Classical to Crossover

After reading an article on a speech Julian Lloyd Webber gave music students (link below), I thought I would give a little insight into my experience ‘crossing over’.

In 2011, when I finally got to hold my first CD, I was delighted that I had finally finished production on my debut album. I had no idea what was in store for me, I had no idea how it would be received and I had no idea if I would still be employable once it was released. I was both excited and nervous.
All I knew was that this record was made to the highest standards possible, without exception. I knew I could stand over this body of work and wouldn’t cringe when listening back to it in, say, ten, twenty, thirty…years time. I put my life on hold for eighteen months to make it the best it could possibly be.

One week before this release in 2011, I managed to convince the management and production team at the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and the ‘Mooney’ (radio show) to allow me perform a solo song at their ‘Mooney Tunes’ concert to a jammed Grand Canal Theatre. Performing my first professional orchestral solo in front of 2000 people was both exhilarating and terrifying. Adding to the excitement was the fact that the performance was to be recorded for radio broadcast a few weeks later. The entire team were extremely supportive of me, and the sound of the orchestra supporting me from behind was the best feeling ever.

It is a source of great pride to me that the very first orchestra to offer me a solo performance has since earned the title of the ‘World’s Favourite Orchestra’, and has now recorded an album with me. What is also wonderful is that my very first promotional slot for the album ‘Niall O’Sullivan and Friends’ was on the ‘Mooney Show’, the radio show I first performed on live as a soloist. Both the orchestra and the ‘Mooney’ team will always have a special place in my heart.

One of the fears I had when I released the first album was getting shut out from classical music, as my recordings could be described as crossover or cross-genre. The fear in people’s eyes when you tell them you made an album of songs is sometimes hilarious. When making an instrumental album, the concern is to avoid making anything that could be confused for ‘elevator’ music! My goal is always to create something that has artistic merit. I don’t want to record Haydn, Bach, and Handel just yet. I love to perform this music, but so many beautifully produced recordings of these works have been made over the years that I would rather break some new ground with my own repertoire. I love to find beautiful melodies and have them reworked in a fresh way. Funnily enough, I could not have been more wrong with the fear I had of not being asked to play any more ‘classical’ music. I have performed more classical works since 2011 than I ever had before.
I encourage all classical music lovers, students and critics to read this piece.
With Derek Mooney and ophthalmologist Prof. Michael O’Keeffe in RTÉ Radio 1 Studios, October 2015