Nancy Riley was one of the List’s charter members, biggest champions and a dear friend to many. I’ve known her for so long and sung with her in so many places that I actually don’t quite remember where we met, but suspect it was way back in the mid-90s, with Lamplight Carolers (now Carolers Inc.), then based in Long Beach. She had a big voice, was a skilled musician, and truly loved singing. But she also loved her fellow singers and working with people she respected, and actively sought opportunities to share work and pass work along to promising friends and colleagues. She sang for many years at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, at Temple Judea in Laguna Woods, and with a variety of choral groups in Orange County and across Southern California.
Personally, I saw Nancy support so many of our community members, whether it was gathering boxes and being generally supportive during a major life change, quietly paying bills (including membership for more than one Lister) for friends in need, seeking help for a friend who was deeply depressed. She fought hard to support the music programs she was involved in, working with clergy and board members to sustain openings for professional musicians as long as possible. No one wins all of those battles, but Nancy made a difference, and indirectly put income in the pockets of many a singer. There was an urgency to her desire to help those around her, and this translated to many acts of kindness that were big-hearted, anything but random, often anonymous, and sometimes astonishing.
Nancy passed away on September 30th, after a health battle that had lasted several months. A public group has been created on Facebook where friends and acquaintances can share memories and photos. (Thanks to Michael Upward for setting this up.)
We were unable to find a formal bio or a more comprehensive list of the many things Nancy did in and out of the music scene. If you have information or photos you’d like to share, please contact us, and we’ll update this post as we can. But also, please contribute to the group linked above or comment below and help us paint a vivid picture of this warm and wonderful woman.
A memorial service for Nancy will take place at Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach, where Nancy sang for more than 20 years, on Saturday, November 2nd, at noon. Click here for details and to be part of the memorial choir.
Nancy was special in so many ways, and gave a great deal to her family, friends, and to the vocal community. We’ll miss you, beautiful lady.