The past 6 weeks have been super busy for me.
I had a photo shoot, a music video shoot, a cd release concert, a house concert, finished a new song, and hosted company for 10 days during most of that. That doesn’t even include the errands, the meetings, the babysitters (for my kiddos), the late nights, the lack of sleep, the stressing over whether I look good factor, and more.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the house concert was 3 states away, which was a long roadtrip – but very fun.
I’m back in Seattle now. I do have lots coming up still, but I feel like the super busy part is overwith.
Before I share pictures and details about the lat 6 weeks, I thought I would share some good news first.
My new album, “Illumination”, has been receiving some pretty cool reviews. Haven’t heard one negative thing yet *wipes sweat off of forehead*.
Piano Heaven in the UK selected my album as an “award winner” for their site. Stephen Cairns wrote a really lovely review of my album – which you can read here. “Every so often, a CD comes along that blows the listener away with its creativity and quality of music. This is one such CD…The CD is brimming with quality from the very first track to the very last – all seventy-three minutes worth. An outstanding album, and one which I have no hesitation giving my highest recommendation.”
Pandora finally accepted my newest album. In case you missed that whole drama, even though my first two albums have been rotation on Pandora for several years, my newest album was rejected. Pandora was flooded with hundreds of emails from my fans requesting that they add Illumination to their collection, but it was still refused. However, thanks to more fan efforts and the persistence of my promotion company, Evolution, Pandora changed their minds. As an independent artist who appreciates stations like Pandora who support my art and actually pay me for it – this was the best news all year!
This December I’ll be performing with the Evergreen Youth Philharmonic – one of the top youth orchestras on Seattle’s eastside. We will be performing some of the work from Illumination. I’m very excited about this opportunity! I’ve performed with symphonies before but only in the genre of Classical music. Never before have I performed my own original work with a live orchestra. Pinch me please.
I’ve also received some fantastic reviews from Kathy Parsons of MailyPiano.com, Michael Debbage of MainlyPiano.com, David B Davis of Music Notes, RJ Lannan of the Zone Reporter 9who gave me 5 stars, and he rarely gives 5 stars!), and also many local Seattle newspapers.
I was also nominated (2nd year in a row) for the 2012 Hollywood Music in Media Awards for “Best Contemporary Orchestral/Instrumental”, and “Best Film Score for Short/Documentary”. The awards will be November 15th in downtown Hollywood. I’m looking forward to walking the red carpet again and seeing many of my fellow composers/performers.
Illumination also debuted #19 on the top 100 albums on The Zone (New Age Music Reporter) for July. I’m curiously waiting to see how it did for August.
And last but not least, Illumination has been receiving airplay on radio stations across the world. My biggest radio achievements thus far is Music Choice/Soundscapes, and Hearts of Space. I’m currently still waiting to hear about XM/Sirius Satellite. Evolution is also trying to get some of my classical pieces on Classical FM San Francisco and Classical FM Seattle. If you happen to live in either of these cities, it would be great if you would contact these stations and request me.
All right! Now onto the re-cap portion of this blog post…
Moonlight Video Shoot
For the past several months, Swedish singer Viktoria Tocca and I have been working together on a collaboration. For those who don’t know who Viktoria Tocca is, she is a very talented songstress who won my category in the HMMA’s last year for her rendition of “Dark Waltz“. She also has a heavy background in musical theater, where she played the part of Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera for 2 years straight in Denmark. Viktoria and I met after the HMMA’s and became very good friends, and decided to collaborate together on a few projects.
As we are both classical crossover artists, we knew we wanted to do something of that nature. One night while practicing the piano, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in particular, I realized how great this piece would be. I talked to Viktoria about it and she was on board.
So I wrote an arrangement based on themes from the Sonata (though the piano part is quite different). Viktoria’s vocal part actually follows the original melody of the piece. We are both so excited about this piece since this really hadn’t ever been done before (adding vocals to Moonlight Sonata). At least no version we had ever heard. Viktoria wrote the lyrics and recorded her parts in Stockhohm, while I recorded the piano part and some of the violin parts here in Seattle.
