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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.

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

Latest News

Choir of King’s College launches own record label

1 November 2012

Changing landscape: King's College Choir launches own record label
Changing landscape: King's College Choir launches own record labelBenjamin Ealovega

In a further sign of the changing landscape of classical music recording, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has joined the swelling ranks of orchestras, chamber groups and individual artists in launching its own record label. ‘This is absolutely the right moment for the choir to take control of their recording programme,’ said the Choir’s agent, Stephen Lumsden. ‘Choosing the repertoire that is important to both their heritage as well as the here and now, will bring both artistic freedom and control over all aspects of their extensive media life.’

Over several decades under successive directors Boris Ord, David Willcocks, Philip Ledger  and (since 1982) Stephen Cleobury, the Choir has amassed a catalogue of over 100 recordings, mainly with Decca and EMI, selling millions of copies worldwide; its albums of the Psalms of David – initially recorded only as a stop-gap due to a scheduling error – have never been out of the catalogue since the 1960s. In view of the Choir’s continuing popularity, it’s not clear why EMI in particular would want to see King’s fly the nest, and official statements gloss over the choir’s future with the troubled major label. A spokeswoman for the Choir told C&O, ‘The Choir may record with EMI again in future, but for now this is the way they expect to make the majority of their recordings.’ Stephen Cleobury added, ‘This development will allow the Choir to spread its wings. We will be able to record more adventurous repertoire as well as bringing a fresh look at some of the most important pieces from the choral literature.’

The Choir’s international standing has been fostered by the annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, which every year but one since 1928 has been broadcast by the BBC. And the new label’s first release, Nine Lessons & Carols [KGS0001], capitalises on this; based on the Services of 2010 and 2011, the 2-CD recording replicates the familiar format of scripture readings and carols; the running order is supplemented by tracks featuring commissioned carols from the last few years, by an impressive roster of contemporary composers including Mark-Anthony Turnage, Tansy Davies, Dominic Muldowney, Judith Weir, Gabriel Jackson, Brett Dean and Einojuhani Rautavaara. In a shrewd marketing coup, the CD unveils the 2012 commission – a new carol by John Rutter. Overall the package is a clear winner, but the real test for the fledgling label will be the next release, an ‘in-depth exploration’ of Mozart’s Requiem, due out next Spring.

Graeme Kay

John Armitage Memorial charity launches ‘Call for Music’

16 October 2012

The JAM (John Armitage Memorial) charity has launched a ‘Call for Music’ in a bid to attract composers in a two-step project designed to inspire new work, and to take the writers to a new level of attainment through hands-on mentoring.

In the first stage, JAM is inviting composers of any age or stage, born, living or studying in the UK to submit pieces of up to ten minutes’ duration, for choir, brass quintet and organ, or any combination of these forces. Every work submitted will be assessed by the JAM panel: Judith Bingham, Nicholas Cleobury, Eric Crees, Michael Emery, Timothy Jackson, Robert Jones and Sarah MacDonald. As with previous JAM projects, successful entrants will receive professional performances in London and around the UK.

In part two of the process, six composers will receive invitations to take part in a Britten centenary project, Writing for Voices, within the 2013 Britten in Oxford festival. Each composer will be matched with a librettist or ‘word-smith’, and as a creative unit they will be paired with a choir, which could be a youth, college or parish choir. In a three-way collaboration, one piece will be created by each unit and performed by its choir in a public concert in Oxford in May. Overseeing each project will be a hands-on tutor group of musicians and writers including Nicholas Cleobury, Judith Bingham, Giles Swayne, Ruth Padel and David Harsent.

Works for performance with JAM will be chosen in December; the first tutor weekend for the six composers selected for Writing for Voices will be held in January. For full details, and to register, visit

Closing date for compositions: 23 November.

Lichfield Cathedral admits Girl Choristers for the first time

24 September 2012

Making history: Lichfield Cathedral Girl Choristers
Making history: Lichfield Cathedral Girl Choristers

The Choral Foundation of Lichfield Cathedral has announced that for the first time in its 800-year history it is opening its doors to girl choristers to sing services. The first service under this new arrangement took place yesterday afternoon.

Since 1315 the foundation has sung the services at Lichfield Cathedral. In 2006 Lichfield Cathedral School established a scholarship-based Girls’ Choir who have sung in services, but never before as part of the Choral Foundation.

Dean of Lichfield, The Very Revd Adrian Dorber, said of the news: ‘The admission of girl choristers to the historic choral foundation of the Cathedral is good news for us all. It allows girls to share the educational and other benefits of being a chorister, which boys have been enjoying for centuries.

‘I am very happy that this development is another example of our close cooperation with the Cathedral School. Together, we will enable more young people to develop their skills and talents, making them very strong candidates for good universities when the time comes to apply.’

Girl choristers will all be music scholars between the ages of 10-15 and attendees of Lichfield Cathedral School. On 26 January the school is holding a free choral workshop day for girls interested in becoming choristers.

For more information and to find out how to get involved, call the admissions team at Lichfield Cathedral School on 01543 306 168, or visit their website.

New National President for Royal Canadian College of Organists

17 September 2012

Fairbank: Appointed as National President of RCCO
Fairbank: Appointed as National President of RCCO

Nicholas Fairbank has been appointed National President of the Royal Canadian College of Organists (RCCO). The Victoria (BC) organist will serve in the post until July 2014.

The RCCO has over 1,000 members across the country. Previous Presidents have included Healey Willan, Sir Ernest MacMillan and Barrie Cabena.

Commenting on one of the challenges facing Fairbank, the RCCO said: ‘As churches close, or move away from traditional liturgical organ and choral music, the role of the pipe organ in Canada is changing, and one of Fairbank’s goals as President is to raise the awareness of the organ as a secular concert instrument. A generation ago, many children and youth were exposed to the instrument at church, and were inspired to take up organ studies and become professional church musicians. Now few young people attend church and most organ students discover the instrument in the concert setting or through online media like YouTube.’

Fairbank studied organ with Suzanne Gibson and Patrick Wedd in Vancouver, with Richard Popplewell in London (UK), and with Naji Hakim in Paris, France. He holds Associateship diplomas in organ performance from the Royal Conservatory (RCM gold medal 1981) and the RCCO (Willan Prize 1998), and Master’s degrees from UCSB (French), the Université de Paris VIII (musicology), and the University of Victoria (music composition). He is on the faculty of the Victoria Conservatory of Music, where he teaches organ and harpsichord. He is also a piano and organ examiner for the Royal Conservatory of Music and an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre. As an organ recitalist he has performed across the country, in Europe and in Mexico.

Britten’s Friday Afternoons reborn in Centenary celebrations

17 September 2012

A highlight of next year’s Britten Centenary celebrations will be an Aldeburgh Music-sponsored nationwide singing project which aims to get 75,000 children in the UK to sing Britten’s music on 22 November 2013 – the exact centenary of his birth.

Composed between 1933 and 1935, Britten’s Friday Afternoons is a cycle of 12 songs composed by Britten for the school in Prestatyn, Wales, where his brother was headmaster. The composer’s nephew, Alan Britten, remarked: ‘You have to remember that in those days, my uncle was not the world famous musician we all known his as now, he was just the headmaster’s brother who was visiting.’ Featured recently in Wes Anderson’s film, Moonrise Kingdom, the music is easy to sing and is accompanied by witty piano parts.

Aldeburgh Music conceived the project to highlight Britten’s legacy of work for young people and to encourage more singing in schools – by coordinating with a network of venues, festivals, regional and national opera companies, and providing online resources for teachers through a dedicated website, the aim is to rekindle the spark of singing in schools across the country.

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