Meet a Chorister -

Karen McNicoll (soprano)

Member Since:
1982

Profession: Retired elementary school teacher


Why do you sing? Mum was a teacher too, and music was her thing. My father was a philosopher, but the way he got to Oxford was on an organ scholarship. We had two pianos in our house in Oxford, a baby grand and an upright. Music was around us all the time. I played piano, violin, organ, and oboe. Just recently, my 101-year-old mother was teaching the piano to one of her around-the-clock aides. Mum was sitting on the sofa listening and cried out, “No, no, no! F#! F#!”


How has the pandemic affected your singing? I’ve been singing virtually with the London-based Stay At Home Choir, a group of 36,000 singers from 75 countries. It was started by the conductor of the Covent Garden Chorus. Some of the music has been jolly hard. One of the pieces we recorded was the “Alegri Miserere,” which goes up to a high C. Every soprano was asked to do it, and they worked with you, showed you how. It was quite an accomplishment!


Do you always have music in your head? Always. Particularly when we do a concert. Afterwards, there’s a mourning process as you lose the music. You’ve got to shed it.


What are you listening to right now? Music? We’ve got grandchildren visiting. Do you listen to music when you have grandchildren visiting?


Fondest GCS memory? Our conductor at the time, Richard Vogt, did a whole concert of British music, including Michael Tippett’s Child of Our Time, which is very difficult. At one point we were rehearsing, “We are lost, we are lost,” and I thought, “Too right we’re lost! We’re never going to learn this piece!” But Richard said, “Hang in there, hang in there. It’s worth it.” And it was.


Other Interests? For 14 years, I cuddled babies on Monday nights at Yale/New Haven Hospital. Some in the pulmonary unit were babies who were confined to the hospital for more than a year; some were born with drug dependencies. Some nights it was just one baby for three hours; sometimes it was several babies. I would be very annoyed if there were parents holding their babies – it was my night!

Karen McNicoll (soprano)