Three Choirs Festival

I have been commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival and the Elgin Master Chorale to write a 45-minute piece for tenor, chorus and orchestra. The texts for this multi-movement piece are by Ha-Nagid, Leopardi, Doris Kareva, Walt Whitman, Kenneth White, St Ambrose and Wallace Stevens. The first performance will be given by Nick Pritchard, the Three Choirs Festival Chorus and the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by David Hill in Worcester Cathedral on 31 July 2020, with the US premiere in November 2021. 

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Outstanding reviews for The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ

The Delphian recording of The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ continues to receive outstanding reviews. It was an ‘Editor’s Choice’ in the April edition of Gramophone magazine, who called it “…an effective, emotionally charged contemporary Passion…”. BBC Music Magazine named it ‘Choral and Song Choice’ in their May/June issue – “…an imaginative, moving and majestic telling of the Passion story that deserves the widest of audiences.” Musicweb described it as “a score of great importance” and “…a compelling, dramatic narrative and a deeply thoughtful series of reflections on the narrative…” while Classical Music Daily called it “Richly imaginative and strikingly coloured…a work of deep spirituality and profound dramatic impact that complements the ecstatic sorrow of the story within a well nigh perfect musical structure. ” For theArtsdesk.com, is was a “…very singable work, one which would take a hard heart not to love…” and Choir and Organ magazine called it “…modern, majestic and deeply moving…”, awarding it the maximum 5 stars in the March/April edition. And for AllMusic it is simply”…the most persuasive setting of the Passion to have appeared in many years.”

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The Sixteen’s 2019 Choral Pilgrimage

Celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year, The Sixteen will include Ave Maria in their 2019 Choral Pilgrimage programme alongside works by James MacMillan, Eric Whitacre, John Tavener and several early Tudor masterpieces. The pilgrimage starts at King’s Place in London on 3 April and continues throughout the year with nearly thirty concerts in all. In advance of the first concert a new CD, An Enduring Voice, containing the entire Pilgrimage programme, will be released on 1 March.

Also available in March is the ORA Singers‘ new recording Desires, which includes I am the Rose of Sharon, originally written for Opus Anglicanum.

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The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ on CD

On 29 March Delphian Records will release the premiere recording of The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Benjamin Nicholas conducts the Choir of Merton College, Oxford (who commissioned the piece for the Merton Choirbook), the Oxford Contemporary Sinfonia and soloists Emma Tring and Guy Cutting. In the first review of the new CD to be published, Choir and Organ magazine has described the work as “Quite unlike any Passion you’ve heard before…modern, majestic and deeply moving.” 

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Stabat mater

Stabat mater, commissioned by The Marian Consort for their 10th anniversary, continues to receive outstanding reviews. The Church Times, writing about the first performance in Merton college Chapel, said ‘Jackson’s musical voice is so bold and fresh that it is essentially his own’ and that ‘Jackson’s great success is that he gives us these — the prolonged anguish and intermittent solace are both palpable — and yet he still manages to preserve an underlying consistency. He controls his material like a Renaissance master. It requires a fine art and meticulous skill to achieve that.’

Gramophone, reviewing the first recording on Delphian Records, wrote that ‘…this 20-minute setting is a major new work from Jackson and an unsettlingly powerful one’ and that ‘…this feels like a modern classic in the making, sensitive and endlessly responsive to the text.’

BBC Music Magazine wrote that ‘…the curvaceous vocal lines are compromised by anxious melisma, catching the febrility of the raw human emotions experienced by the onlookers’ and for Musicweb, ‘…Jackson’s setting of the great medieval poem is a very fine one indeed. As I’ve come to expect with this composer, he writes most imaginatively and sympathetically for the voices – ten singers are used here – and at every turn his music seems to complement and enhance the words marvellously.’ 

BBC radio 3’s Record Review called the Stabat mater ‘devastatingly beautiful’ and ‘a major new addition to the canon.’

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The Marian Consort

The first track on the latest CD by the Marian consort, Music for the Queen of Heaven is my Salve Regina, written for Truro Cathedral Choir seventeen years ago. I have been commissioned to write an extended Stabat mater for the 10th anniversary of the Marian Consort; the first performance will be at Merton College, Oxford next Spring and the piece will be recorded by Delphian Records.

Also released this month is the 10th recording of The Christ-child, by the MDR Rundfunkchor under Philipp Ahmann.

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Summer premieres in Latvia

On 30 July Agnese Urka, Dārta Treija, Christopher Walsh and Eduards Fiskovičs will give the first performance of Exile Meditations at the Latvian National Railway Museum in Rīga.  The half-hour piece sets texts by four of the so-called ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ poets (Latvian post-war displaced persons who eventually settled in New York) and three present-day Middle Eastern refugee writers.

