Meet Karen Cargill

Was there a particular moment or experience that made you want to pursue singing as a career?

Singing has been a lifelong passion, beginning with the greatest hits of Boney M when I was very small. This is what prompted my mum to look into singing lessons for me, starting my love affair with the joy of singing, the intense emotional and physical experience that making music creates.

How has the experience of singing Verdi’s Requiem changed throughout your career?

I first sang Verdi’s Requiem when I was a student in Glasgow and it has remained a constant throughout my career so far. It is a piece that stays with you – a visceral experience from the intensity of the Dies Irae to the pleading of the Lacrimosa. Every performance of this work brings a new perspective as a musician: I find something new to explore each time.

Verdi’s Dies Irae is one of the most recognisable pieces in classical music. Do you have a favourite passage in the work?

The Lacrimosa is perhaps my favourite movement as Verdi so clearly invokes the feeling of pleading and yearning with hope, while also encapsulating the heaviness of emotion through the passage of near sobbing that I sing alongside the bass, Christof Fischesser, in our duet.

In a concert performance like this evening, how do the soloists work together to get their voices to blend and balance with a couple of rehearsals, compared to an opera production when you’re working together for weeks?

Concert performances are such a wonderful way to connect and explore music in a fast environment. It requires everyone to be flexible and open in order to bring together a variety of ideas and that’s something that I find exciting and inspiring. Working this way offers many new ideas; often an interpretation that you perhaps hadn’t considered before and that keeps things fresh and challenging!

Is there a role or type of role that you enjoy singing the most?

I am passionate about singing in every form, be that classical, folk, jazz or opera. The release I feel when I sing is where I get my enjoyment, telling someone’s story or, in this case, being part of a large liturgical offering. To weave yourself into the fabric of an enormous musical patchwork quilt is a privilege.

You’re a repertoire coach at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. What’s your favourite thing about teaching?

Working with singers of all ages is something I’m obsessed with, no two voices being the same. When you have studied any subject for an intense period we can often lose our way and I want to remind young singers why they sing, what it means to them, how it transports both them and the audience. As artists, we need to remember that we have an individual voice (whatever the discipline); we need to make the choices we believe in and, most of all, be brave.

Which concerts coming up in the Philharmonia’s London season catch your eye, and why?

What an exceptional season lies ahead for the Orchestra and the lucky audiences! There is so much to choose from here! Definitely The Symphonic Music of Wayne Shorter on 19 November, not only for the operatic and song parts of the programme, but to hear him performed in a symphonic context. I couldn’t omit my friend Nicola Benedetti who is a constant inspiration: from Brahms (1 October) to Marsalis (9 November), Nicky is one of the all-time great musicians. That leads me to one of my major musical crushes… Mitsuko Uchida (25 January) – I have no words for the scale of my admiration for a musical powerhouse.