Team of six harpists premiere new work by Andy Scott

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Clockwise from top left, Eleanor Turner, Elizabeth Bass, Keziah Thomas, Alex Rider, Lauren Scott, and Sioned Williams will premiere Andy Scott’s new six-movement work Jukebox on May 19.

Six harpists are teaming up to premiere Jukebox, a new multi-movement work for solo harp by composer Andy Scott. The 14-minute suite for pedal harp includes six movements: “RPM,” “Jump,” “Vinyl,” “Groove,” “Stylus,” and “Turntable.” Harpists Lauren Scott, Eleanor Turner, Keziah Thomas, Elizabeth Bass, Alexander Rider, and Sioned Williams will premiere the work on May 19, at 2 p.m. EDT on YouTube. Originally commissioned and premiered by Sioned Williams in 2014, Jukebox consists of six movements and “mirrors the concept of a jukebox playing short singles.” The six movements include:

Six harpists premiere Andy Scott’s new six-movement work on May 19.

RPM – Settling into a groove with rhythms lightly bouncing over a strong pulse, “RPM” was composed in 2020 as an additional movement to Jukebox.
Jump – Angular and bold, this movement refers to the record player arm jumping on the vinyl record and is influenced by the jazz pianist and composer Thelonius Sphere Monk.
Vinyl – Vinyl records were introduced into jukeboxes in the early 1950s. This was an exploratory period in the jukebox history, and musically we “feel our way” in this “single,” via dense and chromatic harmony, with moments of incisiveness alongside more introspective moments.
Groove – Refers to both the music relaxing into a groove, and also the single continuous groove that is found on a vinyl record.
Stylus – Fragile and delicate, “Stylus” has a transparent feel portrayed via the use of harmonics. The point of contact between a record playing device and the vinyl record, the stylus is often made out of sapphire or diamond.
Turntable – This final “single” in Jukebox is rhythmic, bold, and complements the often bright and colorful jukebox exterior design. Titled after the rotating disk that spins the record on a phonograph.

Andy Scott completed Jukebox in 2020 and is commemorating its completion with a YouTube video premiere. Sheet music for the new work is available to download now on Harp Column Music. Sioned Williams tells us more about this unique commission and it’s upcoming premiere.

Tell us about how this commission came about.

On my 60th birthday I commissioned six new works by wonderful English composers in a diverse range of styles, to perform at a recital in the Purcell Room on London’s South Bank. Madness! Six new works in one concert, and each reflecting something unique, and connecting with me for different reasons. I invited Andy to be one of the composers, and I was well aware of the elements of jazz and contemporary styles within his writing.

How did the jukebox concept come to be?

For the aforementioned concert, I chose composers who would write in entirely different styles and characters; I knew Andy could create a suitable piece to remind me of an era in which I was a teenager. Although through most of my childhood I was indulging in traditional Welsh folk music, hymns and classical/orchestral music, jukeboxes were popping up everywhere, bringing color and fun. This was a different type of entertainment which I listened to, so together, we decided on a jazzy, quirky style for this piece.

What was it like to work with Andy Scott on this project?

At the time, I was working with six composers on solo works, as well as  working  as principal harpist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, my research, and more. It was tricky to negotiate time and practicality with all. Andy and I live in different parts of the country, so although we sat together a few times initially, a lot of this work was written and sent to me almost complete; he trusted me, and vice-versa; he also knew I’d flag up anything I found impossible, and we’d sort it.

How would you describe this piece to other harpists?

Great fun and worth the many hours of practice to perfect, as it is difficult technically; one needs a very secure sense of rhythm and cross rhythm/independent hand freedom, and lots of energy, but one needs calm and lush too!

Tell us about the premiere you gave at the Purcell Room in London.

Sioned Williams commissioned Jukebox to commemorate her 60th birthday.

I’ve always been creative and I commissioned many works over about a 50 year period, so I created Sioned’s Spiralling 60th, a concept to get me actively and crazily through the sixth decade of my life. This concert was a highlight of the ‘Spiral’ concept, and The Park Lane Group and the UK Harp Association supported the event. The recital featured words, film and music, with some changes of stage-lighting. Each work was received incredibly well by the supportive full-house, and the element of surprise as each piece emerged was palpable. A premiere is important, but to get the works published and recorded so as to enable others to expand the harp repertoire, is always the main aim, and something I’ve always been happy to share as a legacy.

On May 19 you’re releasing a video premiere of the piece. Can you give us an idea of what to expect?

A thoroughly exciting performance; a brilliant idea from Andy was to write me a new additional movement for Jukebox. This now became the first movement, “RPM,” which I perform. Five great harpists join me—each to play one movement: Keziah Thomas, “Jump;” Lauren Scott, “Vinyl;” Alexander Rider, “Groove;” Elizabeth Bass “Stylus;” and Eleanor Turner “Turntable.” We made a video recording in Temple Studios, outside London. What you’ll experience is the entire piece (now six movements, working well with my ‘Spiralling 60th’ concept!) performed with colorful individual lighting, but no gimmicks. For this, I thank Tim Redpath for videoing and Alex Armstrong-Holding for editing. This will be a world premiere of a performance of “RPM,” and the world video premiere of the entire work, Jukebox.

Where and when can we watch the video premiere?

The performance will appear at 2:00 p.m. EDT. Each harpist will upload the video to their individual websites, YouTube channels, and some on Facebook too. You can watch on my YouTube channel.

If harpists want to get their hands on the sheet music for this piece, where can they find it?

So good to actually have the published music ready, and you can find it at Astute Music, and we’re obviously delighted that the sheet music is also available on Harp Column Music.

Anything else you want to add?

Since this piece has been gratefully given a new lease of life, I thought I would follow up by reminding people of the other works I premiered at my 60th birthday concert, by adding them to my YouTube channel and my website in the next few weeks. Thank you Andy and all five sassy, up-beat harpists for giving me a bit of glitz and glamour, and for sharing this platform with me! Thank you Harp Column for giving us the opportunity to share something which I hope will be part of my legacy; new repertoire for all to enjoy.

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