Music

Positive vibes: Let Alexis Ffrench lift your mood with this piano playlist

The Big Issue has teamed up with classical-soul pioneer Alexis Ffrench to present a set of musical cues for positive emotions and mental wellbeing.

As inspired by Tyler, the Creator as he is by Bach, Alexis Ffrench wants to break down barriers with his latest album, Dreamland. And now, for The Big Issue, he wants to use music to bring us together.

“These are such difficult times on so many different levels, being disconnected from loved ones. That feeling of not being able to share all the little things that make life special,” he said.

“I think one really beautiful thing about music is that we can share moments in music together even though we might not be in the same place. We can share a mood, or an emotion.”

The Big Issue asked Alexis to choose six pieces for different moods, his go-to classical pieces for when he is looking for inspiration or calm, excitement, or simply when he wants “to be swept away in a sea of joy and ecstasy”.

“Classical music can be such an oasis of calm and comforting inspiration, particularly in these testing times, when so many of us might be feeling lonely, anxious or worried for the future.”

Here are his tips for music that will arm listeners with the strength to face the months ahead.

As a musician, particularly in these times, I feel like I don’t have a real job. You know, I write music and play music. And so, to be able to do something for people, write a piece of music that helps them, is something that’s really special to me.”

Music to make you feel fearless

Piano Sonata in B minor by Franz Liszt

“This isn’t a typical piece that people wouldn’t necessarily know,” Alexis said. “But it’s really tonal, and melodic, and it’s easy to understand, because the language is easy to understand. It’s incredibly big boned. It has a very visceral feel about it that just goes right through you.

“If you want to feel as if you can climb a mountain, or take on any challenge, it’s a piece I would definitely recommend.”

Music to make you feel comforted

Dreamland by Alexis Ffrench

“I wrote Dreamland before all of this happened. But I wanted to write a body of work from which people could derive comfort and solace.

“That’s really what Dreamland is all about. It’s an oasis of calm that people can dive into. The idea was to transport people to a sort of resting place. A place where they can be at one with their thoughts and feel that whatever troubles they might have – whether they’ve been financial worries, or whatever they might be – they can just have a brief moment of respite. An opportunity to rebalance and renew.”

Music to make you feel energised

La valse by Maurice Ravel

“In one way this is a diabolical piece. It’s got so much danger and excitement about it. I play the piano transcription of the orchestral piece [in the video].

“To hear the orchestral piece is like being on board a runaway train that threatens never to stop. As well as danger, there’s exhilaration. I can’t remember when I first heard that piece, but I can remember being transfixed by this never-ending cascade of notes. The sense of excitement that runs through that piece and builds to the tumultuous climax is absolutely thrilling.”

Music to make you feel heroic

Winter Wind (Étude Op. 25, No. 11 in A minor) by Frédéric Chopin

“Winter Wind is another one for that sharp burst of energy. It’s different to La valse, in that it doesn’t have that kind of diabolical nature to it.

“But it has these really sweeping highs and lows. These hairpins – the so-called crescendos and diminuendos – that just sweep up and down the piano. The landscape is just so undulating. It’s rich and it’s vast. So it’s a piece that the people can get lost in and swept away by.”

Music to make you feel safe

Bluebird by Alexis Ffrench

“Bluebird is easy to understand, heartfelt, and authentic. It’s a piece that connects with so many people. People have walked up the aisle to it, people have written to me to say how much it’s helped them through dark times.

“As a musician, particularly in these times, I feel like I don’t have a real job. You know, I write music and play music. And so, to be able to do something for people, write a piece of music that helps them, is something that’s really special to me.”

Music to help you go to sleep

Ondine, from Gaspard de la nuit by Maurice Ravel 

“Gaspard de la nuit is known as a fiendish piece of music to play, but it’s just incredibly beautiful.

“The title means whispers in the night. The first movement, Ondine, is almost gossamer-like whispers on the piano. The hands move very fast, but shimmer along the keyboard. And I think if you listen very, very closely, it draws you in to sleep in a really lovely way. It beckons and entreats you to listen ever closer as the sounds die away to nothing. It is incredibly beautiful and a great piece of music to help you get to sleep.”

Alexis Ffrench’s new album Dreamland is out now.

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