While I normally orchestrate most all of my own music, I asked Glen Gabriel (also from Sweden) to orchestrate Moonlight. For those of you who have heard my new album, you’ll recognize Glen from there – as he did a lot of the beats/effects and some of the additional orchestration on the album.
While we have not yet released the song, you can hear it here if you like.
We obviously also decided to film a music video for this while Viktoria would be in the US this summer…
While it is only expected of two blonde female classical crossover musicians to do some sort of flowy-dress fairy-in-the-woods type of video, we decided to do something very juxtaposed to all of that. Director Moses Olson and cinematographer Ali Mohsenian came up with a concept that matched the dark feel of the music. The thing that we both liked about the idea was a) It’s unexpected, and b) while you hear this classical oriented music with Viktoria’s smooth soaring voice – it just glides over the top of the action oriented video.
I have to give them props for coming up with something that would equally feature us both. Being that Viktoria is a singer and I’m a pianist, it is difficult to show the audience that this is not just a “Viktoria Tocca” video, or a “Jennifer Thomas” video – especially with both of us being female leads and having it be an equal collaboration between both of us as artists.
I won’t give the full details of the plot, but it involves a bank heist (Viktoria is the robber), a hideout in a fancy mansion, a good looking man (who played the part of Viktoria’s boyfriend in the video), and me as a cop who ends up on the trail of her. There is also a part of the storyline where you will see that Viktoria and I knew each other before the heist, and that comes into play as well.
We are finishing up the performance shots of me on the piano this Saturday (the 15th), and then we are hoping to have the video edited and ready for release either late October or early November.
The talented Demone Gore and Gretchen Black (seasoned actors) so kind to give me pointers on acting for the city rooftop scene. Gretchen and I were supposed to look like we were discussing the crime, but we were actually discussing what food we were going to eat after the video shoot, and what groceries we needed.
The talented Rick Walters (actor/filmmaker), as our getaway driver….
Demone and I in the bank’s parking garage as we find clues. This was actually a parking garage of an apartment building in downtown Seattle.
One of the getaway scenes with Viktoria and her actor-boyfriend, Chris Hynes – in the boiler room with a bag of $500,000 worth of fake money.
Those shots above are actually stills from the video, but here are some more behind the scenes pics…
Chris Hynes – the actor who played Viktoria’s boyfriend in the video.
Me wearing a faux bullet-proof jacket and trying to figure out how in the world do I wear this thigh holster-thingie??
Our beautiful hair/makeup artist, Noelle Jensen, doing Viktoria’s hair for one of her performance scenes.
Both Viktoria and I in makeup for our first scenes. The other fabulous makeup artist is Jonelle Cornwell.
I also have some behind-the-scenes video footage, but after spending over an hour editing it into a video, my program crashed and sorry, but not starting over now. Maybe later after we film my piano performance shots for the video, I’ll finally put something together.
Photo Shoot with Viktoria Tocca & Jennifer Thomas
Viktoria thought since we were doing some collaborations together, it would be a good idea to get some photographs taken together for promotional purposes. And, well, because let’s face it- it’s just FUN to do photo shoots and why not?
Viktoria is actually working on a new album (to be released 2013), and some of the themes/concepts for the music have to do with water (earth, water, fire, etc I guess? I don’t want to say too much). We thought it would be really cool to do some photos actually IN the water. Also because, originally, our concept for “Moonlight” was going to involve beach scenes (our original music video idea was that we would be sirens and would lure a poor sailor to his death in the video).
So water has always been something fun we wanted to work with. We searched a lot of google images and Pinterest boards looking for inspiration. We eventually came across these photos that were taken from the show America’s Next Top Model…
We actually found the episode where they shot these photo shoots and watched how they did it. It looked very cold, and very complicated to be honest! Ha! And neither Viktoria or I wanted to destroy any of our beautiful dresses by wearing them in the water.
So we came up with an idea to wear white swim suits in the water and then drape flowy material around us to make it appear as though it were dresses flowing out. I’m not sure they ended up looking as flowy as we had originally wanted, but nevertheless, the photos turned out beautiful.
