Played by Ashkenazy on Decca)
Though often dubbed “Rach Three” (an unnecessary abbreviation which I absolutely hate, by the way), this confirms the enduring popularity of this effervescent, large-scale concerto. Whether it’s the cadenzas which bring you close to a cold sweat, or that nonchalant opening ‘simple’ tune, this is a work admired, feared and loved the world over. Ashkenazy, who has just retired from the public scene, is on splendid form, bringing a staggering amount of muscularity and pathos from his small frame. There are more fragrant, or more powerful accounts from today’s crop of younger virtuosi, but for me the Ashkenazy rendering is par excellence.

Track Five: Messiaen – Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus (played by Yvonne Loriod)
Who better to be the ambassador for this immense two hour-long work than Messiaen’s utterly devoted wife, Yvonne Loriod? Every note is brimming with colour (the composer famously bringing his synaesthesia to good purpose in his compositions), and I love the rumble of the Paris Metro, which can occasionally be felt to vibrate through your toes if you crank up the volume to a sufficiently neighbour-annoying level. The piece is one worthy of being sent to the moon, or any another distant celestial rock for that matter – it teems with religious connotation and is quite simply a tour de force in 20th century pianism.

Track Six: Finzi – Eclogue (played by Howard Shelley)
This all too brief work, which was originally to be the middle movement of a piano concerto, ended up being left to its own devices, a stand alone gem, which we don’t hear often enough. Shelley brings to it a most fragrantly perfumed pianism, a truly crafted and insightful performance of this contemplative miniature.

Track Seven: Andy Williams – Up, Up and Away
What can I say? This is, for me, one of the most joyful, ebullient ditties lingering on my phone – always ready to Bluetooth across to my ancient Mercedes convertible’s radio as I finesse my way along country roads, top down, wind in my eyes. I even love the slightly out of tune backing singers.

Track Seven: Petula Clark – Down Town
I’ve written elsewhere that this song holds a very special place in my heart. It holds a sentimental charm that I don’t often detect in other pop tunes of the era. Maybe it’s because it was written around the time of my birth, by Tony Hatch in 1963, or perhaps simply that it captures a feeling of yearning, tinged with whimsy, tinged with optimism. Whatever.

e-Song Club starts Friday 15 May

e-Song Club starts Friday 15 May

The first Jackdaws e-Song Club starts at 10am on Friday 15 May!

Our e-Piano Club, run by one of our volunteers, has been a huge success so we thought it might be something our singers would like to try as well.

Join for free by dialling in over Zoom every Friday morning at 10am for one hour. Meet and chat to other singers in a supportive, supervised setting, and, if you would like to (no requirement to do so!), sing a piece to the group. Give your practice a focus and carry on honing performance skills.

Sing unaccompanied or with a backing track. We can also put you in touch with one of our accompanists, Nigel Foster, if you would like to buy a backing track (costs start at £30 per song but may be more depending on length and complexity).

Please view our e-Club Guidance and Safeguarding before participating.

Donate via PayPalOur e-Song Club is free to attend, but if you would like to donate £5 to help keep Jackdaws going at the time of great uncertainty, you can do so on PayPal.

Subscribe to the mailing list to receive details of the next meeting:

Jackdaws will never share your information with third parties, in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Seclusion Discs – Flora Curzon

Seclusion Discs – Flora Curzon

We have asked our tutors, while they are marooned in isolation, which 8 tracks mean the most to them, so we can share some new listening ideas with you and find out a bit more about them. This week, violinist Flora Curzon, introduces her picks.

Flora Curzon is best known for her musical versatility. Whilst she is firmly rooted in the Western Classical tradition, her horizons are broad: she is passionate about and well versed in many musical traditions from around the world and the role of improvisation in all music making.

Her unique combination musical interests and skills have sparked a fast growing and eclectic resumé of worldwide collaborations, performances and recordings, including work with many outstanding artists and ensembles.

