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Julie Cooper (b?)

Continuum & other works

The Oculus Ensemble, Jessica Cottis (conductor) Detailed performer information
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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Label: Signum Classics
Recording details: June 2021
Abbey Road Studios, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Jonathan Allen
Engineered by Jonathan Allen
Release date: February 2022
Total duration: 62 minutes 41 seconds

An album of contemplation from the award-winning British composer Julie Cooper.

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As the UK locked down for the first time on 26 March 2020, I was struck by a heightened awareness of an unnerving stillness and eerie silence in our surroundings like never experienced before. The earth and skies became still and empty but the cycle of nature flourished, embracing the standing still of humans. Through trying to find a way of understanding the situation and dealing with the emotions and anxieties involved, I was inspired to find a voice through music by creating a musical diary in the form of an album.

Little did we know then we were about to experience a pandemic that would change our lives for ever.

I became more conscious of the changing of light and dark in the day and its e!ect on our circadian rhythms, inspiring a 4-movement work called the Contemplation Suite—‘Dawn’, ‘Day’, ‘Dusk’ and ‘Dream’.

The simplicity in the sound of dawn breaking conjured for me a duet between a solitary violin and piano, the album’s producer Jonathan Allen suggested the acclaimed violinist Clio Gould not only as a talented leader for the chamber orchestra but also to duet with me on ‘Dawn’.

In ‘Day’ I wanted to create a simple theme on piano that takes you through the cycle of the day, almost fugal as it passes between the chamber orchestra in various guises on its journey before resting at dusk. ‘Dusk’ and ‘Dream’ feature the uniquely pure and ethereal voice of Grace Davidson, whom I had worked with previously on the track Light, premiered by Grace back in 2018 at St Martin-in-the-Fields and later featuring on an album for film and television I recorded at Abbey Road in 2019.

As musicians’ diaries and incomes were devastatingly wiped out, some incredible remote performances and recordings started to emerge on various streaming sites, and I came across a daily performance by the wonderful violinist Elena Urioste. I felt the emotive richness of her tone would perfectly complement the haunting vocal of Grace, so ‘Dusk’ evolved as a duet between violin and soprano with chamber orchestra.

Now with new-found time to read, my discovery of the beautiful poem Dream Land by Christina Rossetti lent itself perfectly as a lyric for ‘Dream’ and the atmospheric, chilling text of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem The cold earth slept below inspired a winter’s lament of the same name, both sung by Grace Davidson.

The collection of tracks that emerged over the next 12 months drew inspiration from my favourite Muses, the Greek goddesses Ourania (the Muse of Astronomy, Vision and Imagination), for a duet with the distinguished cellist Justin Pearson, and Calliope for chamber orchestra (the Muse of Epic Poetry and Story-telling).

In August 2020 as concert halls remained closed, in a quest to support artists the Royal Albert Hall created a remote concert series from artists’ homes—the ‘Royal Albert Home’ series. This included the inspirational left-hand alone concert pianist Nicholas McCarthy, who performed the piece Galilean Moons previously commissioned by Nicholas from me for a concert tour in November 2019. Life in stillness is the second piece he performs on the album, inspired by the Pablo Neruda poem Keeping Quiet which I also came across in lockdown.

By coincidence, I found myself writing the final track of the album as the UK came out of lockdown in April 2021. The whole year since the first lockdown had felt like a continuum, a repeating sequence with tiny changes over time yet still not over.

In January 2021, I heard an amazing piece broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, written and spoken by the extraordinarily talented actor Adjoa Andoh, ‘Moments of Light’ real talk, an emotional monologue about the pandemic. Her words and mesmerising voice rang in my head as the track was developing, I could hear Adjoa narrating over the music creating a soundtrack to the pandemic.

Adjoa and I had met on an audition for our very first professional job in our early 20s, touring together for 3 years and staying friends, so the overwhelming ‘yes’ from Adjoa to write the narrative and record it for the track was such a momentous moment for me and completed the album’s creative journey.

Working with a demo of the track, she created the incredibly moving narrative Hold out the Heart, impeccably timed to the ebb and flow of the music and capturing the essence and emotions of the pandemic lockdowns with unbelievable accuracy.

And so between us Continuum was born and became the obvious title track for the album.

The album was produced by Jonathan Allen, recorded in London in June 2021 at Abbey Road Studio 2 and conducted by the acclaimed conductor Jessica Cottis. The small ensemble and solo tracks were recorded at Masterchord Studio and the narrative recorded by Adjoa Andoh at ID Audio.

Julie Cooper © 2022

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