From October, we will be restarting the on-site Piano Club at Jackdaws.
It will run simultaneously with the online club on the first Friday of the month. Places are limited to 8 for the on site sessions because of Covid-19 restrictions, and must be booked in advance at £5 a place.
We are delighted to welcome you to a new season at Jackdaws. We have lots of wonderful opportunities for you to set your creativity free in this, the 28th season of music making in our glorious corner of the valley, here in Great Elm.
SPECIAL OFFER – £10 off any course if you book before September 7th 2020
Please do book early as course numbers will be reduced initially to enable social distancing. This will be reviewed as new guidance is issued.
We understand you may have concerns about attending in the current circumstances. We have worked hard to be Covid-19 secure and have “We’re Good to Go” accreditation from Visit England in place, which demonstrates our commitment to safety. Please read more about our Covid-19 readiness and how it affects booking on our website.
We hope you enjoy this new online only format and full information can be found on courses in each section by clicking on the title box and other links.
Our pianists enjoy the benefit of using our Steinway in the main studio during sessions and also have the opportunity to use one of the practice rooms during breaks to consolidate and reflect on the musical process.
The big news for our ensemble players is new leadership of the Chamber Music weekend (16 – 18 July). We owe a huge debt of thanks to Sarah Francis as she retires from her long serving role and are delighted that Stephen Gutman has stepped in to take this incredibly popular course forward for the future.
We are also delighted that William Lyons and Richard Thomas are giving an extra opportunity to make music as an ensemble by running two weekends of The City Musick (12 – 14 February & 10 – 12 September)
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.
On Friday 13 September, pianist Philip Fowke gave a 45 minute recital in the Lehane-Wishart Studio at Jackdaws in Great Elm, which held the audience entranced.
After taking to the Steinway, Philip joked that he had not had a chance to warm up, and would the audience mind if he did so now? Unsure of what to expect – perhaps scales, arpeggios, maybe some Hanon exercises? – there was a pleasant sigh of recognition as Philip began and the audience were treated to an off-programme performance of Grieg’s Melodie, from the op. 47 Lyric Pieces. The studio was instantly filled with the light, repeated-chords and melancholy melody floating above. A delightful introduction to a programme of larger works.
The programme as advertised opened with the third and central movement of Robert Schumann’s Piano Sonata no. 3, a set of variations on a theme by his wife Clara. The day had special significance, being the 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann’s birth, and at a performance to celebrate the opening of a studio whose existence owed great debt to another musical husband and wife pair – mezzo-soprano Maureen Lehane and composer Peter Wishart.
What followed the was another highly-virtuosic compositon, Busoni’s Kammer-Fantasie on Bizet’s Carmen, delivered with effortless panache and style, glittering as the sun shone on the rose garden in the background behind the piano.
Philip Fowke’s impressive programme was brought to a rousing conclusion with the final work, Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise in A flat major. The audience made quite sure Philip was aware of their gratitude with rapturous applause for his masterful programme.
Join us for our next Open Fridays lunchtime concert at 12:15pm on Friday 20 September, when Artistic Director Saffron van Zwanenberg will be joined by Baritone Owain Browne for a recital of favourite songs and arias accompanied by long-standing Jackdaws accompanist Colin Hunt.
With just a short pause for a break over Christmas, progress on the new Jackdaws studio has taken a huge step forward since our last update in October.
Outside, the roof tiles, windows and doors have transformed the façade. Meanwhile, work inside continues to create a superb new studio with large, bi-fold doors opening out on to the rose garden which can now be appreciated more fully. The underfloor heating makes this space extremely pleasant to work in on these cold frosty days.
Now that the weekend courses have resumed after the Christmas break, our builder Paul’s final job each Friday afternoon is to ensure the site is ready for the arrival of our participants. Courses have continued to run throughout the development and we are keen to move our courses into the new studio as soon as possible.
We are still fundraising for the studio, to help with furnishing and equipment, and there is time yet to have your donation recognised on the special 20Jackdaws wall-mounted display which will feature in the new building. The commission will celebrate and thank all our supporters who have contributed to the project since its inception in 2012. Your donations are as important to us now as they were then, and we rely on them to keep progress moving.
One Day Courses are your chance to learn from the expertise of our world-class tutors who visit Jackdaws, and enjoy our delicious home cooked lunches without giving up a whole weekend.
With tuition from 10:30am – 4pm, and a free lunch included, One Day Courses at just £45 are excellent value*.
Understanding Your Voice with Jessica Walker Saturday 3 November
To inspire you to take that next step with your singing, we’ll use breathing and vocal exercises to develop a healthy and more secure technique!
Family Singing Afternoon with Caroline Radcliffe Sunday 4 November, 2 – 5pm*
Caroline will teach us easy songs from near and far, and we’ll add parts and build harmonies to encompass all ranges and abilities!
“I got the most I could possibly get from a one-day
course and felt it was so worthwhile”
Play the Piano by Ear with Stephen Marquiss Sunday 2 December
If you’ve always played from sheet music, you may find you lack the confidence to play by ear. These principles will be widely applicable to any genre and will help you to escape the score!
Heart Song – Healing with the Voice with Anne Bourne Saturday 8 December
An introduction to the healing power of your voice, and how it can transform mind, body and spirit. Explore the use of vocal toning, breath work and meditation to access your own resonance.
From Panic to Poise with Wendy Skeen Sunday 9 December
Performing music can be a deeply enriching experience, so discover practical strategies to help you enjoy performing and sharing your music-making with others.
*Family Singing Afternoon costs £12 per adult & child pair, (£3 per extra child, £10 per extra adult) Includes tea and cake.
Every year, we announce the more Jackdaws residential Weekend and One Day Courses. We welcome a range of new and returning tutors to our programme to keep our teaching varied, current, and so we can encourage you to try something new and find a new challenge.
We have full weekend courses, running Friday evening until Sunday afternoon; longer Three Day Courses from Thursday to Sunday; and One Day Courses bite-sized introductions to essential topics for all musicians. Some of the wonderful new tutors we welcome this year are Joan Rodgers, Alisdair Hogarth, Isobel Buchanan, Robert Chevara, Madeleine Mitchell and Alison Wells. Follow their links to read their full biographies and course descriptions, booking is now open!
Jessica Walker helps you with “Understanding Your Voice”
Jackdaws have announced their 2017-18 Season of weekend music courses. Featuring a selection of new and returning tutors, we are sure that there is something for everybody.
During the upcoming season, we will celebrate the 25th year of the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards, and commemorate the occasion with an updated logo. Taking place on Friday 10 November at the Wigmore Hall, we do hope you can join us for what will be a wonderful afternoon of music, performed at the highest standard.
Update: Booking is now open online, by phone, email or post. Full information about all Jackdaws courses is available on our website, or get in touch to request a printed brochure.