About the artist(s)
Margaret started singing lessons at the age of 16 and the first song she learned, ‘Amarilli mia bella’ from 24 Italian Songs and Arias, convinced her that she wanted to become a singer. She studied at Trinity College of Music and the Royal College of Music Opera School. Since 2008 she has been a member of the BBC Singers. Alongside her performing career, Margaret teaches singing at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and collaborates with teams of musicians going into schools to inspire creative music-making.
Here are highlights from Margaret’s conversation with The Enormity of Now.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Margaret Cameron. I’m a mezzo-soprano. I’m a member of the BBC singers – as an alto – and I also teach. I used to be an opera singer in days gone by, I no longer am.
How did you get here?
I thought I could sing as a teenager, and I started lessons when I was sixteen. My desire to do it was very straightforward.
I went from singing lessons at school to music college. Then I did an opera course which opened up a new world to me. I then joined Kent Opera, a touring company, sang in the chorus, was understudied, and did small roles. I thought that’s what my life would be.
I spent my life doing auditions and getting many rejections, with an occasional yes. When I kept coming up against that brick wall, I started looking in other directions to see what was there. In my first ten years, I did consider leaving it. I thought about music therapy and teaching but then thought I wouldn’t have any time to sing. I couldn’t let go of it.
I sang in a contemporary opera, which was an intense learning curve, a massive challenge, but I loved it. I started to wonder what I could do to get better at this kind of stuff. “The BBC Singers,” I thought, “they do loads of this sort of stuff!” So I went and auditioned to be an ad hoc singer. They don’t learn this music, they open the score and sightread it. It was ridiculous! I did that as an ad hoc for ten years then auditioned for a permanent job in 2008.
My singing is part of me. There are things that you need to do in life. If I’ve done nothing else but sing in a day – it’s been a good day.
How has the journey of your art/career engaged your voice – personally, artistically, politically?
You have an incredibly personal relationship with your own voice – how you hear it and what you think your voice is, as opposed to how other people hear you. How do I develop my own sense of myself and fit in with a career or job structure that wants things from me? Your voice has to do with truthfulness. I think singing and communicating have helped me on occasion to speak my truth or say when something is wrong.
What is the voice that you found while finding your voice?
The voice is one that is honest and true. It’s got its quirks and that’s ok. A voice that blends with others. It’s who I am, it’s my way of expressing myself in the world.
Margaret started singing lessons at the age of 16 and the first song she learned, “Amarilli mia bella” from 24 Italian Songs and Arias, convinced her that she wanted to become a singer. She studied at Trinity College of Music and the Royal College of Music Opera School.
She began her career as a member of Kent Opera and went on to sing roles with Opera 80, Music Theatre Wales, and Camberwell Pocket Opera, as well as making appearances at Longborough Festival Opera in Cosí fan tutte, Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni. On the concert platform, she has worked extensively for the Monteverdi Choir, regularly singing as a consort soloist, and is featured on their recording of Vivaldi’s Gloria for Phillips. She is the alto soloist in Rachmaninov’s Vespers with the Choir of Kings College Cambridge recorded for EMI. Since 2008 she has been a member of the BBC Singers, with whom she sings a vast range of choral music from Byrd to Birtwistle, via Duke Ellington! Her love of singing contemporary repertoire has led to a long association with Electric Voice Theatre, and she has premiered works by Errollyn Wallen and Andrew Poppy
Alongside her performing career, Margaret teaches singing at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and collaborates with teams of musicians going into schools to inspire creative music-making. With the BBC Singers, she has worked with the Proms Youth Choir Academy, preparing young singers for performances in the BBC Proms. With Electric Voice Theatre, she has worked with younger children, using music to tell the stories of women scientists and helping them to devise and perform their own pieces.