Here is a preview of one of the photos from that shoot…
I won’t say it was easy getting into a bathing suit to be photographed, and given my usual modest attire, it took an act of bravery to do the pool shots. However, I’m just grateful that we had classy bathing suits with material to cover us! I’m not going to share any more of the proofs – as we’ll keep them pretty under-wraps until we need them for promo purposes.
Oh, and our fabulous photographer was Ross James – a fashion photographer from Seattle. He did a fabulous job!
Along with the brave pool shots that we did, we also did some photographs of us in similar black dresses next to some very cool rock structures. Here is a preview of one of those photos…
I personally think the ones of us in our black dresses will be great promo shots for our “Moonlight” song.
Illumination CD Release Concert
As well as the video and photo shoot, I also was busy preparing for my big CD release concert during all of this.
This was no small task.
It took me roughly four years to complete Illumination, and I really felt like celebrating. While my husband would have been more content with me just doing a small piano-store sized concert, I wanted to hold it somewhere where I could use my full orchestral backup tracks and have it sound amazing.
So I ended up having the concert at the Kirkland Performance Center in Kirkland, WA.
The venue had fabulous acoustics, as well as the ability for surround sound.
Prior to the concert, as if I wasn’t already busy enough working with my projects with Viktoria, I also ended up in the ER a few times for stomach pains and eventually having surgery to have my gallbladder taken out.
It was rough after the surgery – and I was feeling very anxious about not being prepared for my big concert. I was THIS close to cancelling the concert. I lost 2 weeks of preparation time due to having to stay in bed and recover. Practicing my piano was hard to do because I just felt weak, and my mind was very fuzzy due to just being tired and also the painkillers.
Eventually though, I started feeling better and was back to practicing. Thankfully as the next couple of weeks went by I felt like I could do the concert – with the help of some sheet music. There was no way I had enough time to memorize all 13 of the songs for my concert. I would say I was close to having them all memorized, but not completely.
Here is me the night of my release concert on the red carpet…(photos by Kathy Boll)
My soloists with me on the red carpet – Kristen Yose, Kelley Marie Johnson, me, Viktoria Tocca, and Stephanie Yose
With my handsome husband, Will.
This is my cute (and shy) 4 year old, Preston, coming up on stage to surprise me with flowers after the concert.
And here is a little video snippet of him with the flowers. SO stinkin’ cute!!
You can also catch some of the footage from my concert on my YouTube Channel here.
Here is “Requiem For a Dream”…
I am still editing video footage from the concert, so I will continue to post more on YouTube in the coming weeks.
I have to say though, that my concert was so much fun! I had some nervousness beforehand like I always do, but everyone there was so incredibly supportive and enthusiastic and it made it a lot easier on me as a performer. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat for certain.
Here are a few more behind the scenes photos from the concert…
Preston in the dressing room with me – he was so excited to come to my concert
My hairdo that I paid to have done – that only lasted a whole 2 hours. I ended up taking it down right before the concert and just throwing it into a side pony.
Why yes that is my name on the marquee!
My hubby and I at the Cheesecake Factory after my concert – with Viktoria, my brother, and a few other friends as well.
The day after my concert, Viktoria left to head back to LA for another few days, while I recovered! ha!
The following weekend, my little family and I headed down to Utah for my house concert at Michele McLaughlin’s Cozy Corner House Concert Series. I was really excited because the show had completely sold out, and she even overbooked it. I was wondering how we were possibly going to fit all those people in her living room!
I apologize – these aren’t the best photos because they were taken from mobile phones, but here you are…
With my dear friend Dixie and her husband – after the concert. Dixie is the one whom I dedicated “After the Storm” to on my album.
