Following an overwhelming response to the first two projects, Classic BRIT award-winning saxophonist Jess Gillam today launches the third Jess Gillam Virtual Scratch Orchestra, inviting singers and instrumentalists of any standard from around the world to once again join her in mass virtual music-making.

The third track will be Sleigh Ride. Written in 1948 by Leroy Anderson and recorded by The Ronnettes, Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby, the track is a firm Christmas favourite. Today Jess launches the call-out for musicians young and old to film themselves performing the piece using parts made available on her website. There are parts available for complete beginners, those who don’t read music and advanced musicians too – her aim is to bring together musicians of all abilities from across musical worlds to collaborate and share some Christmas joy. Participants are encouraged to get creative for their videos and don their best festive costumes and sparkle! The entries with then be stitched together into a final video, with Gillam performing the solo. You can download parts from this page.

The deadline for video submissions is 7pm on Wednesday 18 November and the video will be premiered on Jess’s YouTube channel on Friday 11 December at 6pm. Audio from all videos will be useful in the final video.

The Orchestra’s first two projects were David Bowie’s Where Are We Now? and The Beatles’ Let it Be. Around 2,000 entries from musicians were received across the two projects, with participants performing on a huge range of different instruments, from nearly 30 different countries and with an age range of 6 to 81.  Jess Gillam said: “I am so excited to launch this Christmas Virtual Scratch Orchestra Project! At a time where, unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to physically make music together, I hope that this will provide a fun and exciting way to bring people together with the power of music. As Christmas concerts, school plays and gatherings are cancelled and we face what may be a difficult winter, I hope that this will bring smiles and joy to those taking part and to those who watch. Right now, we need hope and light and music making can bring that in abundance!” 

The recording mirrors the arc of energy in a passing day with two new commissions by Luke Howard and Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory and Nyman’s virtuosic Where the Bee Dances at its heart.

Following her debut album RISE, which reached No.1 in the UK Classical chart, Classic BRIT Award-winning saxophonist Jess Gillam released TIME on Friday 25 September on Decca Classics.

I listen to and love such a huge array of music so the album’s influences range from classical to techno and minimalism to alternative pop!

Jess Gillam

The album mirrors the arc of energy in a passing day and the constant orbit of our existence. With a huge range of styles, moods and influences, the music offers the listener a space to immerse themselves in an oasis of sound and reflection. Gillam carefully curated the recording to be experienced as a whole, accompanying the listener through the unrelenting cycles of life itself – it will make you want to dance, pause, soar with the melodies or simply just smile.

Jess Gillam says: “Last year I moved to London and quickly became acutely aware of the speed and intensity of life. Everything is in constant orbit: I am orbiting around the world as a musician, there’s the orbit of a day, of thoughts around the mind and I noticed how many people are looking for a place to stop and reflect.

I began thinking about this and wanted to create an album which gives the listener space in which to immerse themselves and perhaps give them a moment away from the world as it is right now. I listen to and love such a huge array of music so the album’s influences range from classical to techno and minimalism to alternative pop! 

To me, music can be completely transformative and the experience of watching a live performance or sitting down to listen to an album is one of the only places in modern life where we can completely focus on what is happening before us with no distractions. There are no screens, no instant messaging, just a sense of direct communication. It’s something that requires patience but can be utterly life-affirming.”

At the heart of the album is Where the Bee Dances: minimalist pioneer Michael Nyman’s 20-minute masterpiece for saxophone and orchestra. The incredibly electrifying and technical concerto is one of Gillam’s signature pieces and the work she performed in the final of BBC Young Musician in 2016, launching her career at the age of 17. Played on the album with the Aurora Orchestra and conducted by Nicholas Collon, recorded at Abbey Road, it is a piece that has inspired her from a young age. Nyman is also well known for his multi-platinum soundtrack album to Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993).

With a passion for pushing the boundaries of the saxophone and always looking to the next chapter of classical music, Gillam has also specially commissioned two new works for the album: Dappled Light by Luke Howard and Orbit by Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory. The rest of the record features vivid contrasts between the intense rhythmic groove of Anna Meredith, the lilting, hypnotic patterns of Brian Eno as well as the hard-edged romanticism of Nyman and the gentle, melancholic whispers of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. There are also arrangements of works from multi-faceted and genre-breaking alternative artists including Björk and James Blake alongside familiar classical names such as Philip Glass, Max Richter and Joby Talbot. There will also be a 10-minute mini-documentary charting the making of the album available after the release date.

Australian Music Prize twice-longlisted composer Howard’s Dappled Light is a reflection on early dawn, with a soothing bed of soft piano and marimba sounds. The floating saxophone echoes bird song at the break of the day and growing warmth from strings resembles the sun as it rises.

