Wensleydale Concert Series

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Andy Jackson, composer and conductor

Website: http://www.andrewandandrew.com/

Andy Jackson

This is not a conventional biography, but Andy Jackson has not really had a conventional musical career. It started in a fairly standard way with classical training (piano lessons, choirboy, youth orchestras, music degree from York University), but then he became interested in world music and travelled to India on a Commonwealth Scholarship to study Hindusthani music.

Back in England he became a folk musician, farmer and village postman before postgraduate study in Ethnomusicology which led to the publication of a school textbook by Cambridge University Press "Instruments around the World" which has sold over 10,000 copies. Further studies into the music of other cultures took him to Portugal with Arts Council and Gulbenkian Foundation funding to learn to play the guitarra portuguesa. He also worked with African choir directors and scratched a living as a performer with ceilidh and jazz bands and as a composer of guitar music under the pseudonym of Gabriel Coorf.

His knowledge of musical systems outside the European tradition has influenced many of his compositions: "Oriental Guitar" (pub. Ricordi) and the extended improvisation for guitar and sitar "The Goose and the Blackbird " reflect these influences directly whilst other pieces such as the brass quintet "For Africa" , the wind quintet "Five Concertinettos" and the "Amber Symphony" for folk instruments and orchestra show passing references to techniques, structures and sometimes even tunes picked up on his travels.

More recently he has survived as a jobbing composer and organiser of extravagant exercises in community music-making like the Cobweb Orchestra and Durham People's Opera Group who performed his opera "Sell By" at Covent Garden's Linbury Theatre in 2001. He considers himself as something of a specialist in writing for amateur performers, seeing no conflict between music being playable by people of a range of abilities and having a social purpose whilst being challenging, serious, fun, meaningful and both player- and listener- friendly.

Audiences are often encouraged to participate in Andy's compositions: in "The Travels of the Little Count" - An Interactive Musical Journey, they were invited to vote on the order of the episodes in the piece and in "Playing with Silence" users of a public library were asked to write their responses to some unexpected musical activities taking place there. Another piece, "Unbearable Beauty Surrounded by Silence" , (more like an art installation than a conventional concert), gave listeners the opportunity of experiencing tiny pieces of live and recorded music projected into a room designed to resemble a temple.

For several years, Andy has been making short films about music with digital artist Anton Hecht. " Spennyopolis - a Symphony for a city", "Orchestrate", "Oz is Us" and "Contraband" all explore the relationship between high art and low life. Their "Undercover Orchestra" - the original flashmob performance for Ravel's "Bolero" - has been watched over half a million times on youtube and won a trip to the House of Lords to pick up a Voluntary Arts England EPIC award. "Kickflick" (a film about football) was created for BBC Radio Cleveland's "Voices" project in 2003 with Manchester-based filmmaker Rowan May.

He also undertakes educational projects and has twice been composer-in-residence for the education programme at the Warwick Festival and has taken up two Performing Rights Society Composer-in-Education awards. His " Listening Courses" in "Classical Music" , "Folk and Ethnic Music" and "Popular Music" for Sussex Publications have proved a valuable resource for secondary music teachers. With his wife, writer Sue Kane, he has written numerous songs, musicals and cantatas for performance by children. The following titles give a flavour of their work: "What a load of rubbish", "Firedance", "Rainbow down our Street", "A Year in a Day" .

For many years the family business Junk Arts Co. instigated countless events creating music out of things that other people throw away and the publication of the book " Junk Instruments" by Random House in 1991 led to a flurry of television appearances making clarinets out of drinking straws and conducting rubbish orchestras.

The random nature of a career as a composer throws up several commissions which do not fit into any neat categories, so here are a few extras to tidy up the back list: The music theatre piece A Dance to the Music of Time was premiered by actor Toby Jones and Northern Sinfonia conducted by Ilan Volkov in 1996. Andy's five extensive works for clarinet and saxophone choir "Calls and Responses", "Songs and Dances", "Stand up Now" "A Meditation on Breath" and "Ear to the Ground" have been performed world-wide by many groups, including the British Clarinet Ensemble. There are several stage works including the Youth Opera " Wyrd Sisters" based on Terry Pratchet's eponymous novel, a Ballad opera with writer Jeremy Warr "The Allotmenteers (love, urban regeneration and vegetables)" and "Goddesses - a musical play about eternity, the lessons of history and the colour of toenail varnish". The cantata " Whispering Stones" was written to celebrate the 900th anniversary of Durham Cathedral in 1994. " Concerto Grosso" for natural horn, lute, recorder and strings was created for Bishop Auckland Early Music Festival in 1998. The "Cocktail Suite" is a series of 12 short pieces inspired by dance music of the early 20th century and originally scored for the unusual ensemble of violin, 'cello, flute, clarinet and horn was later revised for the normal wind quintet line up. Other projects have included collaborating with linguists at Newcastle University to write a piece about language development in young children and "The Gingery Boy" - a narrated story with musical accompaniment. 2012 brought two commissions related to the music of Handel: The "Fireworks Music" inspired "Paraflame", performed to welcome the Paralympic torch to the North East and the "Water Music" inevitably worked its way into "White Water Music", which was played for the Queen at the Tees Barrage as part of her Jubilee tour.

Andy currently lives quietly in County Durham with his wife and when not busy engaged in musical activities can usually be found in the allotment with his wellies, in the kitchen with his pinnie or in the countryside with binoculars. He has given up travelling abroad in search of exotic music and now goes there as often as possible to sit in cafes.