Joshua Quinlan is a passionate young British conductor and composer who specialises in the performance of late-Romantic and early-20th century music. In his current position as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Sinfonia Borealis, a new young-professional orchestra based in the North of England, he regularly performs works by remarkable but little-known composers, including the likes of George Lloyd. He has performed at many prestigious venues internationally, including Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, the CBSO Centre, the Southbank Centre, Porto’s Casa da Musica and London’s famous Royal Albert Hall. His compositional portfolio includes commissions by Tate Modern, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Wilfred Owen Society (for their Commemoration Festival of 2018) and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston.
Joshua was born in 2000 with a rare condition called Oculocutaneous Albinism, which has resulted in his being registered blind and having a lack of pigment development in his skin and hair (which are white). From a young age, he showed significant skill as a musician, first learning the piano at age three, and later starting clarinet at age six. His first musical venture was as a chorister with the Choir of Holy Trinity Church, Southport under the direction of ex-Liverpool Cathedral organist Mr. Ian Wells, with whom he learned the very foundations of music. Having later been appointed Head Chorister with the choir, Joshua sang in several acclaimed performances while still a treble, including as the soloist in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and in a critically-acclaimed performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in Portugal (2011), conducted by Vasily Petrenko (a conductor who Joshua would grow to greatly admire), alongside the Lisbon Philharmonic and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestras. This was perhaps the one single moment at which conducting became his passion.
In 2014, he started studying at the Royal Northern College of Music’s renowned Junior Department where he was taught Conducting, Composition, Clarinet and Singing by world-leading experts in each field, including the late-and-great tenor Jeffrey Lawton, clarinettist Helen Bywater, composers Matthew Sergeant & Rosemary Broadbent and conductors Juan Ortuno and Ewa Strusinska. In his first year at the college, Joshua was awarded the Composition Prize for his work “City Sounds”, an acoustic exploration of the sounds of suburbia (for five instruments). He was later awarded the Percy Welton Prize upon leaving for further studies elsewhere.
In 2016, while in his third year at JRNCM, Joshua successfully auditioned for the position of Principal Clarinettist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, with whom he performed in numerous concerts alongside RLPO and BBC Philharmonic musicians, notably including Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, Mahler’s Symphony No.1, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and Elgar’s Cello Concerto. On joining the orchestra, he was also appointed a Rushworth Young Composer, through which he was commissioned to write a series of works for youth company musicians, the performances of which he often conducted. While working with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, he was lucky enough to perform in masterclasses with prominent conductors including Jonathan Lo, Jessica Cottis, Sean Edwards, and Mihhail Gerts, and was mentored as a composer by Eve Harrison and Ian Stephens.
Since 2017, Joshua has been singing with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain (NYCGB), with whom he has since performed alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Band of the Coldstream Guards, RAF Central Band and Tallis Scholars, in events including the BBC Proms, Carols at the Royal Albert Hall and the PRS Foundation’s annual New Music Festival. In 2020, he also began working with NYCGB as Course Staff on National Youth Girls’ Choir courses, and as a member of the Auditions staff.
In 2018, his RLPO-commissioned work, “Songs of Stone”, was selected for performance at the MFY National Festival, being described as “well-paced, playful and incredibly effective" by panellist Soweto Kinch. The piece was later performed at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the MFY Proms, and again by the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain at St. George’s Hall (Liverpool) in April 2019.
In Summer 2019, Joshua formed Sinfonia Borealis, a new young-professional orchestra, striving to spark artistic innovation in the North of England, while offering outstanding semi-professional orchestra training opportunities to the next generation of leading orchestral musicians and soloists. The ensemble had their debut performance in August 2019, receiving support from Classic FM and numerous other radio stations and musical organisations, featuring works by Beethoven, Bartok and Mendelssohn. In October of the same year, the orchestra launched into an exciting partnership with Salford Cathedral, aiming to restore vital musical education to the area. The opening performance for the partnership featured Rimsky-Korsakov’s legendary Scheherazade and Daniel Hogan’s Viola Concerto, marking another partnership with publisher Apollo Edition. Upcoming projects include recordings of the works of George Lloyd, in partnership with the George Lloyd Society, the launch of the Sinfonia Borealis Chorus in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a new concert live-streaming platform and numerous other exciting prospects.