Gregory, a renowned composer, producer, and saxophonist, composed Orbit as a reflection on the hustle and bustle of day. The saxophone spins around in driving, cyclic melodic patterns, over a relentless arpeggic figure shared by marimba and strings and the groove of a bass synth underlay.

Collaboration is a key component of the album and Gillam’s work. It is the first time the Jess Gillam Ensemble, made up of musician friends,have played and recorded together: the tracks were also refined in the studio with the input of the Ensemble as well as the composers/arrangers themselves. The album was mixed and mastered remotely whilst in lockdown.

Jess Gillam says: Making this album was one of the best experiences of my life. I was fortunate enough to record with an incredible group of musicians and close friends. The pieces grew and changed and were moulded over a few days and the feeling of collectivity, collaboration and concentration paired with a lot of laughter and smiling made for one of the most inspiring musical environments I’ve experienced. I am very grateful to all the musicians who have contributed to this album and to our wonderful producer Jonathan Allen.

Whilst we were able to get into the studio to record before lockdown, the process since then has been quite different! Due to the restrictions, we were not able to do a photoshoot so I hope you enjoy the homemade nature of the single covers!”

Tracklist

  • Meredith Monk Early Morning Melody
  • Luke Howard Dappled Light (commission)
  • Thom Yorke arr. Benjamin Rimmer Suspirium
  • Philip Glass arr. Simon Parkin Truman Sleeps
  • Anna Meredith arr. Jack Ross Bubble Gun
  • Michael Nyman Where the Bee Dances
  • Will Gregory Orbit (commission)
  • Björk arr. John Metcalfe Venus as a Boy
  • Max Richter arr. Elspeth Mackay On the Nature of Daylight
  • Philip Glass Melody for Saxophone No.10
  • James Blake arr. Benjamin Rimmer Retrograde
  • Joby Talbot Transit of Venus
  • Brian Eno/Jon Hopkins/Leo Abrahams arr. Geoff Lawson Emerald and Stone

Jess Gillam saxophone

Aurora Orchestra/Nick Collon

Jess Gillam Ensemble

  • Roberts Balanas Violin
  • Michael Jones Violin
  • Ciaran McCabe Violin
  • Gabriella Jones Violin
  • Laurie Anderson Viola
  • Eoin Schmidt-Martin Viola
  • Oscar Holch Viola
  • Ali Vennart Viola
  • Gabriella Swallow Cello
  • Matthew Sharp Cello
  • Rowena Calvert Cello
  • Sam Becker Double Bass/ Bass Guitar/ Bass Synth
  • Leif Lidstrom Piano/ Rhodes
  • Ben Dawson Piano
  • Lysandre Ménard Piano
  • Elsa Bradley Marimba/ Vibraphone/ Glockenspiel
  • Olivia Jageurs Harp
  • Sam Wilson Percussion
  • Alasdair Malloy Glass Harmonica
  • John Metcalfe Percussive Sounds

Jess Gillam’s last single before the full album, is released today (4-9-20).

“It’s ‘On the Nature of Daylight’ by Max Richter – an absolutely stunning piece and the most emotional to record on the album. It has an incredible luminescent quality and a huge thank you to to the ensemble – Roberts, Michael, Laurie, Eoin, Matthew, Gabi and Sam for playing so beautifully. I really hope you enjoy it”. 

I’m very excited to announce my new single ‘Transit of Venus’, out now! The piece is originally by Joby Talbot who you might know as the composer of the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) film soundtrack.

The piece is from a project called ‘Once Around the Sun’ which is inspired by the year long cycle of the transit of the earth around the sun, and Joby composed one piece a month for the project. I was first introduced to this piece by my Dad who loves Joby Talbot’s music and its ethereal beauty has inspired me ever since!

We recorded Transit of Venus in RAK Studios on day two of the three-day recording process. Other tracks recorded that day include the Philip Glass, Brian Eno and Björk pieces which I can’t wait for you to hear! 

You can watch Jess in conversation with Joby Talbot here:

New single out now – “Orbit” by Will Gregory

“Orbit” is a brand new piece by Will Gregory from Goldfrapp and has been written especially for the album. It’s for string quartet, bass synth and marimba and it has such a great groove and feel!

Will says of the piece “Orbit is a circular journey presenting different facets of the same underlying view… being by turns subtle and crude, rational, then cajoling, then pleading”.

Big thanks to Roberts, Michael, Laurie, Gabi, Sam and Elsa (queen of that marimba part!) for playing with such fire and I really hope all of you reading this like the track!

You can use this link to download or listen to “Orbit”.

New single out now – ‘Suspirium’ by Thom Yorke 

” I have listened to Radiohead and Thom Yorke’s voice since I was very young so recording this was a brilliant experience. This song was written as part of the soundtrack for the horror film ‘Suspiria’ – it is dripping with melancholy yet it has such a strangely hypnotic and beautiful quality.

