Signum Classics SIGCD364
Reaching No.1 in iTunes Classical Album Top 40 Charts
No.3 in the Official Specialist Classical Chart Top 20
“The simple beauty of Cooper’s writing shines through”
“So many musicians and composers have grappled with the strangeness of lockdown: our loss of freedom, the mourning of our loved ones, and the shattering of our personal and professional lives. Julie Cooper’s breathtaking album – beautifully orchestrated and performed, and intimately recorded – brings so many of these feelings to the surface.”
“a powerful monologue about the pandemic by actress Adjoa Andoh…a life-affirming poem…heard alongside looping musical lines and folding figures, quickening its rhythms to the pulse and nuance of the actress’s animated voice”
“‘Contemplation Suite’ takes the listener from dawn to dusk and into sleep, soprano Grace Davidson’s golden voice gilding Cooper’s cinematic music.”
“Life in Stillness” and “Galilean Moons”- composed for left-hand alone pianist Nicholas McCarthy – encapsulate the unnerving calm that many of us experienced, while “The Cold Earth Slept Below,” setting a poem by Shelley, is a stunning lament on the barrenness of winter.
“Highlights include Darkness and Light, full of shifting Philip Glass–like harmonies and oscillations, supported once more by Davidson’s ethereal voice… and the intense lyricism of Gould’s violin”.
“Dusk contains impassioned interjections on solo violin by Elena Urioste alongside luminously floating lines from soprano Grace Davidson… one is constantly reminded in Cooper’s expressively honed music of its power to comfort and inspire in difficult times”.
“Reflective, cinematic, poignant”
CONTINUUM the album
Music by Julie Cooper
As the UK locked down for the 1st time on 26th 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 forever.
I became more conscious of the changing of light and dark in the day and its effect on our circadian rhythms, inspiring a 4-movement suite called the ‘Contemplation Suite’ – ‘Dawn’, ‘Day’, ‘Dusk’, ‘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 complement perfectly 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). ‘Darkness’ was created out of discovering the incredibly insightful quote taken from Martin Luther King’s last speech he made before his assassination in 1968,
“Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars”.
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.
The track ‘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.
The final track to be created ‘Continuum’, written coincidently as we came out of the final lockdown in April 2021, captures the emotions of the long 12-month journey through the lockdowns both musically and through the incredibly moving narrative ‘Hold out the Heart’, written for the track and narrated by the phenomenal talent that is actor Adjoa Andoh.
And so ‘Continuum’ became the natural title track for the album.
‘Continuum’ – Featuring: Adjoa Andoh, Grace Davidson, Elena Urioste & Nicholas McCarthy.
Produced by Jonathan Allen, Conductor Jessica Cottis, The Oculus Ensemble (Leader Clio Gould).
Recorded at Abbey Road and Masterchord Studios.
Gramophone review, by Pwyll Ap Sion:
“…one is constantly reminded in Cooper’s expressively honed music of its power to comfort and inspire in difficult times, echoing WB Yeats’s words: ‘We sing amid our uncertainty.’
Radio WDR (Germany) broadcast of ‘Continuum’ with Kathrin Christians presenting. Broadcast on this radio station on March 19th 2022.
So many musicians and composers have grappled with the strangeness of lockdown: our loss of freedom, the mourning of our loved ones, and the shattering of our personal and professional lives. Julie Cooper’s breathtaking album – beautifully orchestrated and performed, and intimately recorded – brings so many of these feelings to the surface. Narrated by British actor and Bridgerton star Adjoa Andoh, Continuum recalls the eerie periods of stasis, silence, loneliness, and separation, accompanied by a soaring soundtrack.‘Contemplation Suite‘ takes the listener from dawn to dusk and into sleep, soprano Grace Davidson’s golden voice gilding Cooper’s cinematic music.
“Life in Stillness” and “Galilean Moons”– composed for left-hand alone pianist Nicholas McCarthy- encapsulate the unnerving calm that many of us experienced, while “The Cold Earth Slept Below,” setting a poem by Shelley, is a stunning lament on the barrenness of winter.
CONTINUUM the title track
Music by Julie Cooper | Narrative by Adjoa Andoh
By coincidence, I found myself writing the final track of the album as we came out of the final lockdown (hopefully!) in April 2021. The whole year since the 1st 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.