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

New College scholar scoops major prize for young organists

5 September 2012

The award ceremony of this year’s Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (from left): winner Ben Bloor (20), Martyn Noble (21), Tom Etheridge (18) and Michael Papadopoulos (21).  Behind, judges Mark Duley, David Hill and Kimberly Marshall
The award ceremony of this year’s Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (from left): winner Ben Bloor (20), Martyn Noble (21), Tom Etheridge (18) and Michael Papadopoulos (21). Behind, judges Mark Duley, David Hill and Kimberly MarshallLiam McArdle

Ben Bloor, 20, organ scholar of New College, Oxford, won the senior category of the second Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (NIIOC), held in Armagh on 20 – 22 August. Born in Derby, Bloor was a chorister at Derby Cathedral and organ scholar at St George’s Chapel, Windsor and is now in his second undergraduate year at New College, Oxford. In addition to the £1,000 NIIOC cash prize sponsored by Allen Organs he will receive a professionally recorded CD and online promotional package and will give hosted recitals in Westminster Abbey, Trinity College Cambridge, Christ Church Cathedral Dublin and St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast. A recital recorded in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh, was broadcast in September on BBC Radio Ulster and will be followed by other showcase opportunities under the auspices of the competition.

Runner-up and winner of the NIIOC Bach Prize of £200 awarded in memory of Northern Irish organist William McDonald was London-based Martyn Noble, 21, who has just taken up the post of organ scholar at Southwark Cathedral. Third prize went to Tom Etheridge, 18, of Eton College, organ scholar-elect of King’s College, Cambridge, and Michael Papadopoulos, 21, of Trinity College, Oxford, was highly commended by the judging panel, which was chaired by Professor Kimberly Marshall, professor of organ at Arizona State University, assisted by David Hill, chief conductor of the BBC Singers, and Mark Duley, organist of the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas, Galway.

The NIIOC is unique in offering an important performance platform and competition experience specifically to organists under the age of 21. Established last year, it has successfully attracted entries from a substantial number of cathedral and collegiate organ scholars and assistant organists from the UK and Ireland. ‘I don’t think there is anything like this anywhere else in the world,’ said Professor Marshall in her speech at the senior awards ceremony. ‘The standard of the organists in the senior class was very impressive. The jury voted unanimously for Ben Bloor as winner. He is an outstanding player and a versatile musician.’

Richard Yarr, chair of the competition, said that it fills a gap for young organists in the international music scene and that he is delighted that NIIOC is leading the way. ‘There are very few opportunities for young local organists, and further afield, to show what they can do, and NIIOC has successfully provided something unique and special.’

The competition also features two categories for young players. First prize of £300 in the intermediate category 2012 went to Martina Smyth, a student of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin, with Catherine Olver highly commended, and first prize of £200 in the junior category was jointly awarded to Ellen Mawhinney and Richard Carey, both from Belfast.

Clare Stevens

Music world mourns death of Carlo Curley, 59

15 August 2012

The organ world has joined with countless music lovers to express shock at the sudden death of American organist Carlo Curley.

Known as 'the Pavarotti of the organ', Curley had made his home in the UK, where he became widely known for his larger-than-life personality and outstanding gifts as a performer - these were expressed to the full for the thousands who came to hear him at his Alexandra Palace concerts in the 1970s, in which he and guest organists performed on a large Allen touring organ in the grand hall which once housed one of the most famous Willis organs ever built. For a televised event at 'Ally Pally', Curley - who always signed himself 'Carlissimo' in his emails and blog posts - made his stately progress to the stage atop a large Cadillac convertible.

Curley was born into a musical family in 1952 and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts; his mission to promote the organ and organ music to the masses made him the natural heir of Virgil Fox, with whom he studied. But the seriousness with which Curley approached his music-making was further encouraged by the friendship and mutual respect which flourished when he came to the UK and studied with Sir George Thalben-Ball.

Through sound recordings, TV, and personal appearances, Carlo Curley became a household name throughout the world - as well as the UK, he found strong friendships on the continent of Europe, particularly Denmark - his tireless advocacy of the digital organ in no way diminished the pleasure and satisfaction he derived from playing any organ , from small tracker instruments to large cathedral behemoths. Among many honours, he was the first classical organist to give a solo recital at the White House, invited by US President Jimmy Carter. His insightful and entertaining autobiography, In The Pipeline was published by HarperCollins in 1998.