“I’m lucky enough to be locked down with several music lovers who have introduced me to all sorts of new music over the last 6 weeks. So I’ve been enjoying a mixture of old favourites and new discoveries which I’m very excited to share with you.”

Track One: Bach – St John Passion (Sir John Eliot Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists)
My usual musical diet over the Easter period is a lot of JS Bach; this year I would have been touring Bach’s St John Passion with English Touring Opera, so I thought I would share with you a rendition of it which I absolutely love, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, sung by the Monteverdi Choir and played by English Baroque Soloists. I love how each movement keeps moving without ever feeling hurried.

Track Two: Bach – Sonata no. 1 for Violin and Harpsichord (Played by Lucy van Dael and Bob van Asperen)
I’ve also been feeding my Bach cravings in other ways. Lucy van Dael’s recording of Bach’s Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord are bringing me great joy right now, particularly No.1 in B Minor BWV 1014. The way she pulls out that first note and allows it to emerge from the harpsichord is just exquisite. I love the way this first Adagio flows – it’s sounds so natural it’s hard to imagine it written down.

Track Three: Enescu – Impressions d’enfance (Played by Sherban Lupu and Valentin Gheorghiu)
But Bach isn’t all I have been listening to. I have also been attempting to learn an absolutely stunning piece by George Enescu, ‘Impressions D’enfance’ performed here by the musical legends Sherban Lupu (violin), Valentin Gheorghiu (piano). I am particularly drawn to this piece because of the way it captures the spirit and sound world of traditional Romanian music; the first movement, for solo violin, reminds me so much of a meandering Romanian ‘doina’ – an arhythmic, highly ornamented, often improvised introduction to a set of tunes.

Track Four: Anna & Elizabeth – Long Time Travelling
As well as classical music, I am a great lover of many styles of traditional music and have recently discovered two incredible all-female duos. Anna & Elizabeth – traditional singers and instrumentalists from the USA – are performing here on Tiny Desk, starting with a particular favourite of mine, Long Time Travelling. I love the way their very different voices blend, and the purity in the harmonies stops me in my tracks.

Track Five: Brittany Haas & Lena Jonsson – Keeping the Cats Happy
The second is fiddle duo extroadinaire, Brittany Haas and Lena Jonsson. Brittany is steeped in American music, and Lena in her native Swedish. Together they bring the house down with interweaving melodies, tight harmonies and irresistible grooves.

Track Six: Shver Un Shviger (Played by Alicia Svigals)
Klezmer (Jewish music) also holds a deep place in my heart. This not-exactly-new record is a new discovery for me, and one which I listened to on repeat for a few days when I first discovered it. Here, Alicia Svigals, one of the Klezmer communities most renowned and stylish fiddle players, creates a really evocative sound world on this record, and performs many tunes which are now considered core Klezmer repertoire. For anyone wanting to hear or learn more Klezmer this is a great place to start!
Fidl – Alicia Svigals

Track Seven: Jamie Doe – Albatross
I’ve also been listening a lot to an album by my pal Jamie Doe (aka The Magic Lantern). ‘To the Islands’ is his third album, was released in 2018. I absolutely love his songwriting, and the instrumentation and production on this record is exquisite. This is his song ‘Albatross’, performed live at Abbey Road Studios.

Track Eight: Kate Tempest – Hold Your Own
Lastly, in a completely different vein, The latest Kate Tempest record, ‘The Book of Traps and Lessons’ (2019), could not have come at a better time for me. I found this album incredibly resonant and thought-provoking, even though it was written before Coronavirus hit. This track, Hold Your Own, one of the warmer tracks on the record, I found very inspiring and comforting.

Seclusion discs – Stephen Marquiss

Seclusion discs – Stephen Marquiss

We have asked our tutors, while they are marooned in isolation, which 8 tracks mean the most to them, so we can share some new listening ideas with you and find out a bit more about them. This week, pianist Stephen Marquiss, introduces his picks.

