JAM on the Marsh: VIRTUAL · 6-15 August 2020 (Available to stream online)
JAM on the Marsh: VIRTUAL presents: LONDON MOZART PLAYERS in a World Premiere of
Paul Mealor’s Piano Concerto
and works by other composers
Michael Bawtree · conductor
John Frederick Hudson · piano
Peter Aviss: The Seafarer
Samuel Barber: Adagio for Strings
Bela Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances, Sz.56
Judith Bingham: The Hythe (commissioned by JAM 2012)
Paul Mealor: Piano Concerto (World Premiere 2020)
JAM on the Marsh Festival is an innovative multi-arts event held each July, which fills the medieval churches of Romney Marsh with music and the creative & performing arts. Of course this year festivalgoers have not been able to attend events in person due to the Covid pandemic. However, the stoic organisers at JAM have gone ahead with the festival as a virtual festival, giving us deprived concertgoers a chance to engage with some wonderful music, including special commissions.
Given the festival’s location on marshes encircled by the Kent & Essex coastline, it is apt that the 2020 closing concert, performed in St Leonard’s Church, Hythe, had a distinctly nautical flavour. Indeed, the opening item The Seafarer was composed by Romney-based composer, Peter Aviss. This is a surging piece where rhythm and expansive melody are used to evoke the undulation and swell of the sea.
Barber’s famous Adagio for Strings followed. The excellent London Mozart Players (LMP) delivered a broad performance, although it was perhaps a little lacking in detail and unanimity with the conductor. However, Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances prompted more nuanced playing in a performance which combined poise with rhythmic vitality.
One of the highlights of the concert was Judith Bingham’s The Hythe (Hythe meaning Haven). This is a most approachable piece of British contemporary music: mysterious, evocative, yet at the same time muscular, breathing, and vital. Superb playing by the LMP.
The climax of the concert was the world premiere of a piece specially commissioned for the event, Paul Mealor’s Piano Concerto. Paul is a Welsh-born composer. He is also a Professor of Composition at Aberdeen University. One can distinctly hear the influence of the traditional Celtic music of both Paul’s homeland and of ancient Scottish melodies.
The Piano Concerto is a glorious work – highly accessible and full to the brim of soaring melodies; rich, velvety harmonies; luscious textures; exciting, compelling rhythms & counterpoint; a clearly signposted, easy to comprehend structure; and passages suffused with unapologetic beauty, grace and meaning.
The concerto is through-composed, around twenty minutes in length, and divided into three interlinked sections. In his programme note the composer says:
“Harmonically and gesturally, the piece is ‘coloured’ by four notes from Paganini’s twenty fourth Caprice for solo violin. Always a favourite of mine, it also influenced Rachmaninov in his ‘Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini’. For me, this short quote, which is heard throughout the piece, coming to fruition in the final section, represents time and timelessness – the old melody being almost like one of the ancient churches of the Marsh standing out of time.”
You can experience a full performance of Paul Mealor’s captivating new Piano Concerto at the links above & below. Alternatively, there is a chance to hear the concert live (Covid permitting) on 2nd October 2021 at St Asaph’s Cathedral with John Frederick Hudson (piano) and the NEW Sinfonia conducted by Robert Guy. Later this month there will also be a Podcast with Paul Mealor et al at the (virtual) North Wales International Music Festival on Sunday 28th September at 7.30pm. This will then be available for 28 days at https://nwimf.com/
Click here for link to this virtual performance https://youtu.be/1ELuLAW_3VU