Rolleston resident Caelan Thomas’ passion for theatre has earned him a nomination in the Selwyn Awards 2018 People’s Choice. The 19-year-old pianist has been involved with the Kirwee Players and is the musical director of the Selwyn Community Choir. He spoke to Georgia O’Connor-Harding about his passion for performing
What did you think when you found out you were nominated for the Selwyn Awards 2018 People’s Choice?
It is incredible. It is amazing – I am honoured. I feel lucky I get to spend as much time as I do pursuing the things I love.
Is this your full-time job at the moment?
I am studying. I am just about to start my final semester in a Bachelor of Science majoring in maths at Canterbury University. I have been there for two and a half years and I am finishing off my last semester. I was thinking of going into mathematics or doing computer science. An IT job or something like that. I did think about doing music at university, but I wanted to keep it as something I do because I love it – not as a job I had to do. I didn’t want to kill the passion.
Tell me about how you got involved in the performing arts?
I got involved with the Kirwee Players in 2015. I was in my final year of school. My music teacher was the musical director for Grease, which was the show they were doing and they needed a piano player. I wasn’t quite sure if it was something I wanted to get into, so I agreed to just a couple of rehearsals with them to see how I found it and I ended up falling in love with it and haven’t looked back. I am doing my fourth show with the Kirwee Players this year on the piano. I have done a couple of kids’ shows over the past two years. Also, at the end of the year, I am playing the piano for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with the new theatre company CentreStage Rolleston. We had auditions recently. We had about 40 kids come and audition and about 35 adults.
There are a huge amount of opportunities in Christchurch. Why do you choose to be involved in the performing arts in Selwyn?
I guess it is my home. It is part of the community I am in. It is cool to be able to provide those opportunities for the people I live with in the community, especially opportunities for kids to get involved. It is a lifetime thing that really sticks with you.
Do you have any special early memories of you playing the piano?
I have been playing for about as long as I can remember. I started out at about four with mum. And then after a few months, mum got me a teacher because I stopped listening to her. No memory really sticks out. It used to be something I did every morning. It was part of my morning routine – basically at 7am, mum and dad said I could set my clock by it. It was part of my morning routine. It is something you have got to do over a long period of time.
What is your favourite piece on the piano?
I really like Clair de Lune. So moving. It took probably six months for me to master.
You have also taken on the role of
musical director for the Selwyn Community Centre, how has that been?
I really love it. It is an amazing group of people who love singing. We have had some real success this year. I was really proud of our performance at the Rolleston Anzac Day service. We have been asked to perform at the dawn service for Christchurch’s Anzac Day next year. All these doors are opening for the choir.
What songs are you planning to sing?
We are planning to do Bring Him Home, originally from Les Misérables. It is a fitting song for the occasion.
What else is coming up for the choir?
We are performing for our family and friends at The Piano on August 12. That is the big new venue in town. Really looking forward to performing at a high-quality venue made for music really. And then on November 11 for Armistice Day, we have a performance.
What are the ages of the choir?
Our youngest is aged 14-15 ranging to 80 or 90-plus. Between the Darfield and Rolleston group, we have 50-60 members. It is non-audition, so anyone can show up if they are keen which is really cool. It makes it a really inclusive thing which I like about it. It was originally started up by a lady called Belinda Cullen-Reid. Unfortunately she had to resign last year and that is when I became involved. I think when we started, we might have only had 20-25 people. It has been growing and growing.
Do you have a musical family?
Mum is very musical, dad is not very musical at all. He is kind of dragged to a lot of musical performances. But my sister is also very musical as well. It has been a big part of our lives growing up.
Was your passion for the performing arts always supported by friends and family?
Yes, I did a couple of shows in high school. I was involved in High School Musical at Lincoln High School. I had an amazing piano teacher called Beth Keoghan. She always provided me with as much music as I could possibly hope to play. Just different styles and variety.
What are your goals in terms of helping the performing arts thrive in the future?
I am involved in the committee for CentreStage Rolleston and we are going to be running some kids’ shows as well. I am looking forward to holiday programmes. I am inspired by children’s theatre. The passion they bring to the stage is addicting. To watch them grow and perform as singers and dancers is incredibly fulfilling and something I would like to pursue in the future.
Have you always lived in Selwyn?
I was born in Wellington and spent six months there and then I moved to Selwyn so I have spent most of my life here.
What is the best production you have ever been involved in?
I really loved when we did Annie out at the Kirwee Players. We had a really talented cast which pushed me as the musical director to provide feedback and push the kids harder than I have in any other show. We sold out all our performances for that.
Have you ever had an absolute disaster on the stage?
There has been a few rehearsals that go badly or where we have technical problems. On the whole, I don’t think I have had any crazy disasters but I suspect one day we will run into that, which will make a great story I am sure.
What are the challenges Selwyn performers are facing?
I think the biggest problem is the lack of a venue. It would be really useful to have a good theatre venue and practice spaces as well. Hopefully, over the next five to 10 years we can work with council groups and local groups. I think that would be the biggest challenge at the moment.