Curley was a popular guest in broadcasting studios, prized for his forthright opinions expressed with gusto and ineffable Southern charm. A post on the Allen Organs UK site said simply, 'His inimitable style of presentation, consummate musicianship, warm wit and charismatic personality illuminated his concerts and endeared him to all he met. May he rest in peace.'

Northern Ireland International Organ Competition extends closing date 

19 July 2012

Competition jury chair Kimberley Marshall
Competition jury chair Kimberley Marshall

The 2012 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition has extended its closing date for entries to Friday 27 July at 2pm.

The competition – for organists aged 21 and under – takes place in Armagh on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st August, alongside the prestigious Charles Wood Summer School. Organists perform on the Walker/Wells-Kennedy organ of Armagh Cathedral (CoI) and the 1986 II/10 Wells-Kennedy organ of St. Malachy's Church. 

New performance prizes, totalling over £2000, have been introduced this year, as well as travel bursaries for competitors from outside the UK and Ireland.  Candidates give a 20-minute recital – the top prize of £1000 in cash also includes a package of public recitals hosted by Westminster Abbey, Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin and St.Anne's Cathedral, Belfast; the winner is also offered a professional CD recording and promotional video. 

Kimberly Marshall, professor of organ at Arizona State University will chair the jury, along with David Hill, chief conductor of the BBC Singers, and the New Zealand organist Mark Duley.  In addition to chairing the jury, Kimberly Marshall also will lead a master class for organists and host a programming and presentation workshop.

MacMillan's Credo is revealed at the BBC Proms

17 July 2012

James MacMillan: New premiere at the BBC Proms
James MacMillan: New premiere at the BBC Proms

James MacMillan's new festive setting of the Credo will receive its premiere at the BBC Proms on 7 August and is a highlight of the composer's residency at the Grafenegg Music Festival in Austria later in the month.

MacMillan's most recent work for choir and orchestra - a four-way commission between BBC Radio 3, the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Grafenegg and De Doelen Concert Hall in Rotterdam - is his first-ever setting of the Credo from the Mass; festive in mood and large in scale, the three-movement structure reflects the Trinitarian aspects of Father, Son and Holy Spirit - the Credo moves from simple choral intonation through to a complex fusion of plainsong, motet and cantus firmus techniques, capped by a joyous orchestral coda.

At the Proms, the 25-minute score is performed by the Salford-based BBC Philharmonic, with the combined forces of three choirs from Northern England under the baton of the Philharmonic's music director Juanjo Mena; MacMillan forged strong links with the orchestra during his time as resident composer-conductor. Following its premiere at the BBC Proms, the Credo travels to Grafenegg where it is performed on 9 September as part of a MacMillan residency at the festival; the French premiere is scheduled for 26 February 2013 and the Dutch premiere will follow at De Doelen Concert Hall in Rotterdam in a future season.

Winner announced for the Choir & Organ Composition Competition 2012

16 July 2012

2012 winner Seán Doherty
2012 winner Seán Doherty

Seán Doherty, 25, has won the Choir & Organ Composition Competition 2012 with his setting of Blessed be that Maid Marie. 

Doherty, originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, read music at St John's College, Cambridge before undertaking a PhD at Trinity College, Dublin. Though his PhD research concerned music theory in 17th-century England, Seán has also continued to compose. He won the St Giles' Cathedral Edinburgh Anthem Competition 2012, the Jerome Hynes Composition Competition in 2011, and is a two-time winner of the Feis Ceoil Choral Composition Competition, as well having received various other choral commissions. His passion for choral music stems from singing in Codetta chamber choir, the chapel choir of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and the choir of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

The jury for this year’s competition comprised David Halls, Sarah Baldock, Andrew Lumsden (directors of music at Salisbury, Chichester and Winchester Cathedrals) and choral composer and conductor Bob Chilcott.

The premiere of the winning piece will be given by the Choir of Salisbury Cathedral, directed by David Halls, at the Christmas Carol Service on Friday 21 Dec, 7pm and Sunday 23 Dec, 5pm.

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