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  • Writer's pictureArashk Azizi

Regards from Rochester by Thomas Hewitt Jones


“Regards from Rochester” by Thomas Hewitt Jones is a 10-part oratorio in the style of late Romantic music. This colossal musical project dramatically represents the history of Rochester.


As a die-hard fan of classical music, it always sparks joy in my eyes when I hear contemporary pieces written and recorded by artists in the classical style.

The music in this release reflects the influence of different eras and styles on the composer. At times, it evokes the works of Stephen Sondheim, while at others, it harks back to early Romantic pieces, reminiscent of composers like Schubert.


“Regards from Rochester” was commissioned by composer Thomas Hewitt Jones to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Rochester Choral Society in 2023. The piece premiered at Rochester Cathedral in March 2023 and was subsequently performed in Wells and Glastonbury in April 2023. The composition delves into the rich history of the Medway Towns, connecting historical themes and human stories to contemporary society. From the Saxon settlement to its role as a British naval stronghold and inspiration for Charles Dickens, the work embodies compassion for our planet, social conscience, humanity, and kindness—values crucial to our world in 2023. The 10-movement oratorio weaves sweeping melodies and angularity, reflecting the area’s diverse heritage. Composer Thomas Hewitt Jones drew inspiration from extensive research, conversations with local figures, and reflections on life beyond the pandemic and contemporary issues, including climate change.


Regarding the orchestration of the piece, the soft and gentle style of the music throughout the album, except for part five (“Seven Weeks: The Siege of Rochester, 1215”), demands a more delicate orchestration. Unlike the epic symphonies of the era by composers like Mahler and Shostakovich, this album features a ballet/opera-like orchestration, with vocals at the center.


The harmonization and composition style pay homage to the grand era of Romanticism, with its majestic sections and epic codas. While the form of the piece is closer to an oratorio, the composition, orchestration, and overall musical style align more closely with 20th-century musicals, drawing inspiration from classical pieces of the preceding century.


“Regards from Rochester” stands as a grand masterpiece—a type of music that bleeds culture and beauty. It’s the kind of music we should continue to create and listen to more and more. 



Credits:

REGARDS FROM ROCHESTER

Music & Lyrics by Thomas Hewitt Jones

 

BBC Singers

Royal Ballet Sinfonia

Rochester Choral Society

Harriet Mountford (soprano)

Simon Thorpe (baritone)

Conductor: John Mountford

 

Recorded at Henry Wood Hall, London

Released by Vivum Music Ltd, available on all streaming platforms

Physical CDs available from the Rochester Cathedral shop and Rochester Choral Society



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