Choir & Organ, cover from current issue

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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.

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

Latest News

Three Choirs Festival looks to the future

23 January 2015

Three Choirs Festival artistic directors (from left) Geraint Bowen, Adrian Partington and Peter Nardone
Three Choirs Festival artistic directors (from left) Geraint Bowen, Adrian Partington and Peter Nardonecopyright Ash Mills

The Three Choirs Festival has established a new foundation to help to secure the future of the festival and open it up for wider participation. The Three Choirs Foundation, which marks the Festival’s 300th anniversary this year, was launched on 22 January at a reception in the House of Lords, London, hosted by Lord Faulkner of Worcester.

Sir Michael Perry, chair of the Three Choirs Foundation, said that he hoped that the new trust would facilitate some large-scale commissioning of new works, something for which the Festival has been known over its three centuries. Other speakers included Dame Felicity Lott, President of the Three Choirs Festival Society, and mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly CBE, who said: ‘I never take for granted an invitation to sing in one of the three great cathedrals of the Three Choir Festival; indeed my summer would be incomplete without it. It is an honour to be part of this rich history of music-making which has given a platform to so many musicians within the last 300 years …The Three Choirs Festival can never be accused of being stuck in a time warp. It is in the good hands of people who are open to many new ideas while being aware that audiences still want to hear what they know.’ 

Edward Gardner OBE, outgoing music director of English National Opera and chief conductor designate of the Bergen Philharmonic, sent a message which was read on his behalf by Adrian Partington, current artistic director of the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival: ‘It was the Three Choirs Festival where, as a chorister, I took my very first steps into this amazing international community of classical music. Performing as a youngster alongside the best soloists, the excellent chorus, and singing new works by international composers, opens the eyes like nothing else …  I want to express my fullest support for a Foundation which seeks to ensure that choristers of 2115 have the chances I had, and that audiences are still relishing and celebrating our great British tradition for centuries to come. Without the experience gained at the Three Choirs Festival, I would not be conducting at the Coliseum – it’s as simple as that.’

Lay clerks of Gloucester Cathedral, directed by Adrian Partington, entertained guests with a brief but eclectic programme of plainsong, Byrd’s Vigilate and Is you is or is you ain’t my baby, reflecting both the sacred and the secular origins of the Three Choirs Festival.

Initiatives to be undertaken by the Three Choirs Foundation include the support and development of the Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir, founded in 2010, and the creation of Three Choirs Voices, a chamber choir drawn from the Festival Chorus. Funding goals include £50k per annum for bursaries to support the training of cathedral choristers at Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester. www.3Choirs.org/Foundation

Schott London MD dies

15 January 2015

Judith Webb
Judith Webb

The death on 9 January of Judith Webb, the managing director of Schott Music’s London office, after a short period of illness has saddened the music world. In a statement announcing her passing, Schott Music London described Webb as being ‘hugely liked and respected throughout the industry’ as well as being ‘a loyal and devoted member of staff’.

Webb joined Schott London as an administrative assistant in 1980. During her 35 years with the company, she worked her way up through a number of roles before becoming managing director. In addition to serving on Schott London’s board of directors, Webb was a member of the Music Publishers Association board.

Dr Peter Hanser-Strecker, chairman of the Schott Music Group, commented: ‘It is hard to believe that our dear colleague and management board member Judith Webb is no longer with us. I have known and admired her since she started to work at Schott London. We will miss her unique knowledge, her loyalty, her dedication to Schott and we will especially miss the great friend she was.’

Sam Rigby, creative director of Schott London, said: ‘My colleagues and I feel great sadness and shock at Judith’s passing. Her contribution to Schott has been immense, and her assured and confident direction will be much missed here and in the wider industry. We will equally miss the warmth of her personality, her dedication to those around her, and the encouragement and compassion that she showed to all of us. Judith always empowered her colleagues, and received great loyalty in return. She will always be in our thoughts.’

