SALLY WHITWELL – CLASSICAL MISTRESS.
She loves her girlfriend, corsets and classical music. Gentlemen, it’s time to meet Sally Whitwell. Interview by Marc Andrews.
DNA: It’s lovely having a classical mistress in the magazine! Sally: Thank you, it’s great to be here.
Would you describe your music as classical or in some other way? Contemporary classical is what I do but I’ve recently co-written a musical Unrequited incorporating electro-pop and neo-Motown. There are also gentle parodies of One Direction, Taylor Swift and Five Seconds Of Summer. Loving parodies.
You just recorded a gorgeous album of Philip Glass music. How did this love begin?
In my teens at ballet school in the ’80s we watched rehearsal footage of In The Upper Room by Twyla Tharp. I thought the dancing was great but it was the music that really grabbed me! Quite a few years later, ABC Classics suggested an album of Glass and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Apparently, Glass himself has described your versions of his music as “poetry”. Is that true?
It is, indeed. I can die happy.
Glass’ music is cinematic. Any plans to get into movie soundtracks?
I’ve done a little bit of work in film as a pianist rather than as a composer. I loved writing music for a scene in the web series High Life, about a girl with bipolar. She’s having an episode of mania at a piano exam. She starts out playing a beautiful Chopin Nocturne that morphs into a crazy kind of boogie-woogie thing. It’s a pretty funny scene.
When you were growing up what was playing in your house? There was an eclectic mix. We’d wake up to Bach’s Magnificat on Sunday mornings – odd for an atheist family. Mum likes Schubert and Astrud Gilberto. My grandmother listened to Chopin, Beethoven and Debussy. My brother liked Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was seriously into dancing so there was frequently Tchaikovsky.
You’re such an LGBT supporter; what are you involved in? Being as out as I am, I’ve become something of the accidental role model to a specific group of LGBT kids. Helping them navigate that time in their lives safely is something I do at a grassroots level. I feel I can make a difference as Lesbian Auntie. During the marriage equality survey, my in-box exploded with two types of messages: death and rape threats, mostly from Christians, and pleas for help from young LGBT people struggling with homophobia and bullying. I may have cried every day for several weeks after the Yes victory.
Do you get to play at gay events or venues?
A few cabaret shows for Mardi Gras, the Gay Games choral festivals in Sydney and Amsterdam. It’s hard for me to get support from the community because I’m not a pop diva.
Do you ever go out wild disco dancing?
Not so much these days. My partner and I used to like the leather/ fetish events because they’re the best-dressed and most fun. I love wearing corsets and she looks amazing in uniforms. Also, we like heavy, dark music and that’s where you find it.
Do you believe music can make the world a better place?
Music today is not a unifying force. There’s so much of it, such incredible diversity and it’s so tied to cultures and subcultures. Your average Kylie fan is not getting into Arnold Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, and that’s okay as long as we respect difference. What’s your message for the gay boys of the world out there? Stay fabulous; be a feminist.
What always makes you laugh?
My partner Glenda. Every. Single. Day.
SALLY SAYS, “STAY FABULOUS, BE A FEMINIST.”