Introducing: Joshua McCullough

We spoke to Joshua McCullough, one of this year’s Bridging the Gap participants, about his introduction to Dunedin Consort and his participation in this year’s choral tour

Rob Fodor Photography

Tell us about your Bridging The Gap experience so far: what have you learned and how has it helped you in your professional development?

So many projects for emerging artists in Scotland require young musicians to travel frequently to the South of England for similar opportunities, so to have a classical artists’ development programme rooted here in Scotland on home turf is hugely welcome. So far, Bridging The Gap has been a uniquely flexible and broad experience, providing a real a balance between the singing and the professional development beyond the ‘notes on the page’, with both administrative and musical colleagues providing invaluable support.

When auditioning for the programme last October, I didn’t expect how much assistance would be on offer, and there has been some real breadth in the experience offered to me as a young artist. Having worked with John Butt on an academic level during my undergraduate degree, I’ve really enjoyed the chance to partake in practical recitative and aria coaching sessions with him. Meanwhile, working with Dunedin Consort visiting artist Edward Grint in a vocal lesson provided a safe space to experiment with solo song repertoire and take sound advice from someone working as a professional singer today in the UK.

With only two singers on the programme this year, the amount of one-to-one support on offer has been invaluable. This has also included advice on future potential sources of funding for my next steps, and how to properly shape a ‘singing CV’, alongside an important vocal health workshop with Kate Valentine. In short, it has all provided a genuine insight on how to live as an artist.

What are you looking forward to with the upcoming choral tour, is there anything you are particularly nervous/excited about?

Having worked with John Butt in various capacities throughout my time on the Bridging the Gap programme, singing on the Hail, O Queen choral tour will luckily now allow me to also work with Dunedin Consort’s other resident director. Friends who have previously participated in this scheme have spoken highly about their experience on previous tours with Nicholas Mulroy, so I’m looking forward to meeting and singing under Nicholas. I think as a young singer it is always great to learn and develop from being directed by someone who is new to you, and I know this will be the case for the tour.

Truthfully, I am felling a little nervous about singing alongside the other ‘fully fledged’ basses in choir. Of course, this nervous excitement comes from a place of pure respect and admiration for the high level of music making I know takes place on a Dunedin Consort stage, so overall I’m feeling grateful to be a part of it and can’t wait to get stuck in. I think some of the nervousness also comes from being in a phase of life where I’m holding down several part-time jobs in order to bridge my own gap between graduating last year and starting further studies in the autumn, and there’s that nagging ‘imposter syndrome’ thing about working alongside colleagues who are already able to have singing be a ‘full-time’ part of their lives.

What inspired you to become a musician?

Music has always been in the family! My parents met while performing in a show in the north-east of Scotland, and they’ve been a real influence throughout my educational choices.  My Mum did train classically as a singer though ended up working in arts management for a time before a complete career change, but has never lost her love of choral singing. I know that I’m lucky to have had her support, particularly while navigating the hurdles and choppy waters as a boy’s voice changes from treble to bass…

I joined the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCOS) while still at primary school, and have been learning in the NYCOS system from around the age of 9. As a former member of the NYCOS National Boys Choir, still a current member of their Touring Choir, and now working for the organisation as a Musicianship Teacher, I owe a lot to NYCOS and the strong foundation and vocal discipline they instil in singers from early in their musical development.

Having studied flute and voice at school for music qualifications, it was probably some of the experiences with NYCOS, including singing at the BBC Proms, at Carnegie Hall New York and at the Passchendaele commemorations in Belgium which fully confirmed my desire to pursue music. At university, I was a Choral Scholar with the University of Glasgow Chapel Choir, and I’ve also been grateful for the guidance of my current singing teacher, Phil Gault, in helping shape the next steps for me too.

What are your plans for the future?

This September, subject to securing funding, I’m excited to be commencing a MMus in Vocal Performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. After having lots of fun in my undergraduate degree at the University of Glasgow, this new step will allow me to deepen my learning and place more focus on furthering my vocal development. While this is in some ways a daunting prospect, and I don’t doubt that building a portfolio career in the Scottish music community will continue to prove challenging, Bridging the Gap has proved to be a crucial phase in heading towards these further studies and the next steps in my musical career.

Join Dunedin Consort for Hail, O Queen this May.

St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen — Thursday 11 May, 7.30pm
St John’s Kirk, Perth — Friday 12 May, 7.30pm
Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh — Saturday 13 May, 7.30pm
Glasgow University Chapel — Sunday 14 May, 7.30pm