Choir & Organ, cover from current issue

September/October 2014 on sale now

Choir & Organ is the leading independent magazine for all professionals and amateurs in the choral and organ worlds – whether you are an organist, choral director or singer, organ builder, keen listener, or work in publishing or the record industry, Choir & Organ is a must-read wherever you live and work.

Every two months our expert contributors bring you beautifully illustrated features on newly built and restored organs, insights into the lives and views of leading organists, choral directors and composers, profiles of pioneering and well-established choirs, and topical coverage of new research, festivals and exhibitions. In keeping with our commitment to music at the cutting edge, we commission a new work from a young composer in every issue, making the score freely available for download and performance.

Our international news and previews, with breaking stories, key awards and forthcoming premieres, combine with reviews of the latest CDs, DVDs and sheet music, and listings of recitals, festivals and courses, to keep you up to date with events and developments around the world.

Pull out all the stops


Maggie Hamilton, editor Choir & Organ

Maggie Hamilton - Editor
From the current issue of Choir & Organ


Julian Lloyd Webber ruffled more than a few feathers in July when he told the Times that most music competitions are ‘corrupt’.While excluding industry awards and the BBC Young Musician of the Year from this accusation, he claimed that the deciding factor in single instrument competitions was not how well you played but who your teacher was, and that the competition was simply a vehicle for teachers to promote their best students.

Certain revelations about past Tchaikovsky Competitions would seem to support Lloyd Webber’s claim in this case at least, although the event has now introduced reforms. I don’t know enough about other instrumental competitions to comment; but I have seen no evidence of corruption in organ competitions. For sure, members of an international jury may hold differing views on how a piece ought to be played, and if they have a pupil in the competition they may well prefer that particular interpretation above the others. But so many other factors also come into play – state of health on the day, accuracy (which may be affected by nerves), technical facility, choice of registration, choice of tempo in a different acoustical environment, and sheer conviction of performance – that choosing a winner is in no way a foregone conclusion. In Alkmaar – whose 2015 Orgelfestival Holland Schnitger Competition is announced –  jury members remain in ignorance of the player’s identity, and vote on a strict points system. In St Albans, where anonymity was abolished in 2011, the greater degree of transparency seems in no way to have compromised the voting, gauging not least by the frequency with which the Audience Prize is awarded to the 1st Prize winner.

One key characteristic that seems to distinguish humans from other animal species is the urge to achieve more than is essential for basic survival, from inventing the wheel to climbing Everest to mastering BWV 565. And it is the case that most inventions and achievements offer potential for both good use and abuse – harnessing radiation for cancer treatment or weapons of mass destruction comes to mind as one example. But this is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. Competitions, like exams, set a goal to aim for – but unlike exams, they also give the opportunity to hear other performances of the same pieces and to learn from them. If humans were to stop aspiring, we would stagnate; so it would be a pity if one sensational headline were to discourage young players from entering competitions.By the way, the Choir & Organ Composition Competition is conducted entirely anonymously – do enter for 2015.

In The Next Issue of Choir & Organ: NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014 ISSUE On sale from 28 October

JUDITH WEIR – Exclusive interview with the new Master of the Queen’s Music and BBC Singers Associate Composer. 

KENNETH TICKELL – Photo tribute to the work of the British organ builder who died in July. 

KING’S COMMISSION – Stephen Cleobury talks about the process behind the new work for the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. 

WIZARD OF OZ – The remarkable restoration of Tanunda’s 1877 Hill organ. 

ROOTED IN RUSSIA – Members of the Yale Russian Chorus Alumni look back. 

REGISTERING APPROVAL – David Goode returns with a new series on organ technique. 

Plus…The latest international news, specialist reviews, and free On Course guide to university and conservatoire courses.

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