Live from Yoshi’s San Francisco tonight at 8pm PT, British composer and pianist Helen Jane Long. Watch the stream at showgo.tv/clubs/yoshissf.
Helen was named to the UK’s Classical FM Hall of Fame in 2011 for her album, Embers. Her music is used commercially for Volkswagen, British Airways, National Geographic, Discovery, the BBC. But probably the most significant sign of her success is that there are dozens of musicians and fans covering her music on YouTube. “Expression” from the “Porcelain” album is a big favorite.
Classical music was her path, but like many young composers, Long didn’t see many prospects for getting her music performed by classical ensembles, so she formed her own virtual orchestra. The idea came to her when she borrowed her grandmother’s Casio keyboard, an early digital instrument that allowed her to over-dub herself. Once she realized she could do it herself she began bouncing tracks on cassette players. She solved the problem of finding other willing musicians by learning cello, violin and guitar. Her first cello was made by her father and she still plays it to this day.
On Intervention, Helen Jane Long included a string quartet of violins and cello, including cellist Nick Holland from the famed Balanescu Quartet. But she still composes in the same solitary fashion and the music still comes from a deeply private place. Many of her songs emerge from personal experience. “Finding,” from her album “Embers”, was written for her father when he was in a coma. “Intervention” was written in the wake of several deaths in her family, among them her grandmother.
Tune in tonight! And we have lots of video and photos from Billy Cobham’s Yoshi’s Oakland show last night–they’ll be up in the blog shortly.