Ryan, who has toured internationally with Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol, took inspiration for the song from the incredible work of the NHS, paying a poignant tribute to those who have lost someone during 2020 and have been unable to mourn their loved ones in the usual way. Combined with the Orchestra’s soaring string arrangements by Paul Campbell, it brings to mind a spirit leaving this realm and entering the next.
“When the Arts Council asked me to write a song, the only story that I could think of was the one I had heard of John Wilson. John’s wife got sick during full lockdown, which meant he couldn’t visit her in the hospital or hold her hand as she passed - he never got to say goodbye to the person he spent his life with - and then I thought of the countless others who were going through the same thing. The song wrote itself after that I guess. Having the Ulster Orchestra arrange and perform it with me was so amazing and I’m incredibly grateful to them for being such an integral part of such a meaningful song.”
Patrick McCarthy, Ulster Orchestra’s Head of Artistic Planning and Operations, comments:
“The Ulster Orchestra was delighted to collaborate with Ryan to compose and record a string arrangement to accompany his inspiring song which honours the work of the NHS and its staff. I feel that the role of the Ulster Orchestra at this time is to find ways to give space to artists and to give a voice to the emotion that we’ve all been dealing with through this time. I think Ryan’s song has truly captured that emotion - it’s incredibly special.”
Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added:
“All the stars aligned when we were able to realise this special collaboration between Ryan McMullan, singer-songwriter and rising international star, and the Ulster Orchestra with a new commission dedicated to the NHS and its staff, acknowledging their heroic response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is a year like no other and our health service staff have felt all of those emotions which we’ve all felt during this time and which resonate deeply throughout Ryan’s Song. The song reflects our worry, isolation, loneliness, uncertainty but also hope and strength in love and connectedness for all of our futures. It reminds us just how essential and vital the arts are to the very fabric of society and to ourselves. It shines a light on what it means to be human and for the arts we’re all richer. We are hugely proud to support this incredibly powerful tribute to the NHS by Ryan McMullan and the Ulster Orchestra, a song that will move and inspire many at this challenging time for all.”
The video of the song recording is available to watch here:
You can watch the Arts Council's video about the project here:
Ryan will officially release If This Is The End
on 27 November 2020.