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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

The Neoclassical Organ and the Great Aristide Cavaillé-Coll Organ of Saint-Sulpice, Paris

Latest News

Winning hands

30 January 2013

Toby Young, Kerry Andrew and Stef Conner have won the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ (ISM) inaugural competition for young composers with original works for voices inspired by the music of Benjamin Britten to celebrate the composer’s centenary this year. 

Toby Young’s Missa Brevis won the children’s voices category, with Kerry Andrew’s All Things Are Quite and Stef Conner’s O Earendel (Hymn to the Star) – both for SATB – being highly commended. Suzi Digby will conduct the premieres of the three pieces at the ISM Conference at Queens’ College, Cambridge on 4 April 2013. 

Toby Young studied composition with Robin Holloway at Cambridge while a choral scholar in the King's College Chapel Choir. Kerry Andrew – a former Choir & Organ New Music composer – specialises in experimental vocal music, choral music and music-theatre, and won a British Composer Award in 2010. Stef Conner has a Ph.D in composition from the University of York, and her awards include the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize. 


30 January 2013

HM The Queen has awarded a prestigious Regius Professorship to the music department of Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL).
The announcement was made by the Government, and recognises the exceptionally high quality of research and teaching in the RHUL music department. A Regius Professorship is a rare privilege and only two have been created in the past century.
The Queen will bestow the awards to mark her Diamond Jubilee. Professor Julian Johnson, Head of the RHUL music department, said: ‘It is a great honour to have the title of Regius Professor bestowed upon the department and wonderful to hear that the quality of our teaching and research has been recognised in this way.
‘We know that our students rate our teaching very highly and indeed our research placed us as the top Music Department in the UK in the last Research Assessment Exercise. It means a great deal to receive such a mark of public esteem.’ 

Vicar blasts ‘cringeworthy’ beatbox machines

30 January 2013

Dr Giles Fraser
Dr Giles FraserBBC

Dr Giles Fraser, former canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, and now vicar of St Mary's, Newington, has condemned karaoke-style recorded music devices in churches as ‘cringeworthy beatbox machines with no gravitas.’

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, along with Westminster Abbey sub-organist Robert Quinney, Dr Fraser said, ‘In the liturgy, a musician sitting at an organ needs to react sensitively to what's going on; a machine can’t do that and you can hear how inappropriate a machine's intervention is when it gets it wrong.’

Asked by presenter Jim Naughtie how else churches might replace superannuated organists with no obvious successors to hand, Dr Fraser responded that as Christianity predated the invenation of the organ there were and still are other ways of making music in church – plainsong and taizé chanting, for example – without resorting to machines. ‘If you wouldn’t have it at your funeral, you shouldn’t have it in church on a Sunday morning.’

Robert Quinney added, ‘Anything that sounds so transparently fake needs to be treated with suspicion. It’s not necessarily a natural step for a pianist to become the sort of organist who could play in a local church, but local congregations have changed, and there is still a stock of young organists coming through.’

‘Live’ organists are familiar enough with the perils of lack of co-ordination with congregations – getting ‘out’. ‘A human being playing the organ can hear what other people are doing, so accompanying a congregation enables you to be sensitive to the speed etc,’ said Quinney.

Dr Fraser concluded that, having witnessed one organist eating sandwiches during his sermon and another slyly improvising a processional on the theme tune of Blackadder for a visit by a former Bishop of Bath and Wells, he would miss their ‘fantastic’ sense of humour if replaced by machines, and stressed the importance of organists’ contribution to the liturgy.

Graeme Kay  

Six of the best

28 January 2013

Suzy Digby: First of six guest presenters for Radio 3’s The Choir
Suzy Digby: First of six guest presenters for Radio 3’s The Choir

Stars from the choral community Suzi Digby, Paul Mealor, Ken Burton, Harry Christophers, Mary King and Eric Whitacre are to join BBC Radio 3’s The Choir from Sunday 3 February for six special programmes exploring subjects close to their hearts. The guest presenters will replace Aled Jones, who has presented the Sunday evening programme since 2006, and has recently moved into mainstream TV with regular appearances on the Daybreak breakfast show on ITV1. 

Conductor Suzi Digby (3 Feb) draws on her unrivalled experience of working with youth ensembles for an exploration of choral music, focusing on young choral talent. On 10 Feb, composer Paul Mealor, who shot to international fame with works including Wherever you Are (the Military Wives Choir) and Ubi Caritas et Amor (premièred at the 2012 Royal Wedding) will discuss writing for special events.