In this arrangement by Benjamin Rimmer, the song almost feels like folk music and I absolutely loved trying to replicate the tragic romance of Thom Yorke’s voice. There is a line in the lyrics, ‘all is well, as long as we keep spinning’, that really resonated with me and seems even more relevant in these strange times.  I recorded it at RAK Studios with my brand new ensemble! Thank you to Robert, Laurie, Leif and Gabi for playing it so expressively.”

You can use this link to download or listen to ‘Suspirium’

Following her debut album RISE, which reached No.1 in the UK Classical chart, Classic BRIT Award-winning saxophonist Jess Gillam releases TIME on Friday 25 September on Decca Classics.

Physical pre-order is available from today and the first single, Luke Howard’s Dappled Light – written especially for Gillam – is available for streaming and download from today. Pre-order and single downloads are available from this link 

Jess Gillam says:
I am so excited to announce I have a new album, TIME, which is going to be released on 25th September and the first single is out now!  I have been bursting with excitement about this project and I am so happy I can finally share the news with you – it has been such a special album and I have recorded my all time favourite concerto Where the Bee Dances by Michael Nyman. This first single is a new commission by the brilliant Luke Howard called ‘Dappled Light’. It’s a stunning musical reflection on early dawn, I felt as though I was echoing birdsong when I recorded the saxophone line! A huge thanks to Luke Howard for writing this piece. I’ve recorded it with a brand new ensemble – the ‘Jess Gillam Ensemble’, made up of some close friends and just all round lovely people and recording with them was one of the best experiences of my life. The whole album is called ’TIME’ and it mirrors the arc of energy in a passing day and the constant orbit of our existence. I don’t think I could be more excited to share it with you so I really hope you enjoy the first single! Thanks to Leif, Elsa, Laurie, Sam and Gabi for playing so beautifully.

Last year I moved to London and quickly became acutely aware of the speed and intensity of life. Everything is in constant orbit: I am orbiting around the world as a musician, there’s the orbit of a day, of thoughts around the mind and I noticed how many people are looking for a place to stop and reflect.

I began thinking about this and wanted to create an album which gives the listener space in which to immerse themselves and perhaps give them a moment away from the world as it is right now. I listen to and love such a huge array of music so the album’s influences range from classical to techno and minimalism to alternative pop! 

To me, music can be completely transformative and the experience of watching a live performance or sitting down to listen to an album is one of the only places in modern life where we can completely focus on what is happening before us with no distractions. There are no screens, no instant messaging, just a sense of direct communication. It’s something that requires patience but can be utterly life-affirming.”

You can download a press release here.

Following the uplifting debut of the Jess Gillam Virtual Scratch Orchestra, Classic BRIT award-winning saxophonist Jess Gillam invites singers and instrumentalists of any standard once again to come together and play music virtually with her. The second track will be Let it Be by The Beatles: the deadline for video submissions is Wednesday 27 May at 5pm BST and the video will be premiered on Saturday 6 June at 5pm BST. All audios will be used in the final video.

The Orchestra first performed David Bowie’s Where Are We Now? and it was made up of 934 musicians playing a variety of different instruments, from 26 countries with an age range of 6 to 81. You can watch it here.

Jess Gillam says: “I am very excited to launch the second project for the Virtual Scratch Orchestra!  I’d like to say a huge thank you once again to all of those who participated in the Where are We Now project, I was extremely moved to see so many entries and I was overwhelmed by the performances and messages of unity.  

Our second track will be Let it Be by the Beatles – a song universally known and loved. To me, the message the song holds is very pertinent for the time we find ourselves in; it’s one of togetherness, positivity and love. Paul McCartney had a dream that his mother (Mary), who had sadly passed away, came to him to reassure him that everything was going to be ok and to ‘let it be’. His mum had been a nurse, so I hope that this project can express a deep gratitude to the NHS and all of those working tirelessly to keep us safe. 

The Virtual Scratch Orchestra is open to anybody of any ability, any instrument. We have parts specifically designed for beginners and also parts for singers. I really hope you may be able to join us!

For full instructions and to download parts and click tracks, please visit the ‘Let it Be’ page.

A copy of the latest press release can be downloaded HERE.

Today Classic BRIT award-winning saxophonist Jess Gillam launches the Jess Gillam Virtual Scratch Orchestra. She is inviting musicians of any standard to come together and play music virtually with her, giving the first performance online on Friday 17 April.

Jess Gillam said: ‘For me, music is all about people! People uniting, people sharing and people listening. At a very difficult time, when it is not currently possible to be physically together to share and make music, hopefully this is a way in which we can create something together from afar. ‘Where Are We Now?’ is one of my favourite songs by David Bowie. It’s hauntingly beautiful and seems very appropriate as we all reflect on the world and what is happening around us. This is the first song he released after a long period of silence in 2013.’

Find out more here – https://www.jessgillamsax.co.uk/virtual-scratch-orchestra/