Distinguished musicians recognised by the Royal College of Organists

15 January 2015

Professor Edward Higginbottom
Professor Edward Higginbottom

Dr Ludger Lohmann
Dr Ludger Lohmann

Canon Dr Nicholas Thistlethwaite
Canon Dr Nicholas Thistlethwaite

Three eminent musicians are to be awarded the RCO Medal, the Royal College of Organists’ highest honour.

Professor Edward Higginbottom, former director of music at New College, Oxford, receives the Medal in recognition of his distinguished achievements in choral conducting and organ- and choral-related scholarship; the renowned organ professor Dr Ludger Lohmann for his distinguished achievements in organ playing, teaching and scholarship; and Canon Dr Nicholas Thistlethwaite, in recognition of his distinguished achievement in organ scholarship, specifically his research on the history of organ building in the UK.

The RCO Medals will be presented at the College’s Conferment of Diplomas at Southwark Cathedral on 14 March this year.

The RCO Medal was first awarded in 2012 and recognises distinguished achievement in one or more of the following areas relating to organ and choral music: performance, teaching, scholarship, composition, organ building, conducting, administration, and philanthropy; it is also available to recognise specific service to the College.

Full report in the March/April 2015 issue of Choir & Organ.

New Year honours for Anne Marsden Thomas and Jeffrey Skidmore

6 January 2015

Anne Marsden Thomas has been awarded an MBE (for services to organ music) in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours.

Marsden Thomas founded the St Giles International Organ School in 1992, which subsequently teamed up with the Royal College of Organists to become the RCO Academy Organ School. In the 23 years since its founding, thousands of organists of all ages and ability levels have received training at the School, which has gained an international reputation, with centres across the UK, summer courses, workshops and individual teaching.

Marsden Thomas also teaches at the Royal Academy of Music, and has published books and articles on organ teaching, most recently Pedalling for Organists (Cramer Music £15.90) and the Oxford Bach Books for Organ (OUP books 1-3, £8.95-£10.95 per volume).

Other titles presented in 2015’s New Year honours list include CBEs for chief executive of Aldeburgh Music and former controller of BBC Radio 3 Roger Wright and the Southbank Centre’s artistic director Jude Kelly, and an OBE for Jeffrey Skidmore, founder-conductor of Birmingham-based chamber choir Ex Cathedra.

Skidmore said: ‘It is a great personal honour for me to receive this award. It is also a tribute to the many groups and institutions I have worked with over a long period of time and in particular Ex Cathedra.’

Dutch conductor Gijs Leenaars appointed principal conductor of Berlin Radio Choir

14 November 2014

New appointment for Gijs Leenaars
New appointment for Gijs LeenaarsHans van der Woerd

Gijs Leenaars is to succeed Simon Halsey as principal conductor and artistic director of Berlin Radio Choir in August next year. The 36-year-old Dutch conductor has been offered a five-year contract. 

Leenaars has been principal conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir since 2012. He is a regular guest conductor of the Collegium Vocale of Ghent, Cappella Amsterdam and Netherlands Chamber Choir. He said of the news: ‘I look forward to our collaboration with great joy and excitement. Rundfunkchor Berlin possesses the large, rich sound demanded by the symphonic choral repertoire while also singing with the utmost in chamber-musical responsibility. For me these special qualities represent both a commitment and a challenge to continue the artistic development of this exceptional ensemble.’ Leenaars will open of Berlin Radio Choir’s 2015/16 season at Musikfest Berlin with an a cappella concert. 

Chorus board member Nora von Billerbeck said of Leenaars’ appointment: ‘We are eagerly looking forward to Gijs Leenaars, one of the outstanding choral conductors of the younger generation. His extraordinary musicality, his unconditional striving for perfection and his wit quickly stoke the spark.’ 
Hans-Hermann Rehberg, chorus managing director, described Leeanaars as a ‘powerful and passionate musical personality’, saying ‘We look forward to a new phase of collaboration in the ensemble’s artistic and programmatic development.’

Outgoing Simon Halsey will continue to work with Berlin Radio Choir as conductor laureate, an honorary title created for the conductor to recognise his outstanding achievements with the ensemble. An official farewell sing-along concert at the Berlin Philharmonie will take place for Halsey on 31 May 2015. 

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