Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jess Gillam's World

Part 3

“Stage animal”
– BBC Young Musician 2014

This weekend, I have spent two days filming a music video for “The Sky’s the Limit”, a piece written for me by renowned saxophonist and composer Barbara Thompson.  Barbara and her husband, Jon Hiseman, came up to the Lake District for three days with Asue Azar to film me playing the piece in various locations with stunning scenery.
“The Sky’s the Limit” was written for me to perform at the World Saxophone Congress in July and is a piece for alto saxophone, piano and strings. Barbara says, It leads the saxophone into groundbreaking areas while retaining melodic and rhythmical elements. The saxophone is a very exciting instrument to write for because it has so many variations of tone and colour and the player can make his or her sound unique. It is a real treat to write a piece for such a talented young 17-year-old saxophonist, and I hope this will be the first of many collaborations”.
Jess with Barbara Thompson
Filming the video was a very interesting experience and I enjoyed learning about how this world works and it also gave me a chance to appreciate the natural beauty of where I come from. However, I was a little nervous playing on the top of a crag looking over Windermere – I wasn’t expecting an audience and people were gathering round to see what was happening! The sound in open air just did not travel no matter how much I attempted to project and make the sound sing. I began playing saxophone when I was 7 in the Barracudas carnival band so I am quite used to playing on the streets but this was quite different – no PA and no buildings for the sound to bounce off meant I could only produce a very dead sound. This meant I had to think about all other elements of playing a piece of music a lot more because I knew there wasn’t very much I could do about the sound projection so I considered rhythmic accuracy, dynamic control, vibrato control and articulation in a much more meticulous way than I usually do but the performance was not comparable to one indoors where all of these elements can be projected!

Jess playing to the elements!
We also filmed at Birkrigg Common, very close to where I live. Jon asked me to stand on the trig point and this was quite a scary place to perform the piece – I am very clumsy at the best of times and playing without being able to move took a lot of concentration! 
Working with Barbara and Jon has been a truly inspirational experience – they are both so dedicated and passionate about what they do and really live and breathe music. They have both had very successful and varied careers and listening to their anecdotes and stories about gigs and the lengths they used to have to go to even just to record music is fascinating! Barbara has inspired me with her music since I was 12 years old and to now be working with her is quite a surreal experience! 8 years ago, Barbara was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and the way she continues, still composing and creating music, is quite unbelievable.
Jess at Windermere
Jon is now editing the video and it will be released on YouTube once the editing and recording has been completed.
I have also spent a lot of time this month practicing the Malcolm Arnold Saxophone Concerto as I will be performing it with the Worthing Symphony Orchestra in October at the Malcolm Arnold Festival in Northampton and at the Worthing Assembly Hall. Preparing a concerto is something I really enjoy and trying to connect information about a composer with the themes and moods in their music is fascinating and I am really looking forward to performing the piece.


Worthing Symphony Orchestra
Sunday 11th & Sunday 18th October @ 2.45pm

Malcolm Arnold Festival

John Harle Concert - Friday 13th November @ 7.30pm
Follow Jess Gillam on Facebook
Follow @jessgillamsax on Twitter

Yanagisawa Saxophones UK

Vandoren UK

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