Jess Gillam's World
“The sound of the future”
– Melvyn Bragg
– Melvyn Bragg
What a month November has been - I have had some unforgettable experiences and have enjoyed myself very much.
At the beginning of the month, I performed at the first ever Cumbria Culture Awards at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. Melvyn Bragg presented the event as he is a cultural icon who is originally from Cumbria. There were varied performances throughout the evening, both musical and spoken word. I performed ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ by Barbara Thompson; the piece she wrote for me to premiere at the World Saxophone Congress. I also performed one of my own compositions. The piece is inspired by a poem entitled ‘Night’ by John Ruskin – an artist, philanthropist and author who spent much of his life at Brantwood (Coniston), just 10 miles from where I live in Ulverston. The piece is written for alto saxophone and live narrator, and at this event I performed it with a backing track. I am currently working on orchestrating the piece which is a very interesting task!
|Jess performing her composition 'Night' with narrator Ross Baxter|
While I performed the piece, I had a watercolour by Ruskin projected onto the screen behind me. I wanted to compose a piece that somehow connects with where I live and where I come from. I am very interested in incorporating and appreciating other art forms and in trying to add extra dimensions to the music and this piece allowed me to do that!
After my performance, Melvyn Bragg said that he felt like he had 'heard the sound of the future'! The Theatre by the Lake was a fantastic venue and perfect for the ceremony. There was a wide range of categories for awards right across the arts – from music to pottery and literature to Arts Venues. I was the youngest of five finalists in the Musician of the Year Category and I am very pleased to say that I won the Award – I was very surprised!
|Jess receiving her award from Melvyn Bragg|
The night after the awards ceremony, I had organised a concert with John Harle, one of the world’s most distinguished saxophonists. This was a concert I had been looking forward to for quite some time and I am still smiling remembering John’s performance! The reason I am inspired by the playing of John Harle is because he conveys such a huge amount of personality. He can mould the saxophone into his own voice and is unbelievably individual. In Ulverston, he performed a wide range of repertoire from Poulenc to Ellington and Bartok to Phil Woods but every single note he played was instantly recognisable as him! His stage presence and the way in which he completely commanded the stage (and the room) meant that the audience was utterly captivated.
|Jess onstage with John Harle|
I performed a support slot before John performed with Steve Lodder and I played the pieces I had commissioned for the World Saxophone Congress – ‘Sopranicity’ by Rob Buckland and ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ by Barbara Thompson as well as my own composition. Then, as an encore, I joined John Harle and Steve Lodder onstage to perform ‘Berlin Tango’. John wrote this piece for the film about the life of Lucian Freud and we performed it with 2 soprano saxes, backing track and piano. I really cannot describe the feeling of performing next to John! It was bursting with energy and felt really quite surreal.
I am very glad that John was able to come and perform in Ulverston; I have wanted him to be a part of my concert series for quite some time and the audience here thought his performance was stunning!
I am now preparing for a busy month in December and looking forward my performances over the festive period. I wish everybody reading this a very Happy Christmas!