With Jared and Tamara…
With Dwight Tanner, my cellist for the concert…
With singer and friend Lori Cunningham
With pianist and friend Michele McLaughlin…
Performing “Secrets” with Dwight…
And now for some goofies…
Out to eat after the concert…
You can watch the concert on YouTube here:
Along with my concert in UT, my husband also ran the Wasatch 100 mile Endurance Race. Yes 100 miles. Here we are at the mile 53 aid station…
So anyway, now I’m back in Seattle and enjoying a nice little break from things. That is, I do have to film my piano performance scenes for the Moonlight video this weekend, and also prepare transcriptions for an entire orchestra for the December symphony concert, and also film a music video for “Illumination”, oh and head to LA in November for the HMMA’s….but other than that….I’m just playing with my kiddos
Since I will be in Utah this September to support Forest Gump (er, uh, my husband Will) running another 100 mile ultra marathon (the Wasatch 100), I decided to take full advantage of my time there and do a concert as well.
I will be performing at Michele McLaughlin’s home in Salt Lake City (otherwise known as the Cozy Corner Concert Series) on Wednesday, Sept 5th at 7:30pm. I know – Wednesday is a bit unique being that it’s a weeknight. But the reason being is Will’s race starts 5am Friday morning and so he wouldn’t have been able to attend a Thursday night concert. Or a Friday night, or a Saturday night. Oddly, it does take considerable time to run 100 miles. And since he’s my muse, I need him there.
So if you’re in the SLC area – please come! Tickets are on sale here.
I am coming out of my 3 year hiatus and doing a live show. The last time I put on a concert was in December of ’07 when I was almost 5 months pregnant. Obviously, within the last few years having either been pregnant or taking care of a baby (I had 2 babies in 3 years), I have taken some needed time off from performing. In that time though, I released a lullaby album and have also been brewing up a lot of new songs for my upcoming unreleased album “Illumination” (due out beginning of 2012). At the October show, I will be performing songs from Key of Sea, and The Lullaby Album, and if you behave I might perform a song or two from my upcoming album as well – that nobody has even heard yet.
The concert will be at Joe Bongiorno’s home, otherwise known as Piano Haven Studios, in Kenmore, Washington. It’s a great intimate setting with only 30 seats available, so order your tickets now through brownpaper tickets. Here is the link to do so is at the bottom.
Also on the program is Joe Bongiorno, and Brad Jacobsen. We’d love to have your support and see you there!
A few years ago, I was able to perform as a soloist with an orchestra in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was video taped by a friend, and over the years I had lost the footage. It has literally taken me 2 years to track down this video – as I had lost touch with the orchestra members and the person who video taped it. I finally received the footage last week.
I am excited to share it with you.
Performing with an orchestra is only usually a rare opportunity that an artist gets, unless of course you are Joshua Bell or Hilary Hahn and it is part of “the job” as a touring concert artist. While I have performed in orchestras as a violinist for many years, the following concert footage is the only time I have ever soloed as a pianist. (Someday I hope to do concerts with my own compositions with an orchestra…only a dream right now though).
Just a little bit about this piece. It is Edward MacDowell’s 2nd Piano Concerto. If you aren’t familiar with MacDowell, you may want to youtube “Scotch Poem” as that is one of his more famous solo piano works. His concertos are not as widely known as Rachmaninoff’s, but you can hear that they are of the same time era and style influence.
A concerto typically has 3 movements. The first is usually a fast opening number that introduces the concerto’s theme. The 2nd movement is usually a slower, beautiful interlude. And then the 3rd movement typically is the fire of the piece that wraps everything up and ends with a bang. There is only one concerto that I can think of that does not follow this trend, and that would be Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto – as it starts off with a slow first movement.
Here, I performed the 1st movement – which was about 12 and 1/2 minutes in length. Youtube only allows for 10 minute videos, so I had to edit down some of the spots where the orchestra played by themselves so that I could get the entire video down to 10 minutes.
It took me about 4 months to learn and memorize this piece (the first movement). Surprisingly, it is not the hardest concerto I’ve ever learned. I have also performed Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Concerto (with a 2nd piano as accompaniment), as well as a Liszt Piano Concerto (also performed with another pianist playing the orchestral reduction) - both of which were by far harder than this one.
