Labels are frustratingly narrow when applied to Kerenza Peacock. Yes, she’s a violinist. But she’s also a musician and an artist. Yes, she’s a classical musician. But she’s so much more, and to assign one of these definitions limits and understates all that she is about. She has a new album out as featured soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra. And she’s making an album with alt-bluegrass band The Coal Porters. She led the Pavao Quartet on five albums and 15 years of tours throughout the world. And she’s performed with Kanye West and Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton and Adele. And Charlotte Church and Hayley Westenra. Etcetera.
In Kerenza’s case, “etcetera” has a lot of ground to cover. Her level of accomplishment in any one of these genres would establish her as a leader in that respective field. Taken as a whole, her career is evidence that she is a singular and stunningly comprehensive musician. This is best epitomized by a point in time where she appeared on all of the top three albums on the UK’s Pop Albums chart AND the #1 album on the Classical Albums chart.
FLIGHT is the new album from Kerenza Peacock, set for release March 2015 on Signum Classics. Together with the London Symphony Orchestra she performs the world premiere recordings of six pieces by Oliver Davis. Though this is not her solo debut – she released a disc for Naxos that contained the world premiere recordings of the Holbrooke Violin Concerto and Sonatas and was praised in Gramophone for her “lithe, elegant violin-playing and her easy conquest of the virtuoso demands…” – this release showcases her musical artistry to a greater extent than ever before. In addition to recording the music, she was deeply involved in the creative process. Oliver Davis recalls, “It was important to both of us that I didn’t simply present the final piece as a completed manuscript; she needed to be involved from the outset. So we met regularly to review sections that I had written and I had the opportunity to discover what Kerenza preferred musically, which helped ensure that the piece was specifically suited to her sound. Tailoring a piece for a musician gives an added depth when the work is performed.” The album holds special meaning for Kerenza on a personal level as well. “Oliver’s father was my violin professor at the Academy, and I think he would have loved that we were creating this project together. And my Mum passed away shortly after we recorded the album. I was so glad she got to hear me play with the London Symphony Orchestra – my parents had taken me to see them play for my 17th birthday. She would always tell me to ‘just play something with a nice melody’, so I am so glad she got to hear Oliver’s pieces on FLIGHT.”
Also center-stage on Kerenza’s career landscape is her work with The Coal Porters. Led by former Long Ryders frontman and author Sid Griffin, the band tours extensively through the United Kingdom and abroad, and is in the midst of recording a new album with legendary producer John Wood (Fairport Convention). Kerenza noticed that others were surprised with this particular career move: “Some people expressed shock that I was choosing to play other styles, instead of just focusing on my classical career. But there was no hesitation on my part; the music makes me happy, allows me to improvise, and actually enables me to approach classical music in a healthier, more creative manner.”
The juxtaposition of these two current projects is a fair glimpse into the path that Peacock’s career has followed from the beginning. She distinguished herself early in her studies at London’s Royal Academy of Music and formed the Pavao Quartet. But rather than pursue a career as a concert soloist, she decided that there were too many musical rooms to be explored to ever be satisfied with locking any of them without first venturing inside. “I wanted to work as a proper, all-around musician. I love to sit in a session or orchestra, but also get up and play the concerto. I love playing behind a rock star, or in the pit of Les Miserables one night, and then in a classical concert the next day. I thrive on variety. Every day is different. One day I taped “The X- Factor” in the afternoon then went straight to St. Martin in the Fields to perform a Mendelssohn concerto. I am curious to explore all styles of music, and I find it helps me develop as a musician. For example, playing with a jazz group totally changed the way I looked at Beethoven. He was an astounding improvisor, so I started looking at his works from that point of view. I’m so grateful for the many different genres of music that I’ve gotten to play and that I’ve been able to have as varied a career as I have.”
There is a lot more that has happened and there is a lot more to come. Look for upcoming pop albums and classical albums, arrangements and compositions. Kerenza Peacock will continue to make music wherever and however music is made – boundaries neither contain nor apply to her work.