Stephen was born in Bath, England and was educated at Wells Cathedral School, a specialist music school, and then at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he gained an MA in Music. During his time at Cambridge, Stephen travelled to New York to study with Sophia Rosoff, a pioneering teacher and former student of Abby Whiteside. This sowed seeds that led eventually to the creation of Piano Portals, over a decade later.

“I love lists and questionnaires that offer a glimpse into someone’s personality, history and influences. I could easily have included only piano and 19th-century orchestral music. But I feel compelled to shoehorn in a couple of other influential genres. I honestly don’t listen to a lot of music these days – I’d much rather spend all my time playing it – but tracks like these have been sometime obsessions.”

Track 1: Mendelssohn – Hebrides Overture (Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert Von Karajan)
As child, I loved to conduct an orchestra formed of my cuddly toys. Their repertoire was limited – and supplied by my trusty Toshiba – chiefly to The Christmas Tape, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and this overture. It features the world’s greatest antecedent and consequent phrases (between strings and brass), delivered with appropriate gusto on this recording.

Track 2: Schumann – Piano Concerto, First Movement (Played by Murray Perahia, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis)
My favourite recording (paired with the Grieg concerto), growing up. Perahia was my pianistic hero. It was a toss-up between this and his recording of Brahms’s Third Piano Sonata. He’s the only pianist I’ve heard to play the repeated phrases in the animato section as delicious echoes, which still takes my breath away every time.

Track 3: Handel – ‘But who may abide’ from The Messiah (Played by Charles Brett, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, Sir John Eliot Gardiner)
This album was the soundtrack to most of my third year at uni. I had to include one conducted by Gardiner. For me, he’s unrivalled as an interpreter. I’m no longer religious, but I find the pathos and then fury of the singing and playing on this track utterly ravishing.

Track 4: Bruckner – Symphony No. 7, First Movement (Played by Berlin Philharmonic, Daniel Barenboim)
Barenboim had long been another of my piano heroes. Then I discovered Barenboim the conductor, through this Bruckner Symphony, and the sheer majesty of the epic first phrase in the cellos and violas (surely one of the longest in the repertoire) stopped me in my tracks. I bought as many of his Bruckner CDs as I could afford (at £5 each) in the old-skool record shop behind my college halls of residence.

Track 5: Schumann – Symphony No. 2, First Movement (Played by Vienna Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein)
The way this movement emerges from slow introduction to vigorous allegro is rivalled only by Schubert’s 9th Symphony and Beethoven’s 4th, in my book. This track showcases Bernstein – force of nature, conductor, presenter and composer. It also brings to mind Schumann’s struggles with expressing himself in the symphonic genre in the shadow of Beethoven.

Track 6: Prokofiev – Piano Sonata No. 3 (Played by Gary Graffman)
As well as being a barnstormer of a piece – by turns bubbly, dark and achingly tender – it reminds me of one of the few childhood masterclasses I remember fondly, given by Tamás Ungár, in which he drew attention to how everything is a melody in Prokofiev. It also brings to mind Gary Graffman’s well-documented struggles with injury, which resonates with my own journey – though quite different in its details – of studying with Sophia Rosoff and developing Piano Portals.

Track 7: Jim Moray – Horkstow Grange
I simply had to include some folk – it’s close to my new religion. It helped me to discover my ‘voice’ as (so far, an amateur) singer and songwriter. Playing my own folk song arrangements helped to kickstart my journey towards fluent, expressive piano technique and Piano Portals. This a cappella version of a poignant story invokes a tear every time.

Track 8: House Avengers – Something Special
It’s impossible to choose just one EDM track (Electronic Dance Music), as I love so many aspects of the genre. This reminds me of driving around central London one evening, many years ago, cocooned in my old yellow car, the outside world blurring like a time-lapse. My love of EDM has massively influenced my own piano compositions.