On 22 August Arvydas Kazlauskas and the State Choir “Latvija” under Māris Sirmais will premiere Ave maris stella (combining the medieval Latin hymn with a contemporary poem by Anna Rancāne) at St Gertrude Old Church in Rīga.

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Spring recordings

New releases this Spring include the premiere recording of Our flags are wafting in hope and grief (with words by Doris Kareva about the Singing Revolution in the Baltic States) on the debut disc from new young choir Sansara; the Exon Singers‘ 50th Anniversary disc on new label Rubicon Classics features Ave Maria alongside other commissions for the choir; the Vancouver-based Phoenix Chamber Choir include Not no faceless Angel and the sixth recording of To Morning on their latest CD, and the Choir of the Queen’s College, Oxford, include Ecce venio cito on their Signum Records disc A new heaven.

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Vox Clara CD reviews

Vox Clara, released earlier this year on Regent Records, continues to garner excellent reviews. It was an ‘Editor’s choice’ in the November issue of Gramophone magazine, who called it ‘heart-stoppingly gorgeous’ and a ‘glorious release…unbeatable’. The Sunday Times wrote of ‘an irresistible allure’ and The Observer of ‘a stunning set of Advent Antiphons and a wonderfully lithe and sinuous Cantate Domino.’ Choir and Organ magazine called it ‘a refreshingly different disc’ and MusicWeb said ‘The disc is full of imaginatively crafted music which gives further evidence of why Gabriel Jackson is so highly regarded as a choral composer.‘  

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Atomos Saxophone Quartet

The brand-new Atomos Saxophone Quartet, based in Rīga, will include LM-7: Aquarius in their debut concerts in November. The first performance on their mini-tour of Latvia will be at the Valmiera Musuem on 15 November, followed by concerts at the New Castle in Cēsis on 16 November, Liepāja Museum on 17 November and Birojnīca in Rīga on 20 November. LM-7: Aquarius was commissioned by the Lunar Saxophone Quartet and first performed by them in 2006.

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September recordings

Three new recordings are released this month. Untitled (for Robert Irvine), my contribution to cellist and very old friend Robert Irvine‘s Songs and Lullabies collection in aid of UNESCO is on DelphianNowell sing we, originally commissioned by Truro Cathedral Choir, is the title track of the second album from young American professional choir Brevitas. And The Sixteen, on their own label Coro, release the 9th commercial recording to date of The Christ-child.

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New concerto

I am one of the first nine composers to receive a grant from the PRS Foundation‘s Composers Fund (in assoctaiona with the Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation). This will enable me to compose a substantial piece for alto saxophone, strings and percussion. Stone.Water.Sound. will have its premiere performances in Tallinn and Riga.

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To the Field of Stars

To the Field of Stars continues to get oustanding reviews. Musicweb calls it “an important, richly imagined work” in their review of the premiere recording, by co-commissioners S:t Jakobs Kammarkör. A second recording has just been released, by the Nonsuch Singers, who gave the UK premiere of the piece in 2014. The new CD on Convivium Records also includes Creator of the Stars of Night and music by Byrd, Victoria, Arvo Pärt & Jonathan Dove.

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New recordings

CD releases this winter include the fifth recording to date of To Morning, by the Rodolfus Choir on Signum, two commissions from the choir of the Immaculate Conception, Farm St., and an iTunes single of A Prayer of King Henry VI by the New London Singers. Next Spring will see the release of Fantasia with Anniversary Chorale, by guitarist Tom Kerstens, the second recording of the half-hour To the field of stars by the Nonsuch Singers under Tom Bullard, and a disc of my work (with lots of premiere recordings) by Truro Cathedral Choir on Regent Records.

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London International A Cappella Choir Competition

As well as being featured composer at this year’s London International A Cappella Choir Competition, I shall be joining Mark Williams, Lionel Meunier and Peter Phillips as a judge at the final on September 26th. The competition, at St John’s Smith Square in London, involves seven choirs from the UK and beyond and the week begins with the Tallis Scholars‘ 2000th concert  which will include Ave Dei patris filia, commissioned by the group for their 40th anniversary in 2013.

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Airplane Cantata at the RAF Museum

In a special concert to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the BBC Singers, with Rex Lawson (pianola) and conducted by Martyn Brabbins, will perform Airplane Cantata along with other aviation-inspired pieces by Bob Chilcott, Edward Cowie and George Antheil. The concert on 18 September will take place in one of the hangars at the RAF Museum in Hendon.

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