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

Winners announced for the NCEM Composers Award 2012

25 May 2012

Alex Woolf (left) and Benjamin Rowarth (right) Winners of the NCEM Composers Award 2012
Alex Woolf (left) and Benjamin Rowarth (right) Winners of the NCEM Composers Award 2012NCEM/Eddie Rolmanis

The winners of the NCEM Composers Award 2012 have been announced. The top prizes were awarded to 16-year-old Alex Woolf from Cambridge for Lux Aeterna (for the under-18 category) and to Benjamin Rowarth, aged 20, for Where is thy God? (in the 19-25 category).

The competition's brief was to compose a new piece of music inspired by the 'In Nomine' theme from John Taverner's Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas. Competitors were told to create the composition with The Tallis Scholars' unique sound in mind.

Woolf and Rowarth were chosen from seven finalists by a jury including The Tallis Scholars director Peter Phillips, BBC Radio 3's Chris Wines and NCEM director Delma Tomlin. All finalists were given the opportunity to workshop their pieces with composer-professor Christopher Fox and vocal ensemble The Ebor Singers, who later performed the shortlisted entries in the final round at the National Centre for Early Music. The Tallis Scholars will premiere both winning entries in concert in Durham Cathedral on Saturday 2 June.

Woolf is a composer with the National Youth Orchestra and his work will be featured at this year’s Snape Proms. Rowarth is a 2nd-year student at Durham University, where he became interim director of music at University College last year; he is also assistant director for Durham Polyphony.

Chris Wines said that the award ‘offers a crucial platform for young composers to create and express themselves through early music. This year's entries attracted a fantastically rich and broad range of imaginative entries.’ Peter Phillips added: ‘I find it thrilling to perform works by a 16-year-old and a 20-year-old and really hope this award will encourage them to develop their styles and write for many different kinds of ensembles.’

Requiem Mass held for organist John Birch 

25 May 2012

Requiem Mass held for the late John Birch
Requiem Mass held for the late John Birch

A Requiem Mass for John Birch, who died on 28 April, was held on 15 May at All Saints Church, Margaret Street, London, where Birch had been organist and choirmaster during the 1950s. In his sermon, the Very Revd Nicholas Frayling, Dean of Chichester, told of Birch’s deep faith and of his appointment as director of music at Chichester Cathedral during the time of Dean Walter Hussey; from this creative collaboration came the revival of the Southern Cathedrals Festival, and the commissioning of Leonard Bernstein to write the Chichester Psalms, of which Birch conducted the British premiere in 1965.

While at Chichester Birch continued to lead an active musical life outside the cathedral, as a professor at the Royal College of Music, a council member of the Royal College of Organists, organist and visiting lecturer at the University of Sussex, and as an international concert artist. After leaving Chichester, Birch was organist at the Temple Church in London and became curator organist at the Royal Albert Hall. Roderick Swanston gave a warm tribute, recalling Birch’s meticulous pedagogical approach – which resonated with the former pupils present in the church – and sharing memories of Birch’s wit, love of art, and fine hospitality.

Paul Brough directed the choir in movements from Duruflé’s Requiem and Stanford’s Beati quorum, and Stephen Disley played the closing voluntary, ‘Varhany solo’ from Janácek’s Glagolitic Mass. A special service was held at the same time in St Michael and All Angels Church in Observatory, Cape Town, where Birch wintered during the last ten years of his life. 

A full obituary will appear in the July/August issue of Choir & Organ.

Halsey set to become LSO and LSC chorus director

17 May 2012

'Dream come true': Simon Halsey
'Dream come true': Simon HalseyMatthias Heyde

Leading conductor Simon Halsey has been appointed the chorus director of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and the London Symphony Chorus (LSC). The post will involve coordinating all the choral work relating to the orchestra as well as the chorus.

Principal conductor of LSO Valery Gergiev said he was looking forward to developing his relationship with Halsey: ‘We’ve worked together many times elsewhere. I look forward to a very special partnership with him. I am thrilled about Simon’s appointment.’

Plans are already underway for the LSO and LCS’s 2012/13 season, including performances of Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater and Song of the Night and Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem; both performances will see Halsey work with Gergiev.

Earlier this year Halsey was made artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic’s Youth Choral Programme and appointed as the director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir. He has been chorus director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus since 1983.

Halsey said of his new appointment: ‘The London Symphony Chorus is one of the world’s finest choirs and it’s a group that I hold dear. To return as their director and to take a new post created to bring choral work into the heart of the LSO and its Discovery programme is a dream come true.’

An LSO spokesperson said, ‘It’s a real opportunity. Singing has always been an important element of our discovery work and it has now been highlighted in the national music education plan. With this appointment, Simon can take an overview of all our choral activities, including the three youth choirs and our annual Singing Day.’

Halsey will take up the post from August 2012. For more information visit;

Gerre Edward Hancock (1934-2012)

26 January 2012

Gerre Edward Hancock (1934-2012)
Gerre Edward Hancock (1934-2012)

Gerre Hancock, one of America’s most highly acclaimed concert organists and choral directors, passed away peacefully on January 21st, surrounded by his family, in Austin, Texas.  The cause was coronary artery disease.  A gifted artist, teacher and composer, he was considered by many to be a giant figure in twentieth to twenty-first century American sacred music.  He was known not only for his artistry, but also for his energy, optimism and love of the people he taught and for whom he performed. 

At the time of his death, Dr. Hancock was Professor of Organ and Sacred Music at The University of Texas at Austin, where he taught along with his wife of fifty years, Dr. Judith Hancock. Prior to this appointment in 2004, he held the position of Organist and Master of the Choristers at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City, where for over thirty years he set a new standard for church music in America.  Previous to his time at Saint Thomas, he held positions as Organist and Choirmaster of Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, where he also served on the Artist Faculty of the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, and as Assistant Organist at St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City. 

The full obituary features in the March/April issue of Choir & Organ, available to purchase from 1 March 2012.

British Composer awards announced

12 December 2011

Michael Zev Gordon has won the Choral section of the 2011 British Composer awards for Allele, a 40-part unaccompanied work set to a text by Ruth Padel in which singers performed parts derived directly from their own genetic code. Julian Anderson scooped both the orchestral award for his Fantasias, and the Liturgical award for his ‘Bell’ Mass, commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey to mark the 450th anniversary of the Abbey's Collegiate Charter.

Full list of winners:

Instrumental Solo or Duo
William Sweeney - Sonata for Cello & Piano

Anthony Payne - String Quartet No. 2

Huw Watkins - Five Larkin Songs

Michael Zev Gordon - Allele

Wind Band or Brass Band
Lucy Pankhurst - In Pitch Black

Julian Anderson - Fantasias

Stage Works
Orlando Gough - A Ring A Lamp A Thing

Julian Anderson - Bell Mass

Contemporary Jazz Composition
Tommy Evans - The Green Seagull

Community or Educational Project
John Barber - Consider the Lilies

Making Music Award
Richard Bullen - I can’t find brumm…

International Award
Bent Sørensen - La Mattina

Graham Fitkin - PK

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