Kezia Davies talks to composer Shane Cullinan about his new piece of music commissioned by Winter Pride for the Catrin Finch Ensemble Concert on 5 June at The House of St Barnabas
How did you start working with poet John Smallshaw and harpist Catrin Finch, and how did you all get involved with the Winter Pride Art Awards?
So, I’ve been very blessed to know the great clarinettist Nick Ellis for quite some time. We have worked together professionally on many projects over the years. Nick, along with his husband Simon Tarrant, who is the pioneer behind the project and himself an incredible artist, approached me to create a composition based on a piece of poetry written by The House of St Barnabas poet John Smallshaw.
Catrin Finch is a trailblazer and leader of her instrument, people learn from listening to her play as indeed I have done. She has taken not only the harp as an instrument but also classical music in general to the lesser heard ear.
Could you talk a little about the process of creating this piece and how it encompasses some of the themes addressed in the exhibition?
To be honest, the process is still ongoing. It’s so much more precise and technical when you only have an ensemble of 5 instrumentalists, as a composer you are a lot more exposed and you utterly rely on the expertise of the players.
But with that you have a responsibility as a writer to create music and notes that have depth, integrity and meaning to compliment the gift of the players you are lucky enough to work with.
So this work is considered, and possibly more isolated in its structure, but in essence a great piece of music… because that’s all I ever want to achieve.
You’ve been a composer all your life – has your work touched on similar LGBTQIA+ themes in the past?
Of course, my first ever professional gig was at Nottingham Pride when I first graduated X amount of years ago, I was the supporting act for Kelly-Marie (of ‘My Heart is in a Spin.. boom boom’ fame no less!). My track ‘A Scene From Titus’, from my ’Numbers Rush By’ album, is a rampaging war against homophobia played out on a string orchestra and rock band with powerhouse female vocalist Hannah Kirton. Check it out on iTunes etc!
Why do you believe it’s important to represent LGBTQIA+ voices and stories in poetry, music, and art?
Well I think the simplest answer is that by having such stories presented in varying artistic forms means the voices / stories are touching wider and more diverse audiences; and are being heard or seen by individuals that may not otherwise have a direct opportunity or access to hear about LGBTQIA experiences or journeys.
5 June (7 – 8pm)
An evening of Music & Poetry
The House of St Barnabas Chapel
Preview performance by the Catrin Finch Ensemble, of music and poetry by composer Shane Cullinan and The House of St Barnabas poet John Smallshaw, with narration by Ilan Evans. Commissioned by Winter Pride.
Tickets £15 (+booking fee) with proceeds donated to The House of St Barnabas charity.