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Christmas Love Music Video

Video Credits: Music composition, piano and voice: Salwan Cartwright-Shamoon. Cello: Griff Wadkin. Teachers and Participants: Marie-Juliette Ghazarian, Sara Dylan, Wan Tat Cheah, Kyron Bourke; Helen Douglas,  Mariam Khwaja, Sylvia Chen, Joan Galbraith, Helen Gallagher, Janet Hamilton. Sound Engineer: Oli Parker


In December 2018, Salwan ran the first Sing from the Heart at Christmas course at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. Salwan didn’t have a plan for the 2-day weekend course, and just waited until he arrived with his keyboard and met the participants to see how things would unfold. One of the beautiful things that arose from this course was the creation of a song, Christmas Love. Within a short space of time Salwan composed the music, and with the help of the course participants the words came along quite easily too. Salwan and the participants had the opportunity to perform the song at the end-of-course concert the following day.

In December 2020, Salwan had the idea to make a music video of this song featuring course participants and teachers from the Online Singing Course. Salwan composed a cello part for the track which was played by his college friend Griff Wadkin, and had some help with the video editing from his friend and fellow course teacher, Wan Tat Cheah. The music video received media attention from the Irish News and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and featured on the Crisis homeless charity’s ‘Christmas Rocks’ playlist to an audience of over 110k Twitter followers.

Sing from the Heart at Christmas group photo with singers and teachers

A group picture taken at the end of the 2018 Sing from the Heart at Christmas course.


Course Teachers, Salwan and Samantha, perform 'Solas', a song written by course participant Helen Douglas and musically arranged by Salwan.


Helen Douglas, a regular online course participant, discovered that she had a flair for composition during the first online singing course, For the Love of Singing. It was during that course that she wrote and performed her first song, Circles. Soon after, Helen decided to learn the piano and began taking piano, composition  and music theory lessons with Salwan. Solas is the second song that Helen has written. She developed and performed it during the Support Your Singing online course, and Salwan worked with her to notate the song and also added the harmony and a piano accompaniment to the words and melody that Helen wrote.

When Samantha Lewis, a gifted mezzo-soprano from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, joined the Support Your Singing course as a guest artist and heard Helen perform an early version of the song, she asked for the music when it was ready as she felt she would like to sing it. Salwan then shared the music with Sam, and rearranged the accompaniment. Together, Sam and Salwan had the opportunity to perform and record the song at the Bradshaw Hall at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire on what turned out to be the last day of term before Christmas break in 2020.

Helen Douglas  online singing course participant

Songwriter: Helen Douglas 

Samantha Lewis and Salwan Cartwright-Shamoon after their recording session

Sam and Salwan after their recording session

My Father's Love

Salwan performs a song that he wrote his father, My Father's Love. Salwan's father is from Baghdad, Iraq. The chorus of the song uses the Arabic phrase, 'As-salamu alaykum', which can be translated as, 'Peace be upon you'.


When I was 13, I was very fortunate to get my first job as a restaurant pianist. At the time I could only play two popular songs from memory, and I used those for my audition, but soon after getting the job, I quickly expanded my repertoire to have around 20 popular songs and this grew to around 50 songs. Although I didn't know it then, this regular piano playing that I was doing at fancy restaurants on weekends became my formative training in composition. It was there, on the job, where I learnt how to take a 3-minute song and make it sound nice over 10-minutes. I also had the chance to perform anything that I was working on in a public space.

Singing and playing the piano together was more challenging for me. Whilst I had the ability to improvise on the piano, my training in singing was classical and I found it quite difficult to bring both of these aspects together. In the end, the majority of my restaurant work became piano based. Fast forward 10 years, and having received much more voice training from Queen's University and The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and with private teachers, I now have a different tool kit to work with, and feel excited about exploring the territory again.

salwan cartwright-shamoon playing the piano at Belfast restaurant

Salwan held the residency at Drennan's Restaurant in Belfast for several of his teenage years

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