Seclusion Discs – Mark Eden

Seclusion Discs – Mark Eden

We have asked our tutors, while they are marooned in isolation, which 8 tracks mean the most to them, so we can share some new listening ideas with you and find out a bit more about them. This week, guitarist Mark Eden, introduces his picks.

Mark is a tutor at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, one half of the Eden Stell Guitar Duo, and one quarter of the Vida Quartet. Mark studied at the Royal Academy of Music where he won the Julian Bream Prize and graduated with the highest performing achievements and the Principal’s Prize. He was awarded grants from the Worshipful Company of Musicians to continue studies in Brussels with Sergio and Odair Assad. Both of his ensembles have achieved international acclaim and continue to perform at some of the most prestigious venues, International guitar and music festivals all over the world. Mark has recorded eight CDs receiving many press reviews, including ‘Editors’ Choice’ in Gramophone and recording of the week in The Observer, and has appeared on ITV, BBC and many European networks.

“It really is too tricky to select just 8 tracks; I love too many pieces of music. To add to the complexity, my choices are just as much about the artists as they are about the composer. Rather like Saffron, I have gone for pieces which have made an impact on me when I was young. I could make a top 50 easily, but here’s my 8 – but before we get underway, I must make a special mention to Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis’ and ‘The Lark Ascending’; Nigel North (lute) playing Bach and Dowland; Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’; Steven Isserlis playing Bach cello suites; The Jam; Beethoven; Martha Argerich playing anything; Sir András Schiff playing anything; The Police; Debussy; Scarlatti; Chopin; Britten; Prince; Stephen Dodgson; and guitarists Sergio & Odair Assad, Segovia & John Williams to name just a few. Sorry… had to get those out also.”

Track 1: Simon & Garfunkel – For Emily (LIVE)
I should really just say that any of the songs from the Simon & Garfunkel Greatest Hits album (or tape in our case) is my first choice. My first truly memorable musical experience driving down to Cornwall in the mid 70’s with my parents and sisters in an old car and a tape player sitting in the foot well. We just kept playing it over and over… well Cornwall felt further away back then! We all loved the songs and I can still remember all the words and tunes. ‘For Emily’ sums up this hazy hot summer in Mawgan Porth, where our hotel was like something out of “Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday”. Art Garfunkel’s voice is like an angel’s, and Simon’s guitar playing must have made something click inside me. I love the triplets strummed in the guitar part at the highest point of the song.

Track 2: The Smiths – This Charming Man
I was defiantly a closet Smiths fan. I never saw them live but I did have most of their albums and this song sums up my teenage 80’s angst. I love the way the words tell a story which your own imagination can elaborate on.

Track 3: Federico Mompou – Suburbs
This is one of Mompou’s early piano pieces which put him on the map. It also sums up his personality as someone who was a loner, who walked the streets of his beloved Barcelona taking in the atmospheres and life going on around him. “The Street, the guitar and the old horse” is particularly poignant. I guess I’m a sucker for music with a degree of melancholy and nostalgia.

Track 4: Enrique Granados – ‘Dedicatoria’ from Album for the Young (Played by Julian Bream)
This choice has more to do with Bream rather than perhaps the beautifully simple piece by Granados. Before I heard this, I was playing the guitar in a rock band and even though I was doing classical guitar grades, I had no idea what a classical guitarist was. A geography teacher at my high school gave me a tape of Bream playing Granados and Albéniz… my head went BOOM! when I first heard Bream’s tone. Almost every other guitarist I meet today admits that Bream was the reason they wanted to learn to play the guitar, and I guess it is the same for me. To sound this simple and musical is very hard but Bream makes it look easy.