For this MacDowell concerto, I rehearsed it with the orchestra twice before the concert (once in one of their rehearsals, and then once for a dress rehearsal the day of the concert). So the orchestra did not have a whole lot of opportunity to run the number to perfection with me and I remember feeling like I wanted to push the tempo but couldn’t get the orchestra to keep up with me. As a soloist, it is the orchestra’s responsibility to follow the soloist’s lead, however, it is also the soloist’s responsibility to make sure that he/she is with the orchestra as well on important entrances, etc. It is a delicate balance that is hard to acheive when you only get a few rehearsals together.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the concert footage. Hopefully one of these days I’ll get to do it again.
The sound quality is much better if you watch it in High Definition, just FYI.
This is Part 1 of 2. (Part 2 coming very soon). This is the footage from my concert with Jace Vek at Benaroya Hall here in Seattle in December of 2007. This was such a fun concert to do – as we both felt the same energy on the piano and had a very engaging audience. This was recorded in HD, so if you prefer the widescreen version you can watch it directly on YouTube (though for some reason the HD button is working, even though I uploaded it in HD). Hmmm weird wild stuff.
I have a little confession to make.
I have mega concert footage from multiple concerts that I did in the 2007/2008 season that I never ended up getting around to editing into watch-able videos…until now.
I claim the excuse that I was preggers and just plain didn’t feel like doing it. But now I’m making up for it.
Here is the first video I just got done editing. It’s my Salt Lake City concert footage at the Baldassin Piano Gallery where I got to perform on my dream piano – a $200,000 10 foot Fazioli Italian grand. Check it out. Preston (my little one) was just a little pea in the pod here.
This next video is footage from a house concert that I was part of, at the home of pianist Joe Bongiorno.
Sometimes you have to admit your human-ness as an artist, so today I’m going to do that.
And before you read this, please know it is written with a smile on my face and a laugh.
I’m not normally a competitive person when it comes to music. I think every artist brings something unique to the table and I would rather be up there on stage with them than trying to one-up them. Particularly when it comes to us composers. Because what I compose is not going to sound like what John Doe composes. So what is the point in trying to compete? I admire so many of my musical collegues.
However, for goodness sake, I keep having run-ins with an artist. Not personally. Or maybe a better way to put it is he keeps one-upping me. Professionally.
When my album first came out, my album was compared to his quite often. Friends and fan would listen to my music and say “Have you heard of….?”. And then everywhere I went I would see his album.
Last fall I travelled to Idaho to give a concert near my alma mater, Brigham Young University, when I found out this other artist was also performing at my college the SAME night I was. Different venues. Obviously his venue seated about 2,000 where mine seated about 100. LOL.
Both of us solo pianists, both of our styles similar, both competing to for the same audience, same town, same night. He’s with Warner Brothers, I’m with my own independent self-started label. I guess there really is no competition – haha. (But I do have to say I did fill the house! With people standing in the back).
And then last night, I was listening to his newly released 2nd album and all of a sudden I look up from what I’m doing and realize he has a song on his album that is an arrangement of a classical Spanish guitar piece…A song, which, I want to add, is a piece that I had picked out months and MONTHS ago to arrange for solo piano and THERE it was on his new album. So scratch that song arrangement. Everyone would think I copied him LOL.
I was actually a little miffed over that, I will admit. My husband had to listen to me go on and on for like 20 minutes at the dinner table last night about how I was mad I wasn’t going to be able to use that song on my album now.
So I’m sitting here laughing about this all, somewhat annoyed, somewhat feeling extremely competitive with this artist. The thing is though is I LOVE his work, I think he’s amazingly talented but I keep finding myself unwantedly competing against him. And honestly he is the only artist I have ever found myself having competitive feelings with.
Actually, I think it is just in my own head that I feel competitive with him since I don’t think he actually even knows I exist. Haha!
So I’m going to admit my own human errors and let you all know that I, Jennifer Thomas, do experience feelings such as these. But I want to get past them because it has bugged me for a long time.
So William Joseph, if you ever happen to read this, let’s shake hands and acknowledge each others existance and be friends. LOL And maybe next time we do concerts in same town on the same night, we can just do some duets instead.
P.S. I’m not annoyed or mad. Just amazed. Check him out - he’s amazing. www.william-joseph.com