A medieval prayer, Christina Rossetti’s verse for the Feast of the Annunciation, the resourceful sounds of electric guitar, and choral polyphony of unbridled virtuosity coalesce with remarkable integrity in Ave regina caelorum
. There is no sense here of bright creative ideas being forced to conform to the limits of a narrow Procrustean bed; rather, Jackson’s composition celebrates the distinctive qualities of his chosen solo instrument and develops them in a felicitous partnership with contrasting vocal textures and timbres. Shades of Ernie Isley and Eric Clapton sweep over the guitar’s solo outbreaks, together with the twangy sounds of a ‘chicken scratch’ dance riff (as accompaniment to the choir’s ‘Ave domina angelorum’), erotic note bends and seductive glissandos. As so often in his work, Jackson establishes intimacy through the simplicity of his melodic language while building transcendent grandeur through the ingenuity of his part-writing. Jacksonian jouissance leaps from the page with the arrival of the composition’s central ‘Gaude virgo’, the pleasure of which is ultimately spent in an ecstatic guitar cadenza and set in relief by the unaccompanied choir’s four-part close harmonization of ‘Vale, o valde decora’. Although the piece was first performed at the opening of London’s Kings Place concert hall in 2008, its natural habitat must surely be a Byzantine basilica or the fan-vaulted choir of a great cathedral.
from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013