Track 5: Manuel de Falla – Harpsichord Concerto (Played by Kipnis and Boulez)
This piece might be one of the most amazing and quirky piece composed in my opinion. I can’t quite put my finger on why it fascinates me. Neo-classical in style with moments of high Spanish baroque and Stravinsky-like originality. One might not associate Falla with this piece if you didn’t know it was by him; you would usually think of his ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain’, or ‘El Amor Brujo’, but Falla never felt he needed to repeat himself like other composers. He was notorious for his meticulous approach to composing, which is probably why he didn’t write a huge number of pieces. Falla’s one and only original guitar piece, ‘Homenaje, pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy’, is only 3 minutes long but Benjamin Britten described it as having 15 mins worth of music. This recording is stunning as the tempos are just right (not too fast) and Boulez brings clarity to the musical detail.

Track 6: John Dowland – Captain Digorie Piper’s Galliard (Played by Julian Bream)
Another Bream choice but this time on the lute, and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude for single handedly bringing this ancient instrument back from the annals of history. Bream is a natural contrapuntal player – you can hear the clear polyphony – but he also makes everything sing. He’s a true master and one which Dowland would have greatly admired. Dowland is also a great love of mine. He had a complicated life in troubled times, being a Catholic in England in the 1590s, and probably a spy. He was really the first musical superstar of Europe with his most famous work ‘Lachrimae’ being bootlegged as far afield as Italy. I played this piece for my final recital at the RAM.

Track 7: Maurice Ravel – String Quartet in F major (Played by Quartetto Italiano)
When I first heard this piece I couldn’t believe that someone could compose something so beautiful. I bought this actual recording by Quartetto Italiano as a Birthday present for my father, but I think he never got much of a chance to listen to it as I played it over and over again marvelling at its originality and genius. It sparked a life long passion for Ravel’s music, especially his piano works and his genius orchestration. The pizzicato Scherzo second movement is so funky. Another great moment is the haunting second subject melody from the first movement which Ravel brings back in the recapitulation, but in the major just by changing the cello part… genius!

Track 8: Leoš Janáček – Sinfonietta
This piece was introduced to me by an English teacher at high school and is a great musical description of the current crisis, with musical feelings of struggle and victory over adversity. Janáček’s composition and orchestration is highly original. He didn’t become a serious composer until much later in his life, finding inspiration in a platonic love affair with a younger lady called Kamila Stösslová. Janáček makes me think that nothing is too late to try your hand at. Jackdaws is a great champion of inspiring amateur musicians to try and learn new instruments and music so this choice feels apt. Janáček’s swirling motives, haunting melodies, soaring brass and beating timpani really feels like you have climbed the Mount Everest of music.

Seclusion Discs – Saffron van Zwanenberg

Seclusion Discs – Saffron van Zwanenberg

We have asked our tutors while they are marooned in isolation what 8 tracks mean the most to them, so we can share some new listening ideas with you and find out a bit more about them.

First up is our Artistic Director and tutor on two of our courses for singers, Saffron van Zwanenberg. She says:

“This was really hard! I started by making a list of all of the music I couldn’t live without, but that was far too long, so I tried to narrow it down chronologically based on music that has influenced me in some way throughout my life. Unsurprisingly perhaps, there is quite a lot of opera…

Track 1: “Here’s a How De Do” from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan (D’Oyly Carte Company)
Not a very cool choice…My grandparents were huge G&S fans and my earliest musical memory is them taking me to see the Mikado, I think I was about 4, I loved it and still do. They also named all of their pets after G&S characters, so Buttercup the dog and Pish Tush the cat were a big part of my childhood.

Track 2: Trio from Norma – Bellini (Caballé, Sutherland and Pavarotti)
I grew up abroad and had limited access to music, so it was mostly through tapes (cassette tapes!) that my parents had brought with us, which included all of the Decca Pavarotti/ Sutherland recordings which I would sing along with great gusto (and very little technique!) and I have loved Joan and Pav all of my life. This was a particular favourite for all of us, so much so that my Dad made it our answerphone message for years.

