Chorale Conversations: Paul McMahon, tenor


What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming performance?

I always look forward to performing interesting repertoire with outstanding colleagues; this performance is no different.

Most people who want to be singers would rather be Beyonce than Bartoli, or Bruno Mars than Bryn Terfel; so why classical singing?

Throughout my singing career, I’ve always tried to sing repertoire that suits my voice. I often admire people who can sing successfully the type of music performed by pop artists, but it doesn’t suit my voice or my musical interests. Furthermore, pop singers frequently live their lives in the constant gaze of public scrutiny, which would be unbearable for me and a constant burden upon my family.

Which singer/s are your vocal heroes and why?

I admire the artistry and vocal abilities of many singers. The English tenor Anthony Rolf-Johnson has always been one of my favourite singers – his voice was one of great subtlety, beauty and depth of colour, supported by innate and exquisite musicianship.

What’s the most helpful vocal or performance tip you’ve picked up from your teacher/s?

The audience is the most important component in any musical or theatrical equation. Singers owe it to their audience, to their performing colleagues and to the composer to always be well prepared and to always give the most honest and nuanced performance of which they are capable.

What pieces or works are on your performance “bucket list”?

The music of Handel and Bach has always inspired me. Both these composers produced a wealth of musical gems that will provide sources of motivation for me to explore for many years.

What else might we find on your play-list besides choral and classical music?

At home we listen mostly to jazz and to classical instrumental music. I enjoy listening to classical vocal or choral music when I am preparing works for a performance or for research, although I almost never listen to classical vocal or choral music as a means of relaxation, as I need to switch off from my working environment.

If you could invite five guests (past or present) to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?

For their perspectives on world affairs, their observations on matters of significance and their capacity for acceptance and appreciation, my parents (both deceased, who I miss greatly), Barack and Michelle Obama, Stephen Fry.

Besides singing, do you have any special talents or skills you’d like to share with us?

It’s neither a special talent nor particularly skilful, but looking after our garden has always been an interest that offers me the chance to be outdoors and productive.