John Harle’s latest composition for saxophonist Jess Gillam Archangel premiered on 16 December at Saffron Hall, Essex, with the soloist joined the Jess Gillam Ensemble. It received a further performance at The Sage, Gateshead, on 21 December.

The 6-minute piece is scored for soprano saxophone, vibraphone, piano, electric bass and string quartet – the instrumentation of Gillam’s touring ensemble. Archangel is a testament to her longstanding musical partnership with Harle, who has been her teacher and mentor. To date Gillam has given over 80 performances of works by the composer specifically written for her, including 2019 concerto Briggflatts, inspired by Basil Bunting and Gillam’s native Cumbria. It follows from The Keys of Canterbury, a 14-minute piece written for Gillam and wind ensemble.

Archangel is his latest celebration of Gillam’s talents. The title is inspired by one of Paul Klee’s final works, the 1938 gouache Erzengel. Harle writes of the piece,   

The musicality of the visual composition and the playfulness of his semi-musical blacklines over a multicoloured background suggest music, or a dance. The violin scrollsand the ace of spades seem to propose the earthly delights of partying andcelebration, but above all, it tells us that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Archangel is also available in a version for soprano saxophone and piano. In January and February Gillam tours Harle’s RANT!, a 6-minute movement from Briggflatts for saxophone and piano. Venues include The Sage Gateshead, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, The Grünewald Hall in Stockholm, and the Wiener Konzerthaus, accompanied by Zeynep Özsuca; her programme also includes Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s Lumina (2021).