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Jill McNichol 1938-2017

Jill Roberta McNichol (nee Hughston)

November 3, 1938 – October 19, 2017

The Orangeville Chorus is very sad to announce the passing of Jill McNichol, charter member, and our first Assistant Director. Jill won the Jackie Kraft Assistant Director Region 16 award early in her directing career. She started out as a tenor, but quickly found her niche as Baritone Section Leader.
    She was creative, funny, free-spirited, and her musical talents were extraordinary. As well as singing and directing the chorus, she taught piano and voice lessons from her home on Zina Street – also the location of many after-glows around the grand piano. 
    Jill sang in a quartet with Joan Borden, Elly Brass and Carol Terrell, first called, Just For Fun and later, Easy Goin'. Jill then got herself a license plate, ESYGOIN, for her big turquoise Pontiac (aptly nicknamed by her, 'The Apartment')! And easy going she was – always there to support the chorus in any way she could. She spread her joy of singing in a quartet by hosting many 'Wanna-Be' quartet nights at her home, where every room in the house was used for different groups to practice a song and then come together in her back room to perform! She also sang in many comedy quartets, both with her own quartet (Short People, in her legendary red high heels) and with double quartets (Desperate Divas, where she played a man!). 
    Jill's hi-jinks in the chorus were legendary, often causing Pat to gasp and carry on during a performance. Two examples were during the performance of one of the chorus’s early songs, "A Little Bit of Happiness", with opening words, "My Daddy was a preacher and he rode from town to town. He opened up the good book and the folks all gathered ‘round." Jill was cast as the preacher and was SUPPOSED to come around the end of the front row in a black suit and hat, carrying the bible, and then open it up while the chorus 'gathered ‘round'! For the first performance, she came around the front row ON A TRICYCLE! After a tiny reprimand from Pat, for the second performance, she walked in as scripted but her bible had a Playgirl centerfold on display when she opened it up, seen only by Anne Richardson and Lucie Pearce on the end of the front row (who nearly choked when they saw it)! 
    Memorable songs Jill directed included Walking After Midnight, Blue Skies, and Let it Snow, which some of the chorus sang in Paris on the steps of the Opera House, and then it did snow, as it often did after this song was sung! 
    Jill also directed a Young Women in Harmony group at her home. She thoroughly enjoyed teaching the young girls four-part harmony. They often sang with the chorus, including singing "When a Child is Born" in one of the chorus shows. 
    Jill knew that extra practice was always good and so she started up a group of singers from the chorus to come to her house on a regular basis to practice chorus repertoire and learn some new tunes. The group would often sing in the community at a seniors’ home, etc., for performance practice as well. This group was really a precursor of the Daytimers. It was called Vocal Commotion. It was named after a quartet champion of the day Vocal Motion and because, after the first rehearsal, Jill's next door neighbour, upon hearing the singing, asked her what all the commotion was about at her house!
    Hallowe’en was Jill’s favourite time of year. She lived on Zina Street for many years, a legendary street for decorating and attracting lots of trick or treaters. Visiting 40 Zina was a highlight on the street. No child was given a treat until they had sung a song, did a dance or put on some act for Jill to enjoy. And, of course, she was always in costume, with her house decorated to the hilt. One year, she recruited Jim Richardson to come to her house in his Santa suit – she, of course, was Mrs. Claus – and the kids (and adults) were treated to and surprised by 'Christmas at Hallowe’en'! 
    Not too surprisingly, Jill was the life of the party – always with a good joke handy, a pitch pipe in one hand and sometimes a rye and soda in the other! 
    She was active in the community music culture as well, with membership in the Orangeville and District Music Festival, and played the organ/piano at local churches as a supply or often for weddings. 
    Jill loved her family and delighted in her grandchildren and loved to brag about their accomplishments. 
    When struck down by Lewy Body Dementia, Jill tried her best to soldier on for as long as she could. When she ended up in care, she welcomed visitors to her room where the walls were covered in chorus photos and musical memories, placed there lovingly for her enjoyment by her daughter, Marnie. Up until the end, she had that 'Jill smile' for all, even when she could no longer carry on a conversation. 
    Jill will be missed for all of these things and so many more. Rest in peace, dear friend Jilly Bean, or, as she often referred to herself, Jill Mc5¢ !