Meghan Quinlan is a third-year doctoral student in medieval music at Merton College, University of Oxford. Meghan’s dissertation focuses on medieval song in 13th century France and explores contrafacture, the practice of re-combining pre-existing melodies with new texts. Meghan’s young age and academic standing belies the width and breadth of her musical career as a conductor, composer, chorister and pianist. Meghan’s musical career started at age nine as a chorister in the renowned Hamilton Children’s Choir (HCC), led by Conductor and Artistic Director Zimfira Poloz of Kazakhstan. The HCC is unique in that it is engaged in making a full, resonant, and healthy sound from every child; even the youngest choristers are treated as professionals and given the opportunity to perform music ranging from folk songs in several languages to complex contemporary and classical compositions in harmonies of up to ten parts. As a high school student, Meghan stepped in as conductor when Zimfira was away and travelled with the choir as far afield as Poland and Spain.
Meghan went on to co-found the HCC Youth Ensemble, which she conducted along with the HCC until she finished her undergraduate degree at McMaster University. Meghan then went on to study conducting in Oslo, Norway with Kåre Hanken, a leading international choral conductor and teacher. During that time she sang with the famed Oslo Chamber Choir, which specializes in Norwegian folk music. By the end of her first year in Norway Meghan had established her own project choir, which performed a special concert. By then Meghan had become fluent in Norwegian and had started to learn Danish to add to the many other modern and medieval languages that she has acquired along the way, including German, French, Middle English, and Old French.
Meghan then had her first sojourn at the University of Oxford, where she completed a Masters degree in Medieval Studies, following which she returned to Norway for another year to work with the Canticum Chamber Choir.
In addition to her doctoral studies, and teaching two undergrad courses at Oxford, Meghan is the Choir Director of the Wolfson College Choir, the first female choir conductor in Oxford University’s 1,000 year history. Meghan also conducts the Sansara Choir, based at Merton College, and which won First Prize and Audience Prize in the 2015 London International A Cappella Choir Competition, competing against choirs from all corners of the globe.
Meghan has led choral workshops throughout Europe and her choral arrangements have been performed in numerous countries including Norway, Sweden, France, Korea, Canada and the USA.
Meghan’s love of songs and melodies is reflected in her doctoral dissertation which traces four 13th century French melodies through their diverse manuscript sources, analyses and translates the new texts with which those melodies have been re-combined (the contrafacta) and explores the historical, literary and performance contexts for the melodies’ re-use. This is the first time that contrafacture has been studied in detail and will have a significant impact on the study of medieval music.
It will come as no surprise to learn that multi-talented Meghan hopes to balance an academic career with performance, composition, conducting and writing.
The CCSF is proud to have Meghan Quinlan among our distinguished scholars, and to give her the Belle Shenkman Award for the Study of Arts 2016-2017.