International opera star Karen Cargill celebrates first singing teacher at Scotland’s conservatoire

Internationally renowned Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill has dedicated a new competition for emerging classical singers at Scotland’s national conservatoire in memory of the childhood singing teacher who first sparked her passion for music.

Karen, who last month received critical acclaim for her lead performance in Scottish Opera and Vanishing Point’s dramatic new production of Bluebeard’s Castle and The 8th Door, and has upcoming performances in some of the world’s most prestigious cultural locations, including New York’s Carnegie Hall and the Edinburgh International Festival, is supporting the Molly Robb Prize for Young Singers to honour the inspirational Arbroath teacher who first helped her to find her voice.

“Molly was my first singing teacher, she gave me the confidence to sing the way I felt the music. She had an incredible influence on my early musical development, she was a real inspiration to me,” said Karen.

“Molly taught me everything – from how to read music to expressing emotion through my singing.”

Born and raised in Arbroath, Karen started singing lessons with Molly Robb at the age of nine and was a regular member of Molly’s well-known concert party and her choir at the Old and Abbey Church. The Arbroath Music Festival was another regular event for Molly’s pupils where Karen won various prizes, including the prestigious Blue Riband.

“I was always singing at home from a very young age. My auntie suggested that I might enjoy singing lessons, so when I was nine years old I began to have lessons with Molly,” said Karen.

“I owe so much to those early days learning about communicating through music both in my lessons and as part of Molly’s concert party.”

Karen Cargill is recognised as one of the great mezzos of her generation. She has graced the stages of some of the finest opera houses in the world including New York’s Metropolitan Opera and The Royal Opera in London, working with some of the world’s top conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Donald Runnicles, James Levine and Yannick Nézét-Séguin. No matter the success and accolades, Karen remembers her childhood in Arbroath and the path that led her to train at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the beginning of her career. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s prestigious Alexander Gibson Opera School has an international reputation for producing outstanding vocalists who perform in opera houses throughout the world.

“I was 17 when I started at the then Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) and I have never stopped singing,” said Karen.

“Those important early lessons with Molly and my training at the RSAMD have served me well, that’s why I wanted to create a new prize for the next generation of young singers. It’s so important to have prizes for young male and female voices, it’s an opportunity to sing with your peers, to learn and grow in confidence as a performer. I owe so much to Molly Robb and my years with her, that’s why I have created this prize in her memory.”

The inaugural Molly Robb Prize for Young Singers takes place on Tuesday, May 2 at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.


Picture: Molly Robb and her concert party in St. Vigeans Church 1986/87. Back row: Yolanda Gordon, Natalie Street, Shona Kemp, Jill Findleton, Susan Smith. Front row: Molly Robb, Karen Cargill, Sheila Lyons, Allison Cargill.

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