Choir & Organ, cover from current issue

January/February 2016 issue on sale now

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.

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

Latest News

Salisbury Cathedral commissions mark Magna Carta anniversary

21 May 2015, Katy Wright

Tarik O'Regan
Tarik O'ReganPeter Greig

Tarik O'Regan's A Letter of Rights and David Halls' Missa Festiva will both receive their premieres at Salisbury Cathedral in June.

Librettist Alice Goodman based A Letter of Rights on the two clauses from the Magna Carta which are still embedded in our laws today: those concerning justice. The work takes its title from Directive 2012/13/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2012, in which persons arrested on suspicion of a crime are given a letter of rights in a language they understand.

O’Regan said: ‘I was drawn in particular to the idea of poise, something which came directly from Alice's libretto. By which I mean both the extremely intricate way in which parchment was made in 1215 (and which Alice references beautifully in her text), but also the delicate nature of the very language which was written upon that parchment 800 year ago, and its subsequent interpretations. As a result, A Letter of Rights has an almost ritualistic quality to it: palindromic, divided into several text-driven movements interconnected by instrumental interludes for strings and percussion.’

Goodman said: ‘Amongst the treasures of Salisbury Cathedral is one of the finest of the few surviving copies of Magna Carta. To all intents and purposes it is a holy relic. It was the fact of the Cathedral’s possession of this copy of Magna Carta that motivated the Canon Chancellor to ask me to write something for this concert. So I began writing with a sense of the importance of the document itself, the piece of parchment to which King John fixed his seal. As I wrote, I discovered the paradoxes of the Great Charter; how quickly it was annulled, how little of it still matters to us, and yet how long and how powerful its continuing life has been, and how much we owe to it and rely upon it. 

Another work will receive its premiere the same weekend. Written by David Halls, the cathedral’s director of music, Missa Festiva is based on melodies from the plainsong Veni Sancte Spiritus. The text is believed to have been written by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the time of the Magna Carta.

A Letter of Rights will receive its first performance at 7.00 pm on 13 June 2015, and Missa Festiva will premiere at 10.30 am on 14 June 2015.

Salisbury Cathedral

Major organ contract for Fisk

20 May 2015

The ground breaking ceremony held in January 2015
The ground breaking ceremony held in January 2015

A full contract was signed in March 2015 for C.B. Fisk, Inc. to build the firm’s first organ for a Roman Cathedral Cathedral.

The Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral is yet to be built in the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, and will be on a vast scale at 350ft long, 160ft to the top of the dome, and with a seating capacity of 2,000; it is designed by James O’Brien of O’Brien & Keane Architecture in Arlington, Virginia, with the acoustical consultant being Dana Kirkegaard of Kirkegaard Acoustic Design LLC, in Downers Grove, Illinois.

C.B. Fisk, Inc. was chosen as organ builder by late spring 2014, and a Letter of Intent was signed in June; a III/61 instrument is planned.

The organ and choir will be placed in a large multi-level west end gallery, facilitating the transmission of sound without obstruction down the long nave. The instrument is naturally conceived to meet the requirements of the Roman Catholic liturgies, accompany choral and other ensembles, and also serve as a notable solo instrument. Both the Choir and Swell divisions are under expression, and the Swell reeds are doubly enclosed for added dynamic control. The console is detached.

As is now standard practice for the organ building firm, the visual design of the new instrument will harmonise with the Cathedral interior thanks to a scale model of the building and a collaborative design process with O’Brien and Kirkegaard, which has helped to determine the precise location of the organ in the gallery and the arrangement of its divisions within the case.

Installation of the new organ is planned for the summer of 2017. 


RSCM launches hymn book survey

18 May 2015, Katy Wright

The Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) has launched an online survey to establish which hymn and song books are used most widely.

The information will be used to ensure that the most popular books are listed in Sunday by Sunday, the RSCM's liturgy planner which lists suggested hymns, songs and anthems for every Sunday and major festival of the church year. These listings can be accessed in a quarterly magazine available to RSCM members or downloaded for free online.

The survey includes questions about the music in church services each week and how texts are supplied to the congregation. Only one response per church is necessary.


Songs of Praise school choir of the year winners named

18 May 2015, Katy Wright

Junior category winners Ysgol Iau Llangennech
Junior category winners Ysgol Iau Llangennech

Llanelli's Ysgol Iau Llangennech and Hereford Cathedral School's Cantabile Girls’ Choir have been announced as the winners of the 2015 BBC Songs of Praise school choir of the year competition.

Ysgol Iau Llangennech won the junior school category, while Cantabile Girls’ Choir took the senior school title. The final, which took place at Nottingham’s Albert Hall, was broadcast on BBC One on 17 May.

Lewis Richards, conductor of Ysgol Iau Llangennech said: ‘The children give so much time and energy during rehearsals. I’m over the moon that they have something to show for their efforts and perseverance. The children were determined to perform their socks off in the final, and that’s exactly what they did!’

Cantabile had appeared in the finals of the competition before, and have also won the international Eisteddfod on two occasions. Music director Jo Williamson said: ‘Words cannot express how happy I am for the girls – I’m so proud of them and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.  They have worked so hard for this moment and gave everything they had – heart and soul!’

Dave Stanford, executive producer of Songs of Praise, said: ‘The judges faced a difficult decision for both categories because the standard of entries was so high. Cantabile Girls’ Choir achieved success after an outstanding performance and Ysgol Iau Llangennech were faultless. Many congratulations to both the schools. The Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year competition has been running since 2003 and we are always knocked out by the quality and enthusiasm of the school choirs which enter.’

A new judging panel for the 2015 competition included: JB Gill, from boy band JLS; vocal coach and opera singer Yvie Burnett from The Voice; and Tim Rhys-Evans, the founder of Welsh male voice choirs Only Men Aloud and Only Boys Aloud.

The other finalists were Queen’s Young Voices (Chester) and Lindley Junior School Choir (Huddersfield) for the junior category, and Twyford Church of England High School Choir (London) and Strathearn School Chamber Choir (Belfast) for the senior category.

The competition launched in 2003 and attracts hundreds of entries annually. Over 45,000 young singers have entered to date.

May/June issue out now!

8 May 2015

I Fagiolini in rehearsal
I Fagiolini in rehearsalMaggie Hamilton

Montreal's Maison Symphonique
Montreal's Maison Symphonique

In the May/June issue:

As the Three Choirs Festival celebrates its tercentenary, we trace how the great British event has attracted top artists and audiences over the course of its 300 years; I Fagiolini’s latest immersive music theatre project – Betrayal – brings a dramatic twist to the madrigals of Gesualdo; and a new anthology from Edition Peters opens a fresh seam of repertoire for choirs and their directors. Plus, the striking organ case designs of Suffolk pioneer Jack Penton; David Hill unwraps John Rutter’s Requiem as the composer approaches his 70th birthday; how a new Casavant organ has added a touch of chic to Montreal’s Maison Symphonique; David Goode turns his attention to pedal technique; Latvian youth choir ‘Kamer…’ explores past, present and future through song; John McCabe obituary; and Choir & Organ’s pick of this year’s choral and organ offerings in our Festivals supplement


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