1. head above water
2 . breathing
The first image that came to me when developing the materials for this new concerto was one of water. I love the way water presents to us a visual tension between the hypnotic, peaceful and (in the case of a windy lake or sea) a sense of constant, fluid motion. I began to think of both the orchestra and soloists as active natural forces. Often in a concerto the orchestra is conceived in a more static fashion, making musical “room” for the soloist. Wanting to upend this norm, I strove to create a sense of constant motion in the first movement from both partners.
The title “head above water” was also an early visual image – I pictured a swimmer constantly bobbing in a turbulent sea, trying to catch breaths and survive, and this swimmer became metaphor for the soloist.
My feelings about Kelly’s artistry were no doubt part of this inspiration. She is an intense, passionate performer, who seems to never wish to sit still artistically, nor shy away from extraordinary effort. I feel a sense of unrest is what haunts most true artists, and in a way, unrest is indicative of all lives lived with meaning.
In the same way both “breathing” and “running” fill out this picture of life forces. “Breathing” feels like the earth; a plant breaking through the soil to find sun, a baby’s first precious breaths, or a bird hatching from the egg. Life moving slowly but deliberately, with the absolute need of breath for sustenance.
As I began my musical life as a jazz trumpet player, a sense of improvisation and dance is a part of much that I compose. “Running” is one part joyful romp, and another part a more desperate act – perhaps pursuit of prey, or escape from a predator. Here the violin is a jazz soloist, soaring in the sky and skating across of bed of syncopations and counter rhythms from the orchestra.
I’d like to dedicate this work to both Kelly Hall-Tompkins and to my good friend & frequent collaborator Leonard Slatkin who has graciously agreed to conduct the initial performances of the concerto.
Five-time EMMY® winner Jeff Beal’s improvisatory method, sense of timing, and sophistication have made him a favorite of directors including Ed Harris (POLLOCK and APPALOOSA), David Fincher (HOUSE OF CARDS), Oliver Stone (JFK REVISITED, THE PUTIN INTERVIEWS), and Lauren Greenfeld (THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, GENERATION WEALTH.) His work on documentaries BLACKFISH, THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING, WEINER, Al Gore’s AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL, ATHLETE A, Frank Marshall’s RATHER and dramatic scores for HBO’s ROME, CARNIVÀLE, THE NEWSROOM, USA’s MONK, Netflix HOUSE OF CARDS, AppleTV+’s RAYMOND & RAY have shown him to be one of the most distinctive and recognizable composers working today.
In addition to his distinguished scoring career, Beal is a prolific composer of concert music. Recent commissioned works include “The Paper-Lined Shack” for Leonard Slatkin, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and soprano Hila Plitmann, “Sunrise” (a contemporary score for F.W. Munrau’s silent film) for Grant Gershon and The Los Angeles Master Chorale, “Moss #5” for Jaqueline Bulgasi Dance, and “The Great Circle” for The New West Symphony. His new concerto composed for violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins will be premiered by St. Louis Symphony with Leonard Slatkin conducting in January 2024.
Born in 1963 and raised in San Francisco, Beal’s grandmother was a pianist and accompanist for silent movies. An avid jazz fan, she gave him Miles Davis’/Gil Evans’ Sketches of Spain album that would influence his development as a Jazz trumpet player and composer. He studied composition with Christopher Rouse and Rayburn Wright at Eastman School of Music. Upon graduating, he moved to New York City where he was signed to Island Records releasing several jazz albums and performing with his band at The Blue Note and The Montreux Jazz Festival.
Beal began writing for visual media after relocating to the west coast – initially taking smaller jobs writing industrials for then startups Pixar and Apple. International recognition would come only a few short years later, with the release of the film POLLOCK, earning Jeff a nomination for “Discovery of the Year” by the World Soundtrack Academy, who also honored Beal with their first “TV Composer Of The Year” award in 2019. He lives in New York City.
Winner of a Naumburg International Violin Competition Honorarium Prize, Concert Artists Guild Career Grant, Sphinx Medal of Excellence and featured in the Smithsonian Museum for African-American History, Ms. Hall-Tompkins is a trailblazing and innovative violin soloist entrepreneur who has been acclaimed by the New York Times as “the versatile violinist who makes the music come alive,” for her “tonal mastery” (BBC Music Magazine) and as New York Times “New Yorker of the Year.” Kelly Hall-Tompkins is currently collaborating with 5-time Emmy-winning composer Jeff Beal in a commission for a new violin concerto written for her; The collaboration also features celebrated conductor Leonard Slatkin for the world premiere with the St. Louis Symphony and also the European premiere and recording with the Orquesta of Gran Canaria, Spain in early 2024.
The first American artist to perform in China after the pandemic, Ms. Hall-Tompkins received a Chinese “Rare Talent Visa” to perform as soloist with the Shanghai Symphony. Past appearances also include as co-soloist in Carnegie Hall with Glenn Dicterow and conductor Leonard Slatkin, in London with Chineke! at Queen Elizabeth Hall with conductor Michael Morgan, Brevard Festival with Keith Lockhart, recitalist at Lincoln Center, soloist as the Inaugural Artist in Residence with the Cincinnati Symphony, and with the Symphonies of Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, Oakland, Greensboro, recitals in Paris, New York, Toronto, Washington, Chicago, and festivals of Tanglewood, Ravinia, Santa Fe, Gateways, and in France, Germany and Italy.
At home with genres beyond classical music, Ms. Hall-Tompkins is the first soloist to perform the Wynton Marsalis Violin Concerto after the original dedicatée, with over 15 scheduled performances to date, including opening nights with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, California and Elgin Symphonies, and she also toured for 5 years with American Roots-style Violinist/Composer Mark O’Connor. She was “Fiddler”/Violin Soloist of the Grammy/Tony-nominated Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof. Inspired by her experience, she commissioned and developed the first ever Fiddler solo disc of all new arrangements, The Fiddler Expanding Tradition, which is featured alongside her recital in Kiev, Ukraine in the recent documentary “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” on the 55-year history of the musical.
Ms. Hall-Tompkins’ Imagination Project was called “groundbreaking” by STRINGS Magazine and has received over 1 million views on YouTube to date. Actively performing virtually throughout the pandemic, numerous projects include premiering 4 pieces written for her, creating and being invited to unique collaborations, including a co-composition with Tony-nominated actor Daniel Watts, Echo: Shostakovich in Catharsis with aerial dancer Alexandra Peter and Frisson Films, Gil Shaham’s Gilharmonic, and with WQXR as part of the inaugural Artist Propulsion Lab.
As founder of Music Kitchen-Food for the Soul, Kelly Hall-Tompkins is a pioneer of social justice in classical music, bringing top artists in over 100 concerts with over 200 top artists, in homeless shelters, reaching over 30,000 clients coast to coast from New York to Los Angeles, and in internationally in Paris, France. Through Music Kitchen, Ms. Hall-Tompkins commissioned 15 award-winning composers, with support from Carnegie Hall, to set the prose feedback comments of shelter clients into a composite song cycle entitled, Forgotten Voices, premiered individually at homeless shelters around New York City, then in its entirety in a Sold-Out World Premiere in Association with Carnegie Hall in March 2022.
Ms. Hall-Tompkins is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, recipient of two Honorary Doctorates (Manhattan School of Music and Adelphi University), Distinguished Alumni and Centennial Awards (Eastman School of Music) and is a published author contributor to Music and Human Rights on Routledge Press.