Christopher Quentin McMullen-Laird, '05

The Department of Music is saddened to share the news that Christopher Quentin McMullen-Laird, '05 unexpectedly passed away on June 17, 2020. Christopher was a music major at Dartmouth College and later a Dartmouth Senior Fellow. The following two websites were created to share memories of Christopher:

Please see the below tributes to Christopher from Robert Duff, former Artistic Director of the Handel Society; Melinda O'Neal, Professor of Music, Emerita and former Conductor of Handel Society and Chamber Singers; and William Summers, Associate Professor of Music, Emeritus.


Robert Duff, former Artistic Director of the Handel Society:

I learned this morning that our former student manager, Christopher "Zeke" McMullen-Laird, died of a rapidly progressing medical issue that has yet to be disclosed. Zeke was a member of the class of 2005 and majored in music while at Dartmouth. After leaving Hanover, Zeke pursued conducting studies at the Hochschule für Musik "Franz Liszt" in Weimer and obtained a Masters Degree in Orchestral Conducting from the Royal College of Music in London. Following his completion of his degree program, Zeke held many conductorships in Europe including Bayerische Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Welsh National Opera Cenedlaethol Cymru, and most recently, the King's College London Symphony Orchestra.  Zeke married baritone Sindre Øgaard in 2012. 

Zeke will be long remembered for his intellect, passion and discipline. Zeke conducted Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine on the Handel Society's March 2005 program and was a Senior Fellow in Music. His senior year was dedicated to performances and lectures on Mozart's last year. 


Melinda O'Neal, Professor of Music, Emerita and former Conductor of Handel Society and Chamber Singers:

During the two years I first knew Zeke (his first and second years at Dartmouth), he was voraciously curious, unfailingly kind, and unstoppable in his quest to learn. His extraordinary gifts spanned music and languages in particular, and he was an amazing teacher.

Zeke sang in Handel Society, took conducting, and served as an assistant conductor and manager of Handel Society's December 2002 concert tour to Germany and Austria. He conducted the 12-voice Prologue chorus for our Berlioz Roméo et Juliette performance in Spaulding March 2003, and the following May sang in our Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem.

In following years Zeke would pop up everywhere to stay in touch—Baltimore, Hanover, London. I'm sure many felt close to him. We last visited in London this past November. He loved his travel-intense, multi-job, multi-city-and-country European life and was extremely good at it. Most recently he was appointed conductor of the Kings College London Orchestra, a wonderful position. His highly refined conducting and leadership skills are well documented in his most recent video, a competition in Norway with the Stavanger Symfoniorkester. This occurred only a week before his passing. So very, very proud of him.

Zeke was one of the brightest of stars in this universe, and we all are better for having known him.


William Summers, Associate Professor of Music, Emeritus:

It was my unique good fortune to know and work with Christopher at three moments in his Dartmouth career. We were together first in the 2002 FSP program that went to London in the spring. As we spent considerable time together, Christopher and I became good friends. During his junior year, Zeke applied to be a Presidential Scholar, working with me on the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. Two terms of weekly research meetings cemented our trusting friendship. In that same year, Zeke applied to the Dartmouth Senior Fellows Program and was accepted for his senior year.

Zeke, as he was fondly known in the department, spent his final three terms preparing and delivering lectures and concerts on the music composed by W. A. Mozart. He had required himself to produce a set of original lectures and concerts devoted to the music from W. A. Mozart's final year on earth. His culminating performance resulted in a unique and highly illustrative rendering of Mozart's last work, the Requiem Fragment.

Christopher graduated with High Honors as a Dartmouth Senior Fellow. It was such a joy to celebrate his graduation with him and his family. Zeke left the College in style when he was awarded a DAAD grant from the German Government to continue advanced music studies in Weimar, Germany. He was launched onto the first stages of his conducting career.

One of the great benefits of attending and working for the College is the opportunity to cement life-long relationships with students. When Christopher fell in love with Sindre Øgaard, Christopher very kindly invited Edith, my wife, and me to their wonderful 2012 New England wedding reception in Massachusetts. He had found the love of his life, and we were overjoyed to be there for that special life moment. This last summer, I saw Christopher in London and had the great honor to attend one of his last graduate conducting recitals at the Royal College of Music.

His passing this June is such a loss to us who loved him and also to all of the people he would have captured with his spirited music-making. I will miss you, dear, loving, and trusted friend: Pax et bonum, frater.