Ken Burton, founder/conductor of Tessera, The London Adventist Chorale and the Croydon Seventh-day Adventist Gospel Choir, will explore the ways in which choral music genres have integrated with gospel styles and looks at spiritual choral music by choirs not from a traditional gospel background (17 Feb).

Harry Christophers, conductor of The Sixteen will discusses sacred choral music, with specific reference to Victoria, Poulenc and James MacMillan (24 Feb). On 3 March, regular Radio 3 presenter Sara Mohr-Pietsch will lead a special live programme of Baroque music, as part of BBC Radio 3’s month-long Baroque Spring season, and vocal coach and animateur Mary King continues the celebrity series with an exploration of the links between folk and choral music, introducing works by Janáček and Bartok, alongside arrangements of British folk tunes. And on 17 March, the US composer-conductor Eric Whitacre will talk about what inspires him as a composer and a performer, and introduce a concert by the Eric Whitacre Singers to be recorded at LSO St Luke's, London, on 12 March.

The six special presenters replace Aled Jones as he leaves BBC Radio 3 after seven years as presenter of The Choir. Jones said, 'I feel honoured to have been able to enjoy seven years at the helm of The Choir, a very special show which truly celebrates choral music of every kind. I’d like to thank my colleagues at BBC Radio 3 and all those who helped make this show the success it is today.' Radio 3 says that details of future programmes will be announced shortly.

Graeme Kay

Exeter Cathedral says au revoir to historic pipe organ

21 January 2013

Restoration: Organ of Exeter Cathedral
Restoration: Organ of Exeter CathedralGraeme Kay

Harrison & Harrison of Durham have begun work to restore the 17th-century organ of Exeter Cathedral.

During the period of the Commonwealth (1646-1660), church music was suppressed and many church organs, including the previous instrument in Exeter Cathedral, were vandalized or destroyed. Devon organ builder John Loosemore, whose brothers were appointed to organist posts at King’s College and Trinity College, Cambridge – was put in charge of the organ after the Restoration. He was tasked first of all with repairing the old one – the earliest mention of an organ in Exeter is in the Fabric Roll of 1286 when a payment was made for casing the organ; in 1513 £165. 5s. 7½d was spent on a new organ to be placed on the screen. Loosemore went on to complete the building of a new organ in 1665; it underwent several changes during the next two centuries, but the magnificent case has survived to this day, having been enlarged at the time of a radical rebuild by Henry Willis in 1891.

Harrisons rebuilt the organ and modernised the action in 1931. The organ was renovated in 1965, with some tonal changes, including the addition of a Trompette in the Minstrels' Gallery. The organ was cleaned in 1985 and in 2001, essential work was undertaken on the organ, which consisted of console renovation and localised repairs, together with renewal of the coupler and piston systems, and the addition of four stops; in 2003, a new section of the organ was installed in the Minstrels' Gallery.

The Cathedral's director of music, Andrew Millington, said the restoration was overdue, as all organs needed a complete clean and overhaul every 25 years: 'This intricate and time-consuming operation involves the dismantling of the instrument, including well over 4000 pipes which have to be individually cleaned and repaired where necessary.

'The Exeter organ has evolved over the centuries, and the original case now houses about four times the number of pipes than it did in the 17th century. The interior of the organ is extremely cramped, and some sections are virtually inaccessible for maintenance. The inside layout of the organ is to be completely re-designed with new soundboards and a better projection of sound into the building. Certain intricate moving parts such as delicate leatherwork will be replaced, and wind leaks rectified. The aim is to restore this historic and renowned instrument to perfect working order for future generations.'

While the pipe organ is out of action, there will be replacement digital instruments for the quire and nave; the historic organ case will remain in the Cathedral throughout the restoration project.

Work on the organ has been funded thanks to generous donors of the Cathedral's Third Millennium Campaign, money raised from last year's Majesty Flower Festival and the Grand Nave dinner and from the Friends. A large grant has been awarded by Viridor Credits Environmental Company and supporters continue to come forward to 'sponsor a pipe'through the 'Leave a note' appeal to raise money for the project. Fundraising to complete the £1m project through to completion will carry on throughout this year and next year.

The pipework will return to the Cathedral for voicing in 2014. Canon Carl Turner, who is managing the restoration project, said: 'The iconic nature of the Exeter Cathedral organ means that we are entrusted with an historical instrument of international significance. But it is far from being a museum piece, it is a working instrument, used day in and day out in the way it was intended to by its creator, John Loosemore, in 1665, and we need to ensure it stays that way.'

The organ has been documented and demonstrated in its current condition in a recent combined DVD and CD publication  –  The Grand Organ of Exeter Cathedral – by Priory Records.

Graeme Kay


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