Track 3: “O Soave Fanciulla” from La bohème – Puccini (Pavarotti & Freni)
When we moved back to my home town of Newcastle I was lucky enough to go to many performances by Scottish Opera who were at the time the main touring company in the North.

I saw all sorts and I remember realising that opera had the ability to move me more than anything else I had experienced. La bohème is just one of those pieces, I know it so well now, I always think it won’t get me, but at the end I am always crying.

Track 4: “Glitter and be Gay” from Candide – Bernstein (Barbara Cook)
This was another of the Scottish Opera productions, and the moment I heard this was pretty much the moment I decided to become an opera singer…not sure what that says!

Track 5: Die Junge Nonne- Schubert (Felicity Lott/ Graham Johnson)
I didn’t get as much exposure to song as I had to opera until I went to music college, and then I discovered Schubert, who had the same effect on me as Puccini, and still does.

Track 6: Final Chorus from Radamisto – Handel
This was such a difficult one to narrow down, assuming I couldn’t just put Handel and everything he wrote! I chose this in the end not because it is one of his greatest moments but because it means something to me. When I was at the RCM we were fortunate at the time to do an opera with the Handel Society every year. In my final year on the opera course we did Radamisto and I can still remember the feeling of happiness singing this chorus at the end having successfully navigated (survived!) the whole piece alongside some great friends.

Track 7: “Tutto nel mondo è burla” from Falstaff – Verdi
For being simply the best ending to an opera ever, and my favourite opera to boot.

Track 8: Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro – Mozart (Sir Colin Davis)
Had to have some Mozart, but again found almost impossible to narrow down. I chose this because it makes me feel such anticipation of exciting things yet to happen and it also marked a massive highlight in my career when I conducted it for one of Jackdaws’ projects, Song Story, involving 5 SEND schools, around 80 young people playing it on a range of things you could blow, shake and whack alongside a group of professional instrumentalists, and it was one of the best feelings I have ever had!

We’ve removed deposits

We’ve removed deposits

We’ve made a few changes to the way you register for courses on our website.

    We’ve removed the need to pay a deposit
    Register a no-obligation ‘Note of Interest’

We've removed depositsThis means, if there’s a course that you’ve been thinking about booking on, we understand your hesitation. We want to make it easier for you to let us know that you’d like to come on a course, but we understand that no one knows how things will look in a few months time.

So, you can now submit a ‘Note of Interest’ on our website, which is kept up-to-date with the latest news, or a quick note by email, with no obligation and no deposit required. Just let us know you are considering it, and we’ll contact you if we are able to offer the course.

Remote Learning with Jackdaws

Remote Learning with Jackdaws

This is a time of great change for everyone, and the loss of routine and opportunity to engage with others creatively can be difficult to handle. We have adapted two of our projects to help people to access them remotely so you can still engage in creative activities.

Arts Award
Arts Award LogoCalling young people who have lost the routine of taking exams or may be missing their normal creative outlets – let Jackdaws support you to earn a qualification from quarantine! Arts Award is run by Trinity College, London which provides framework for young people to learn and develop their creativity and leadership skills; it is expressive, valuable, accessible for all and does not require any specialist skills.

Register for free and use the schemes of work to complete tasks in your own time. We will offer support and advice where we can. There is a fee of around £35 for the moderation process, run by Trinity College, to gain the final certification (this process is currently not available because of Covid-19 but there is no time limit on completing the award, so can be submitted when they are up and running again).

For more details, visit our Arts Award page

e-Piano Club
Our monthly Piano Club was a place where pianists of all abilities could come together, have coffee and play for each other in a relaxed environment. In place of this, we are starting an e-Piano Club online using Zoom.

Video conferencing will allow people from across the world to come together to play anything from a work in progress to a full piece. All you need is a tablet, smartphone or computer, and a piano. Details of the meeting will be sent out each week.

Visit our e-Piano Club webpage for more details.

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