Britten centenary marked with commemorative coin by Royal Mint
23 September 2013
A 50p coin commissioned by the Royal Mint to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten has been unveiled. The coin, designed by Tom Phillips CBE, will be released on 27 September – in time for the 100th anniversary on 22 November.
The commemorative coin will be available in gold proof, silver proof and uncirculated versions. Britten’s 50p marks the first time a composer has featured on a British coin.
Tom Phillips said: ‘What I wanted the coin to speak of was music. Thus the stave soon entered the design … and his name married well with the stave. The natural accompaniment with Britten’s passion for poetry as our preeminent composer of opera and song, was some kind of key quotation.
‘The words which eventually suggested themselves, come from the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. What better clarion call for a musical anniversary could there be than “Blow, bugle, blow: set the wild echoes flying”?’
Royal Festival Hall organ back in place
23 September 2013
The iconic organ pipe-façade which served as an atmospheric backdrop to Royal Festival Hall concerts for five decades has finally been unveiled in its restored glory. With all of the organ’s divisions now back in their rightful places, following reinstallation by the Durham-based organ builders Harrison & Harrison, the instrument, comprising 7,866 pipes, will now be tuned and voiced ahead of its planned reinauguration at the Centre’s Pull Out All The Stops organ festival, beginning on 18 March 2014.
The first phase of the current project (one third of the organ), including the restoration and reinstallation of the Swell, Great fluework and Pedal Principal 32ft stop, was completed as part of the major transformation of the Royal Festival Hall, which reopened in June 2007; the second phase was installed during the summer of 2012 and included the Great reeds and most of the Pedal Organ.
The full £2.3m required to restore and reinstall the instrument was raised thanks to a £950,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and donations of £1.3 million from the public. Southbank Centre’s chairman Rick Haythornthwaite and a team of cyclists finished their sponsored 24-hour ride from Durham to London on Sunday 21 July 2013, raising the final £100,000 to reach the campaign’s target.
The Pull Out All The Stops festival begins with a gala concert on 18 March next year, and runs until June.
300-mile cycle ride completes Festival Hall organcampaign
23 July 2013
The team arrive at Royal Festival HallBelinda Lawley
The remaining £100,000 has now been raised in the Pull Out All The Stops campaign to restore the Royal Festival Hall organ. The final stretch of the fundraising campaign was led by Rick Haythornthwaite, chairman of Southbank Centre, who with a team of six cyclists took part in a sponsored 24-hour bike ride from Durham to London on 20-21 July 2013. This brings the total amount raised in the campaign to its target of £2.3m.
‘We have been pushed to the brink on this ride both physically and mentally but the team’s determination to complete the challenge remained undiluted and we are delighted to have arrived at the Royal Festival Hall today,’ said Mr Haythornthwaite. ‘We are tired and a little sore, but thrilled that we have done our bit to bridge the gap in funding and reach the £2.3m target for this wonderful cause.’
Supporting Mr Haythornthwaite was James Cash, a personal trainer and member of the Phoenix Fitness Group; Rick Grogan, chairman and chief executive of Golf Entertainment International – a sports and entertainment business; James Helliwell, lawyer at Locke Lord; Nick Sharpe, European head of product control at MF Global; and Simon Thompson, managing partner at Relish market research agency.
The team set off from the Harrison & Harrison organ building workshop in Durham at noon on 20 July, carrying with them one of the final pipes to be installed in the Royal Festal Hall, and arrived at their destination at 11:58am on 21 July, having covered 300 miles in just under 24 hours.
Alan Bishop, chief executive of Southbank Centre, said: ‘Rick and his team have achieved something remarkable in completing this gruelling challenge and we are extremely grateful to them all for going the extra 300 miles to raise funds for the Royal Festival Hall organ. They have raised a staggering amount of money, with donations still coming in, and we are thrilled to have reached our final target to bring this iconic instrument back to life.’
Launched in September 2010, Pull Out All The Stops has raised over £1.3m in funds in public donations. The Heritage Lottery Fund also awarded £950,000 to reinstall the remaining two thirds of the organ, which has almost 5,000 pipes. All future donations will go to the continuing long-term maintenance and tuning of the instrument.
St Albans International Organ Competitions winners
20 July 2013
After a hotly contested final round of the Interpretation Competition, it was 11pm before the winners of the St Albans International Organ Competitions were announced last night.
Taking the Interpretation First Prize and Gold Medal was Simon Thomas Jacobs (UK), a former organ scholar at Clare College, Cambridge, where he studied with David Sanger with additional lessons from Jacques van Oortmerssen in Amsterdam. He is now based in the US as fellow in sacred music at Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis. Jacobs was also awarded the Audience Prize for the most enjoyable performance in the Interpretation Final according to those listening.
Second prize in the Interpretation Competition was shared between Anna-Victoria Baltrusch (Germany) and Benjamin Sheen (UK).
The Improvisation Competition was won by Martin Sturm (Germany), an organist, pianist, conductor and composer from Regensburg. Martin had impressed the 2011 judges in 2011 with his originality of approach to improvisation, and his return to St Albans this year earned him the much sought after Tournemire Prize.
The Peter Hurford Bach Prize, for the best performance of JS Bach in any round of the competition, was won by Jihoon Song (South Korea).
The Jon Laukvik Prize, for the best performance of Laukvik's commissioned work Aria, Fugue & Final, was awarded to Benjamin Sheen (UK).
The Douglas May Award, for the best performance of a competition work in either the Quarter- or Semi-final rounds of either competition, was won by David Cassan (France), who had made it through to the Finals of the Improvisation Competition.
The Prizewinners Concert will be held at 11.30am this morning, and will include the premiere (by James McVinnie) of David J. Loxley-Blount's Sonus Repercussus, which won the Choir & Organ Composition Competition 2013, held in partnership with St Albans International Organ Festival.
St Albans International Organ Festival finalists
18 July 2013
After two days of intensive semi-finals, the following are through to the final round of the organ competition at St Albans International Organ Festival:
Improvisation: David Baskeyfield (UK), David Cassan (France) Samuel Liégeon (France), Martin Sturm (Germany).
Interpretation: Anna-Victoria Baltrusch (Germany), Simon Thomas Jacobs (UK), Seon-A Mun (South Korea), Benjamin Sheen (UK).
The final rounds take place in St Albans Cathedral tomorrow, Friday 19 July.