The final installment of Harry Potter might be all the rage right now, but for one Mission music composer it’s all about the author.
Richard Cummins’ music is on the Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story soundtrack, with a fitting tribute to another English legend, Paul McCartney.
You might say the former Beatles’ frontman helped with Cummins’ break, if indirectly.
“I’m quite inspired by The Beatles and in particular, Paul McCartney, so my music tends to reflect some of that,” he says as he explains his hobby playing as a McCartney double in Beatles’ tribute bands.
He’s good at it. So good, he was hired by Sony Music to recreate Beatles songs for Paper Jamz, an interactive guitar-based toy.
“This is one of those stories where everything just falls so perfectly in place,” says Cummins, explaining the film makers wanted a scene when Rowling comes to London for the first time accompanied by Beatles-like music.
But not just to one of their famous songs. Cummins was asked to write an original score with the same charms for which the legendary band is known — no easy challenge.
Jeff Toyne, another B.C. local, was lead composer on the soundtrack and wanted to use some Canadian talent. And since the film was being shot in the Lower Mainland and Victoria, Cummins was a natural choice.
Well, that, and Cummins had recently loaned his 12-string electric guitar to a friend of Toyne, Dave Corman, to record his own album. Corman put in a good word to Toyne.
“So I got a call. I was quite honoured, actually, being associated with J.K. Rowling and such a massive phenomenon as Harry Potter is pretty surreal.”
Cummins has lived in Los Angeles, Montana, Idaho and Washington, toured across Canada and the U.S. and performed in five different countries, but now calls Mission home.
In 2007 he was living in Langley with his realtor wife, Michele Cummins, when she was called out to Mission to do a home evaluation. When it got cancelled, she decided to roam the town and came across an early 19th century home, which Richard now calls his “Mansion on the Hill.”
“She called me and said ‘I found our dream home!’”
Richard says they’ve been living here happily ever since, adding he’s fallen in love with the municipality, the people, and the best pizza he’s ever had at The Pizza Man.
Cummins is also impressed with the vibrant music culture in Mission.
“I was pretty amazed that Mission had things like folk fest, the Twilight concert series, and that people come out in droves for these events.”
It’s easy to take events for granted, he says, but the fact people here really support them is inspiring.
Although the Rowling film is a big deal, Cummins is no musical neophyte, getting nominated for best pop/contempoary album of the year by Canada’s Gospel Music Association in 2008. He’s also been named top artist by CBC Radio ZED.
Cummins began playing music at eight years old, but it was when he turned 20 that he was introduced to the music of a “phenomenal” guitarist and songwriter from the U.S. named Phil Keaggy.
“It was funny because Phil would sing these sweet songs about Jesus — and then rock out like the wildest guitar god you ever heard. So, Phil’s music introduced me to search out faith in God, as well as musically challenging me.”
Years later he got to collaborate on an album with Keaggy, and today Cummins plays five instruments, has released three albums of his own, and has his own recording studio in his home.
But life hasn’t all been sunshine. Like other music artists, he “got lost and strung out” at just 20, and felt like an old man.
That’s when he decided to pack up, sell all his possessions and hit the road with a pair of jeans, an acoustic guitar and a backpack.
Over several years he lived out of that backpack weaving in and out of relief organizations in places like Thailand and the Philippines. He went from helping build houses in Asia to serving soup in East Los Angeles.
“My roof has been from stars over a tropic jungle to, literally, a shrub in the middle of Montana, and now settled here in Mission, which is a great place to be. And if you hear a loud guitar ringing through a wall one day, please be gracious — this town inspires me!”