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Q&A | 31 Questions For Rachel Mahon

By Ludwig Van on May 3, 2018

Rachel Mahon
Toronto-born organist Rachel Mahon talks about her favourite films, games she’s best at, and secret talents.

Every month or so, Ludwig Van poses 60 questions to an artist who has made a mark on Toronto’s music scene. Each artist picks and chooses, with a minimum response of 20. A kind of personality test, if you will.

Toronto’s Rachel Mahon first made a splash in the international organ scene as the first female organist hired at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, a position she held between 2014-2016. Now based in the U.K., she performs regularly around the world including performances with the Orgelsommer Festival 2016, St. Michaelis Church, Lüneburg, Germany, and Temple Church, London, UK. She also a busy guest accompanist for numerous choirs and ensembles, including the Mendelssohn Singers, the Elora Festival Singers and the Tallis Choir of Toronto. She is currently Assistant Organist at Chester Cathedral, in the UK.

You can hear Rachel Mahon next at the Toronto Bach Festival on Saturday, May 12 at the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church (Toronto Oratory). Details here and at www.torontobachfestival.com

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What are three things that Toronto doesn’t have but should?

A King subway line.
An Eglinton subway line.
A Shepherd subway line.

Name the musical equivalent to junk food.

Pop music.

Default drink/cocktail of choice?

Water….or sauvignon blanc.

Your favourite sound?


Your least favourite sound?

Police sirens. I always plug my ears because I can’t stand it. I swear they are getting louder as the years go on.

Your favourite smells?

Chocolate chip cookies in the oven, lavender, lilies.

Your least favourite smells?

Onions and B.O.

First thing that comes to your mind when you think about Toronto

The skyline.

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

I cut my bangs very badly once, but I grew into them. I still cut my own hair.

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


Whose musical style do you covet?

Julia Wedman! My sisters and I love watching her play.

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


What did you major in as an undergraduate?

Organ Performance.

The strangest talent that you possess?

I have an incredible toe span. I can also pop various limbs out of joint and do the splits.

Shoe of choice?

In an ideal world, heels, but they are too painful and it’s not practical with all the cobblestones here.

The different career path that you could have gone on?

Too many to count! I wanted to be a doctor, a carpenter, a dancer, an artist and the list goes on.

Your ancestry?

Primarily English and Russian.

Your three favourite films?

Gone with the Wind, It’s a Wonderful Life and BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series.

What is the best thing about your work?

Getting to make music every day with the choir on the organ, and travelling to different places to play different instruments.

What is the worst thing about your work?

Long hours and no weekends. Practising late at night after the Cathedral is closed.

The talent that you wish you possessed?

Ballet dancing.

What are you listening to as you answer these questions?

My nephew is repeating most of what I say as my sister and I chat.

What musical instrument do you secretly long to play?

Cello or bagpipes.

What sport did you give up and why?

Field hockey. I just ran out of time when I went to University because I had three jobs.

What is the game that you’re best at?


Your least favourite word?

Moist. Or any reflexive pronoun when used improperly!

The first album that made you love music?

My mum’s box set called Piano Mania.

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


The first three things that you do every morning?

Boil some eggs, shower, brush my teeth.

The best way to die?

While sleeping peacefully.

The piece of music you want played at your funeral?

Komm, süsser Tod — Virgil Fox’s arrangement of Bach.

[Updated. May 4, 9:00 a.m.Rachel Mahon’s bio has been corrected for accuracy.]

Ludwig Van
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