Opera + Classical Music Features

Spotlight: 10 Years of JAM

JAM – The John Armitage Memorial trust – celebrates its tenth anniversary with the BBC Singers this year. The organisation set up to promote new music in 2000 will hold a number of concerts and initiatives during 2010, titled “JAM 10 years on”, to mark this milestone.

To begin the celebrations, in March, JAM is joining forces with Radio 3 and revisiting its first two commissions, by Jonathan Dove and Timothy Jackson, in concerts in London and Kent. Headlining the concert will be The Night’s Untruth, a co-commission with US-based VocalEssence from Tarik O’Regan his first British world premiere for several years.

O’Regan comments “This piece explores the use of sleep as metaphor by dint of excerpts from poems written in the 17th to 20th centuries. Death, love, fear, ecstasy, isolation, dreaming and rest are all textual “variations” on the “theme” of sleep and can be found in the chosen texts. The work’s title is taken from a poem by Samuel Daniel (1562-1619) and speaks to the composition’s focus on sleep as a parallel, possibly dystopian, existence to the one experienced in our waking hours.”

In this extraordinary year, underlining its philosophy of nurturing up-and-coming composers, JAM has also commissioned works from Hannah Kendall and Richard Peat, both of whom have been successful submitters to JAM in past years. Typically each year JAM commissions a major work from an established composer and has a call for new works to be submitted from the lesser known. From those submitted, a number are chosen to make up the annual concert programme which tours the UK, accompanying the commission.

JAM will present this programme of commissions at St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street (25th March) and St. Leonard’s Church, Hythe, Kent (26th March) with the latter being recorded for broadcast on Radio 3.

Over ten years, JAM has performed over 50 new works for choir, brass and organ all over the country. It has commissioned some of the UK’s most important living composers including Judith Bingham, Jonathan Dove, Adam Gorb, Gabriel Jackson, Timothy Jackson, Steve Martland, John McCabe, Tarik O’Regan and Paul Patterson. In doing so it has vastly increased the repertoire for these forces. In 2006 Judith Bingham’s JAM commission My Heart Strangely Warm’d won a British Composer Award, and last December Gabriel Jackson’s The Spacious Firmament, also commissioned by JAM, repeated the feat.. Collaborating with Vocal Essence is JAM’s first international initiative.

JAM Chairman Edward Armitage comments: “There seems to be something so right about returning to our first two amazingly successful commissions, for JAM’s tenth birthday. In a normal year we commission one major piece, whereas this year we are commissioning three (O’Regan, Kendall & Peat) and performing five. That Tarik (O’Regan), one of the country’s most accomplished and popular composers for the voice has agreed to write for us is the icing on the cake.”

Tarik O’ Regan comments: “JAM is a vital organisation that fosters a furthering of the canon of existing chamber works by the commissioning of new compositions. I’m very excited to be working with JAM as I believe it is precisely this kind of rare patronage which is capable of maintaining the relevancy of contemporary music to audiences, performers and composers today.”

For more details about JAM, the concerts and to book tickets please go to jamconcert.org

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