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Q&A | 38 Questions For Nicholas McGegan

By Ludwig Van on December 12, 2016

Nicholas McGegan (Photo: Steve Sherman
Nicholas McGegan (Photo: Steve Sherman)

Every so often MT poses 60 questions to a local or visiting artist in Toronto who has made our classical music community that much more interesting. They pick and choose. The minimum response is 20 answers. A kind of Rorschach personality test, if you will.

British-born conductor Nicholas McGegan is as a frequent visitor in Toronto. He last led the Toronto Symphony Orchestra through Handel’s Messiah in 2012, prompting John Terauds to call it the best he had seen in 12 consecutive years.

As a specialist in Baroque and Classical period repertoire, he has a point-of-view that is refreshingly undogmatic and completely open to discovery.

You can hear Nicholas McGegan lead the TSO plus Yulia Van Doren (soprano), Abigail Levis (mezzo-soprano), Isaiah Bell (tenor), Daniel Okulitch (bass-baritone) and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir on December 18 through 23. Details found, here.

Default drink/cocktail of choice?

Good but not grand wine. Ideally local.

Name your favourite concert hall/venue anywhere.

Musikverein Vienna. The sound is amazing and the place isn’t too big.

Your favourite smells?

Coffee and croissant.

The first thing that comes to your mind when you think about Toronto?

Terrific places to eat. I love to visit the market downtown, plus the Portuguese and Hungarian areas.

The historical personalities, both good and bad, that fascinate you the most?

Haydn, Samuel Pepys, Casanova. I would love to have met Queen Elizabeth I but I’d have been terrified if it actually happened.

The dumbest thing that you’ve ever done to your hair?

Grow it long. I looked like a scruffy thatched cottage.

If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you?

Venice. It is so wonderful there to be away from the sound of cars and constant traffic.

The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years?

Dante, P G Wodehouse’s Summer Lightening, Vanity Fair.

Where was the last place you traveled to for work or pleasure?


What is your biggest phobia?

Being at the top of tall buildings. Living in earthquake prone California, I don’t relish the prospect of being on the 50th floor of a building that could topple at any moment.

Where did you go to school?


What did you major in as an undergraduate?


The strangest talent that you possess?

Folding napkins.

The different career path that you could have gone on?


Your ancestry?


Your three favourite films?

The Life of Picasso, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Pride and Prejudice

Under what circumstances would you join the army?


Your major character flaw?

Finding TOO MUCH amusing.

The character flaw in others that you can’t abide?

No sense of humour.

What is the best thing about your work?

That I can still do it and still enjoy every second of it.

What is the worst thing about your work?

Airports and flying.

The relatively normal piece of clothing that you believe you’d look the most ridiculous in?

Anything in Spandex.

The talent that you wish you possessed?

Dance well.

What are you listening to as you answer these questions?

I can’t put music on in the background. I try either to listen attentively or not at all. I hate music in restaurants.

What musical instrument do you secretly long to play?


What sport did you give up and why?

Hopeless at every one.

What is the one animal that scares you the most?

A hippo.

Have you ever fired a gun? If so, what were the circumstances?


Scariest situation you’ve ever been in?

Nearly drowning off the French Coast.

Your favourite word?


Your least favourite word?

Like. Sometimes when I hear a teenager talking on a cell phone, I try to count the number of times he or she says ‘like’ per minute. I think that my record was fifteen.

The thing that makes you the happiest?

A free evening with a bottle of good wine and good friends.

Name three pieces or composers that you never want to hear again?

The Pachelbel Canon, Lohengrin and anything by Delius.

The first album that made you love music?

The Marriage of Figaro in a recording conducted by Karajan. Schwarzkopf and Irmgard Seefried were the ladies, and they were perfect.

Three pieces, songs, or arias that you could listen to on repeat for an hour?

Deh Vieni from Figaro, Qual nave by Handel, Ave Maria Fadista sung by Amalia Rodrigues.

The one place that you have the least interest in ever visiting?

Las Vegas.

The first three things that you do every morning?

Coffee, more coffee, and then email.

The best way to die?

In one’s sleep.

To read more from our Q&A Series, click HERE.


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