Amazing tribute to Norfolk music legend

Andrew Jackman with Michael Crawford and Barbra Streisand

Andrew Jackman with Michael Crawford and Barbra Streisand - Credit: EDP / Archant 2003

Music written by a Norfolk composer for some of the biggest names in rock and pop and classical music are part of the soundtrack of a year-long tribute, orchestrated by his family, writes ROWAN MANTELL.

Composer and musician Andrew Jackman would have been 70 this year, his family are marking the occasi

Composer and musician Andrew Jackman would have been 70 this year, his family are marking the occasion by creating a year in music, celebrating all his achievements.l-r Becca Jackman her husband Ralph, their daughter Esme Rose and Ellie Jackman surrounded by some of Andrew Jackman's memorabillia. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

Composer Andrew Jackman worked with musicians ranging from Barbra Streisand to the Sex Pistols, and world-class symphony orchestras to international pop stars. And on a Sunday he would play the organ for worshippers at his local village church.

Andrew would have been 70 this year, but died of a massive heart attack aged just 57. Now his family is orchestrating a huge tribute to the Norfolk composer, arranger and conductor, with his music being played in concert halls, churches and schools across the country, and abroad.

He worked with international stars including Elkie Brooks, Lesley Garrett, Gary Barlow, and Elton John and conducted many major orchestras. He arranged the music, and conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, in the hugely successful Classic Rock series, composed for films including American Werewolf in London, and in 1997 orchestrated Finale, Rhythm of my Heart, for the ceremony marking the handover of Hong Kong. As the British flag was lowered for the final time, it was Andrew's music which accompanied the pictures broadcast around the world.

He arranged the Phantom of the Opera song The Music of the Night for Barbra Streisand and Michael Crawford, Written In The Stars for Elton John and LeAnn Rimes, and The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle for the Sex Pistols. And when Terry Wogan sang The Floral Dance, it was an arrangement written by Andrew.

But Andrew was not only a gifted and successful musician on the world stage. He lived in Tivetshall St Margaret, near Diss, and many of his pieces of music have Norfolk titles, including Broadland Day and the New Buckenham Suite, for brass bands, and The Tivetshall Carol, written for the children of Tivetshall School.

The house where he and his wife, Diane, brought up their family, is now home to their son Ralph, and his wife and young daughter. Diane, and her children Ralph, Henry and Ellie, are asking as many musicians as possible to play a piece of Andrew's music during his 70th birthday year – and send the family a programme, or audio or video clip.

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Ralph explained the commemoration and celebration was his mother's idea. 'Immediately I knew it was wonderful. Losing dad when I was 21, I miss him terribly, and this has been a brilliant venture, to remember him, learn about him, hear his talent and bring together musicians.

'I know that at times it's been tough for mum, pulling together the photographs, and all the paperwork. But now, his work is digitised - brilliant outcome number one. Some more has been published - brilliant outcome number two. And people are playing it - the best outcome of all!'

Andrew wrote hundreds of tunes for orchestras, bands and choirs and was composing new music right up to his death.

His tunes have featured in church services, orchestral concerts, band sessions and school performances during his 70th birthday year, and on Saturday, September 10, a whole day of music making is planned in St Mary's Church, Gissing, the neighbouring village to Tivetshall.

Andrew was the church organist at Tivetshall but also played at Gissing. His piece The Bread and the Wine has been played in church services across Norfolk.

For Ralph, some of the absolute highlights so far have involved family connections.

'Andrew's brother, former King's Singer Jeremy Jackman, led a course at Sherborne Summer School, where one of dad's pieces was sung at the last evensong in Wimborne Minster,' he said. 'My cousin Polly, a soprano with a beautiful voice, will be singing pieces in London this Christmas with the choir she's in.'

Ralph was head chorister at Taverham Hall School before going on to Gresham's School and the choirs of both schools will be performing some of Andrew's music.

The family are also finding pieces of music they had not known existed, including a composition for a harp, and a song for a male voice choir, written for a Christmas play in Banham.

Other music is being published for the first time, including a piece called Dicta Florum, or the Language of Flowers, for recorders, harpsichord, and an optional narrator.

There is also a solo violin piece called A Study in Scarlet which Ralph describes as 'the sort of music Sherlock Holmes might have played while contemplating a knotty problem.'

Music runs through the Jackman family. Andrew's father, Bill, was a musician too, playing with jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie, and on the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper album.

Today Ralph writes historical novels for teenagers at the desk where his father made music.

His brother, Henry, writes film scores in Hollywood, with credits including Captain Phillips, Captain America, X-Men: First Class.

He is helping Andrew's brother, Jeremy, form a choir to sing Andrew's arrangement of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – to be recorded by Andrew's other brother, Gregg.

'A true family affair. I can't wait. I remember as dad composed that piece, he would interrupt whatever I was doing and summon me to the music room to hear a phrase, a bar or two. I've never heard it performed, but I know it will be stellar,' said Ralph.

Ralph's very favourite pieces of his dad's music are the orchestral pieces Slow Tears, Hollywood Fantasy and Love Song. 'Also, as a child growing up, I did enjoy the Classic Rock series. I remember inflicting that on my cousins in my Rover Metro!' he said. He used Slow Tears to help promote his first novel and said: 'So many people have commented on the music, that's been brilliant. To have dad supporting my attempts with one of his best pieces is something I could never have dreamed of.'

At the music day in Gissing this month Ralph will be singing a duet with his sister Ellie. Earlier this year she reprised a song her father wrote more than 25 years ago, for her to sing in a music exam, beginning with an introduction designed to steady the nerves.

And last weekend came a special moment, when the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra performed Slow Tears at the 'Symphony Spectacular' Concert at Taverham Hall.

'It was absolutely fantastic. An eternal memory for the family, and 3,000 people listening to the first performance of that orchestral piece,' Ralph said.

As Andrew's music is played and heard again, it is a source of solace, pride and joy for the family and friends who still mourn him, and of discovery and delight for those new to his work.

Ralph said: 'Random but charming highlights include the fact that a retired organist, Simon Arnold, who regularly plays on pianos and organs in several National Trust properties, has been enjoying playing the pieces, particularly Andrew's setting of Amazing Grace. The idea of dad's music filling these historic buildings and bringing the rooms to life is just wonderful.' The National Trust allows visitors who are competent pianists to play in some of their houses. Family friend Daralyn Hammond, who is organising the September 10 celebration has also played Andrew's music in Trust houses and was asked, last year, whether she had anything more rock'n'roll. So she now takes Andrew's A Little Bit Rock'n'Roll with her on visits – and leaves the music behind in the piano stool for others to play.

In his 70th year Andrew's tunes are being embraced in California, on a ship near Copenhagen and by bands, orchestras, choirs and soloists around Britain and particularly in his home county of Norfolk.

It is played by family and friends, and by many hundreds of musicians he never knew, reverberations travelling across the county, country and beyond.

'We just want the music played,' said Ralph. 'Get in touch, and we will send copies of the music. The website has free samples.

'What we would really like is little videos and clips of the performances, but ultimately it's just getting the music played, in someone's room at home, or in a concert.

'Mum's line is, 'Music in a drawer is dead. When the notes float in the air, the music lives.'

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