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Gabriel Jackson is one of the most popular British composers of our time. He is particularly successful within the choral genre. His works are featured on more than 70 recordings and have been performed not only in Europe and the USA, but also in cities such as Campine Grande, Taipei, Skálholt, Ho Chi Minh City, Hamilton, Kiev and Kuwait.
Jackson sang for three years in the choir of the Canterbury Cathedral before beginning his composition studies at the Royal College of Music with Richard Blackford and John Lambert. As a student, Jackson received several prestigious awards, including the Theodore Holland Award in 1981 and the R.O. Morris Prize for Composition in 1981 and 1983.
More recently, Jackson has also won a number of awards including a win in the liturgical category of the British Composer Awards in 2003 withO Doctor optim and two prizes in the choral category in 2009 withThe Spacious Firmament and in 2012 withAirplane Cantata.
Leading choral ensembles throughout the world perform Jackson’s music. In Britain alone, Jackson’s liturgical works have become part of the standard repertoire of most cathedral and collegiate choirs. He also frequently collaborates with prestigious choral groups. He worked with the BBC Singers from 2010 to 2013 as the Associate Composer. During this time, he composed a number of major works for the BBC Singers such as the prize-winningAirplane Cantata(2011) with texts by pilots such as Orville Wright and Amelia Earhart. This piece was a result of Jackson’s fascination with flight. The four-movement Choral Symphony(2011) is the other major work Jackson composed for the BBC singers.
While active as the Associate Composer of the BBC Singers, Jackson still found time to compose works for other choirs. Most notable isTo the Field of Stars (2011), a 34-minute work for mixed chorus, cello and percussion. The texts of famous poets such as Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are used. This grand work was commissioned by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus, the Netherlands Chamber Choir and St Jacobs Chamber Choir, Stockholm and was premiered in October 2011 in the St Jacobs Church in Stockholm under the direction of Gary Graden.
Gabriel Jackson is perhaps one of the most prolific composers of today. His choral output alone consists of more than 100 works. In 2014 he wrote nine new works, in 2015 six works and as of November of 2016 he has written another four choral works. Not only has Jackson written many pieces, they are also of a very high quality. HisNomine Domini (2010) received much attention at the prestigious BBC Proms. The choral works include prayers, theRequiem (2008) and two Masses—Missa Triueriensis (2005) and Missa Sanctae Margaretae (2010)—and many more sacred and secular works.
Jackson’s vocal output is also vast, as he has been composing vocal pieces since 1988. Many of the works are for four to five solo voices while many more are for solo voice with an accompanying instrument. Perhaps most interesting is the combination of mezzo-soprano and vibraphone inAfternoon Thunderstorm (1994).
In addition to the 2011 Airplane Cantata, Jackson has composed a number of works that relate to his interest in aviation, eventually creating a series of works connected to the ‘miracle of powered flight’. These includeA Vision of Aeroplanes(1997) for choir, The White Bird (1997) for Eb clarinet and piano, Luna 21 in the Sea of Serenity(2003) for oboe, clarinet, viola and harp, LM-7: Aquarius(2006) for saxophone quartet and Flying solo (2016) for soprano and alto voices with alto saxophone, bass clarinet, trumpet and piano. Along with aviation, Jackson is also inspired by the conceptual artists Richard Long, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Yoko Ono.
While his vocal and choral output is huge, Jackson has also composed a Piano Concerto (2009) for piano and small orchestra andDoonies Hill Antiphon (2010) for string orchestra. Both works were commissioned by the Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts and premiered under the baton of George Vass at St Andrew’s Church in Presteigne, Wales.
Jackson’s chamber music output, while considerably smaller than his choral output, is growing steadily. His first chamber work was theBlack and White Trio (1989) for violin, clarinet and piano and his most recent work in the genre is theAria for Joel and Vicki (2015) for tenor saxophone and organ. The Aria has a dedication ‘To Joel Garthwaite and Vicki Adams on their wedding day’. Substantial works within this category include the three string quartets, No. 1: From Schiphol to Shannon(1992), No. 2: Ring of Waves (1995) and No. 3 Llanandras Melodies(2007). Expanding upon the string quartet, Jackson also composed the clarinet quintetIn Prairial and Thermidor (1995) for clarinet and string quartet.
In addition to the chamber music, Jackson has written more than 20 solo instrumental works, mostly for keyboard instruments. Of the solo works, 11 are for piano, 5 for organ, two for guitar and one each for harpsichord, clarsach (chromatic harp), clarinet and cello. Many of the piano works were commissioned by Thalia Myers while the guitar pieces were composed for the International Guitar Foundation.
Some notable premieres include the 2014 premiere of the hour-long The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christfor the 750th anniversary of Merton College, Oxford at the college chapel followed by a performance in New York.
The next year, Jackson’s Spring Rounds for soprano, choir and orchestra was premiered at the Latvian National Opera. This work was commissioned by the Riga-based youth choir Kamēr… for the celebration of their 25th anniversary.
Jackson is currently working on many more projects, including a series of choral works for Norwich Cathedral Choir, the St Louis Chamber Chorus, the Royal College of Music Junior Department and the Oslo Cathedral Youth Choir. As if that weren’t enough, he is also working on a chamber opera together with Latvian librettist Kārlis Verdiņš.