Rob O'Connell pictured on the National Youth Choir's 1999 World Tour. Image: George Poppe

13 August 2018

We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Rob O’Connell (National Youth Choir 1997-2002) after a courageous battle with cancer. His close friend and NYC contemporary George Poppe has written the following tribute.

"We have very sadly lost one of our own. I met Rob in the Surrey County Youth Choir 23 years ago and we both started our NYC careers on the same residential course at Sedburgh School in 1997. Through NYC we shared so many amazing musical experiences and sang in some of the world’s best concert venues (also some of the worst). We travelled throughout the Southern Hemisphere on the 1999 World Tour, when we were often paired for home-stays; the memories from these will always stay with me. 

After completing his music degree at Huddersfield University, Rob become a regular fixture with ensembles including the William Byrd Singers, Canzonetta, the BBC Daily Service Singers, the St Endellion Summer Festival Choir, Manchester Chamber Choir, Manchester Consort, and both Manchester and Southwark Cathedral Choirs. His solo work included operas, oratorios and even a tour with the band ‘James’.  Rob was also a tutor to a number of private singing pupils over the years. 

Rob was truly a gentleman, a warm and witty friend, and so modest about his talents. A dreadful disease took him in his prime. He is fondly remembered and dearly missed."

Rob’s funeral took place at Southwark Cathedral, where he was a Lay Clerk, on Thursday 16th August at 2pm. His partner, Debbi, has set up a Just Giving page in aid of Bowel Cancer UK. Donations are still being accepted (as of 5 September 2018) at

Alumni who would like to contact Rob’s family directly can do so by emailing [email protected].