Composer 2022: Nick Shirrefs “Gallipoli”

Nick Shirrefs was born and raised in Southwest Victoria to a very musical family. He started learning piano at the age of 6, and later trombone at secondary school.

While some may say he wasted his adolescence watching movies, as his interest in composition grew, his “wasted adolescence” suddenly started to bear fruit. He developed a deep and passionate love affair with film music, particularly the music of John Williams, Ennio Morricone and Danny Elfman, as well as a deep admiration for the composers of the Romantic and Impressionist eras.

Eventually Nick decided to take his music education seriously and completed a Bachelor of Music, majoring in Composition at the Sydney campus of the Australian Institute of Music under the careful guidance of Dr. David Hush. Once he completed his degree, Nick travelled the world for 6 months to broaden his horizons and discover as much world music as he could.

Returning to Australia, Nick found himself employed as a brass and percussion teacher at Horsham College and Murtoa College, where he still teaches to this day both as an instrumental and classroom teacher as well as a VET Music Instructor.

Among Nick’s musical successes are the premiere of his work “Origin – A Cosmic Voyage” with the Limestone Coast Symphony Orchestra, “Some Music For Sailing Ships”, premiered by the Hamilton Symphony Orchestra, “Sonata for Flute in D”, performed by international flautist Mark Shiell, performing his original jazz pieces with Wilbur Wilde and the publication of his concert band piece “Insert Superheroes Here:” for school grade concert band.

Nick continues to write for school concert bands in particular and takes immense joy from workshopping his compositions with students around the state.

Lately, Nick has taken to expanding his knowledge on the finer aspects of the recording process, composing brass-centric pieces for himself to play, record and produce, particularly in the hope of promoting the education of brass instruments and what they are capable of. These compositions can be heard on his YouTube channel:

Nick is so excited to hear how Roland and the Grainger Wind Symphony interpret his work “Gallipoli – For Those Who Gave All” and hopes you find yourself enamoured with his music.


Gallipoli is a work for Wind Orchestra largely inspired by the remarkable book “Gallipoli” by Australian author Peter FitzSimons.
My interest in the history of warfare, prior to reading this book, was largely focussed on World War Two, and I must admit my knowledge of Gallipoli and World War One was somewhat lacking.
The book itself is an engrossing read on what was ultimately one of the most devastatingly poor military exercises in modern history, and this work focuses on three elements that were either mentioned in the book or envisaged by me as I read.
The first section (bar 1 – 67) is my interpretation of the Australian Armed Forces gathering in Western Australia to board the “grey leviathans” for what they believed would be a great adventure. The music is military and march like in nature, with a stirring melody over a slightly syncopated rhythmic accompaniment. The influence of John Williams’ score to “Saving Private Ryan” can not be understated here, as I am largely inspired by his remarkable melodies in film.
The second section (bars 68 – 120) is my interpretation of specifically, the Battle of the Nek. The disastrous absurdity of this particular battle had a profound effect on me. The desperation of the situation is beyond the scope of human understanding, yet it still occurred. The music at this point starts off quietly and rhythmically, as a representation of what the Australian infantry knew would be certain death. As the Australian infantry go “over the top” towards the Turkish army, the music becomes chaotic and complex. The overall sound should be quite disturbing initially, with the trombones grinding glissandos a feature. As this section proceeds, small sections of melody can be heard representing the waves of humanity being slaughtered unnecessarily, and how the battle swung briefly between the two sides before ultimately, the Australians are utterly devastated by the Turkish machine gun fire.
The final section (bars 120 – 205) should be reminiscent of that final country dance that so many soldiers and their wives back home never got to enjoy. It’s a simple melody that builds in intensity but never loses the sense that it is a plaintive, waltz melody easily danced to in any country town hall. The piece final culminates with a solemn mention of The Last Post, as a salute to those who gave their lives for our freedom.

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