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A formidable singing teacher is no more

Noelle Barker, a fine soprano in her day and later a teacher to many outstanding performers, has died aged 84.

Aberdeen born, she studied with Hans Hotter and sang with Britten’s English Opera Group and other national copanies. She was professor at the Guildhall from 1977. Among her hobbies, she listed breadmaking and dressmaking. She was a vice-president of British Youth Opera, which announced her death (below).

noelle barker

We are very sad to report news of the death of Noelle Barker, a Vice-President of British Youth Opera.

A distinguished singer, teacher and mentor, Noelle played a hugely influential role in the development of BYO as a member of both the Board of Trustees and the Artistic Committee, and until last year, as a regular member of BYO’s audition panels.

Her advice, wisdom and support, as well as the warmth of her personality, will be sorely missed not only by BYO but by an extensive generation of singers who came under her influence. We extend our deepest sympathy to her family.

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  1. I do feel very sad about this. I didn’t know her very well but she was so warm and engaging that it was always lovely to bump into her, and when I asked her advice last year about teaching, she was very helpful and generous with her time. I know she’s played an extremely important part in many singers’ lives; she will be missed by so many! My condolences too to her family.

    • Richard Leigh Harris says:

      I only met Noelle a mere handful of times, but the warmth, quiet dignity and total lack of ego (rare for a singer)
      made an instant impression.

      I still remember fondly (and with great gratitude ) a truly memorable performance with Robert Sherlaw Johnson of
      Messiaen’s song-cycle “Harawi” on a humid night at Reading University as part of an SPNM Composer’s Weekend in 1973. One of those epiphanic experiences – and especially for a seventeen-year old!

      Bless you, Noelle, and may you be with the angels and at peace.

  2. Janet Shell says:

    She was Head of Voice at Guildhall when I was there and was a kind and empathetic lady, to me at least. She found funding for me and kept me on the course because I had given up a job to go to GSMD and study to follow my dream. Later she understood my need to get out into the profession when offered the opportunity by Kent Opera. She organised everything for me and I wasn’t even her student! Bless you Noelle.

  3. Robert Chavner says:

    Noelle was head of vocal studies when I was a student at Guildhall. She was always very supportive and encouraged me in my early career as a singer. As a postgraduate I was able to study with her for one term through an exchange with Susan Chilcott who in turn studied with my teacher. I learnt a lot. Deo gratias.

  4. fiona cameron says:

    She was my teacher , the one who made me work hard and be the singer and teacher I am today . My heart is very heavy and sore and my thoughts and prayers are with Chris and the children and grandchildren . Her wisdom will live on in others who knew and worked with her.God Bless

  5. Deborah Hawksley says:

    Noelle Barker was impeccable in her teaching life. She brought great dignity to her position as Head of Vocal Studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Unfailingly, she held the students’ needs as paramount – and never her own. She once offered, totally unsolicited, to lend me money until my student subsistence grant came through. In the end I didn’t need to take up her offer, but I have never forgotten her open, no strings, generosity.

    Her quiet, supportive presence will remain with me as an abiding memory. The lessons were always about her pupil, and she never sought any personal reflective glory. She was self-deprecating too, describing her own voice (to me, in a lesson) as a ‘penny whistle’ instrument.

    She was warm, had enormous integrity, and was kind beyond belief.

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