Industry Article: Jess Gillam’s Virtual Scratch Orchestra: Sleigh Ride

‘Aiming to spread as much festive joy as possible, every musician should get involved.’

Following the incredible success of her two previous Virtual Scratch Orchestra projects, award-winning saxophonist, presenter and advocate of music Jess Gillam returns with a third opportunity to be part of a unique digital performance. First launched at the end of March 2020 with the David Bowie track ‘Where Are We Now?’, the project is a way of bringing together musicians from across the world, from any musical background to achieve a collective aim: to keep music making going when live performances continue to not be possible. And, as Jess herself states in the announcement of the project this time round, with many traditional elements of the festive season missing in 2020, that sense of musical togetherness is needed more than ever.

“As Christmas concerts, school plays and gatherings are cancelled and we face what may be a difficult winter, I hope that this will bring smiles and joy to those taking part and to those who watch. Right now, we need hope and light and music making can bring that in abundance!” [Jess Gillam]

With both the initial project and the follow up ‘Let It Be’ seeing more than 930 musicians from more than 26 countries take part, it doesn’t take much effort to imagine just how big it could be this time. Even more so given the differences being brought to the season this year. Like all fantastic projects though – music or otherwise – enthusiasm needs to come from the creator, and I really don’t think there is anyone in the classical music world more enthusiastic than Jess.

If you’ve ever seen any of her videos on social media, or seen her present on TV, or heard her on her BBC Radio 3 show This Classical Life, you will know how phenomenally infectious her passion for anything music related is. However, while she was the first saxophonist to reach the finals of BBC Young Musician, has received a Classical Brit Award in the Sound of Classical Poll and has performed at prestigious events including the BAFTA’s and the Proms, her down to earth persona makes Jess fantastically connective. Additionally, with her being 22, she is an incredible role model for any young person studying music.   

So how can you get involved?
The first thing to note is that even if you don’t consider yourself an ‘orchestral musician’, that in no way stops you from getting involved. Here, rather than the traditional form, it is being used in a context it goes way beyond that. In fact, with previous videos having highlighted just how diverse the musical world is – through the inclusion of violins and saxophones alongside boomwackers, accordions and melodicas – I’m not sure there is any other occasion where you would get an experience like it! 
Equally, even if your specific instrument isn’t on the list, you can use one in the same key – or opt for vocals – and still be part of the spritely, extra festive spin that Andrew Cottee has put on the Leroy Anderson classic. Then, once you have chosen and downloaded your part for Sleigh Ride there are essentially 4 more stages, all of which are very straightforward:

  1. Practice your part along to the click track.
  2. When you are confident enough, video yourself playing it.
  3. Upload your video to  by 7pm GMT on Wednesday 18th November 2020.
  4. Sign up to the mailing list to be alerted when the final video goes live.

So what are you waiting for, head over to right now and get some early festive feels in your life.

Industry Article written by David Croker

Follow Jess Gillam on: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Listen to Jess Gillam on: Spotify
Watch the previous Virtual Scratch Orchestra videos and more on: YouTube

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