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Jukebox sparks new commissions

An imaginative musical response to Coronavirus lockdown by violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Tom Poster has led to a series of composer commissions, the first of which was premiered yesterday – Mark Simpson’s An Essay of Love.

Urioste and Poster, who married last year, created the #UriPosteJukebox from the first day of lockdown and since then have posted a new performance each day, inspired by suggestions from social media friends and followers. Repertoire has so far ranged from Messiaen, Bach, Fauré and Clara Schumann to Poster’s own arrangements of 1980s pop songs, Stephen Sondheim and nursery rhymes, usually with accompanying dress.

‘The Jukebox has given us an immense sense of purpose, structure, and joy each day’

The project is an enormous undertaking, but Urioste explains why it has been worth it: ‘By and large, the Jukebox has given us an immense sense of purpose, structure, and joy each day. Our original goal was simply to keep our minds sharp, fingers busy, and friends smiling, but it has grown into something we never could have imagined. Tom and I have heard from people in our lives that we hadn’t spoken to in decades, and so many strangers have reached out with messages of kindness and gratitude. Some days, we might not feel as eager to record, but it keeps us plugging along to have a sense of responsibility to our listeners. The general response to musicians staying connected virtually has been a positive one, and we are thankful to be contributing in whatever small way we can.’

The success of the project led Victoria Robey, founder of London Music Masters, with which Urioste has worked for many years, to offer to sponsor composers to write new works for the #UriPosteJukeBox. Urioste says: ‘Victoria reached out to us to enquire whether we might consider using the Jukebox as a platform to showcase new music. Completely by coincidence, Mark Simpson had just a day or two before sent us a sketch of a piece he was writing for us. The timing was incredibly fortuitous, and within a couple days we had contacted some of our favourite composers to see if they might also write for us in these strange times.'

Future premieres will include works by Clarice Assad, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Huw Watkins and Jessie Montgomery, and will be released every five days. Urioste explains their choices: ‘We made a list of our favourite composers (all of whom happened to also be close friends) and wrote to them. This collection of five is not exclusive – there are so many more we’d love to collaborate with. Depending on the length of this lockdown and interest from composers and our public alike, we might get our wish.’

The composers were all sent a brief that their pieces should reflect their own style but also be accessible to a wide range of violinists and pianists. The duo also hopes to include the repertoire in future concerts with their Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective, whose mission is to make chamber music ‘vibrant and inclusive’.

Like previous #UriPosteJukebox performances, the premieres will be available in a number of ways: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or by searching #UriPosteJukeBox. They have also been compiled on Urioste's website.

Urioste and Poster recently released a new album of works for violin and piano by Grieg, To the Spring, on the Orchid Classics label.

Elena Urioste and Tom Poster perform the world premiere of Mark Simpson's An Essay of Love