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Choir & Organ, cover from current issue

July/August 2014 on sale from 30 June

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.


Pull out all the stops

Latest News

BIOS and RCM form new partnership

26 May 2009

The National Pipe Organ Register is being expanded and made more accessible thanks to a new partnership between the British Institute of Organ Studies and the Royal College of Music in London.

Launched by BIOS in 1987, the NPOR has been in computer-based form since 1991, making available lists of organ specifications, photographs and sound files of historic British organs. More than 1,000 stop-lists are consulted daily by people around the world. The free internet service is now run on the RCM’s computers, at www.npor.org.uk.

A new sound file of organ music played from Adlington Hall, Cheshire, has just been added to the NPOR website to mark the 50th anniversary of the instrument’s restoration by Noel Mander. 

BIOS chairman John Norman says: ‘BIOS is very happy with the enthusiasm of both Paul Banks [RCM professor of performance history] and Nicholas Watkins [RCM head of ICT] to work with us on the future development of this invaluable service. Like all large databases the NPOR has some errors and omissions, and BIOS has a team of skilled volunteers updating the records in response to corrections sent in by interested organists.’

Update information should be sent to manager@npor.bcu.ac.uk. BIOS membership details are available from BIOS-membership@phmusic.co.uk.

Taxing return

26 May 2009

There are question marks over the future of the 1975 Kuhn organ that once sat in Alice Tully Hall, New York. The instrument was removed in 2006 when the hall, part of Lincoln Center, began refurbishments costing US$159 million. The hall reopened in February 2009 without the organ, which remains in store in Argyle, upstate New York. The date for the instrument’s reinstallation has changed several times. A draft contract drawn up between the hall and Kuhn Organ Builders in 2006 specified that the organ was to be returned in October 2008.

Because of construction delays the Center put off reinstallation until summer 2009. In April Lincoln Center told the New York Times that the return date was now mid-2010 because it was too soon ‘to take the hall offline’ and extra time was needed to allow construction dust to settle. However, it conceded that it still did not have the estimated $1 million in funds needed for the reinstallation, although the new date was only a year away.

Kuhn and Lincoln Center told C&O in May that they were in discussion, but refused to comment on the nature of their talks. The Center said it was ‘committed to reinstalling the organ at the appropriate time’ but did not give a date. 

Paul Jacobs, chairman of the Juilliard School’s organ department, fears that the instrument is not a priority for the Center: ‘The delay seems to indicate a lack of a vision. This is particularly unfortunate in light of the fact that numerous other concert halls throughout the United States have added pipe organs in recent years.   ‘The question of funding should have been considered years ago when every other detail concerning the hall was being addressed. Besides, the estimated cost of the organ’s reinstallation is a drop in the ocean compared with the total cost of the hall’s renovation.” 

The organ was a gift from the late arts benefactor Alice Tully, whose foundation contributed $15 million to the hall’s refurbishment. Currently, no other major concert hall in New York has a pipe organ; the 1963 Aeolian-Skinner organ, built for what is now Avery Fisher Hall, was removed in the 1970s.

Gabriel Jackson to be the BBC Singers’ new Associate Composer

13 May 2009, London

The BBC Singers have announced that Gabriel Jackson will be their new Associate Composer from January 2010.

Jackson, who follows in the footsteps of Judith Bingham, will collaborate with the BBC Singers for three years. Michael Emery, the BBC Singers producer, welcomed the appointment: ‘I'm delighted that Gabriel is to be our next Associate Composer - we've known his music, in the Singers, for many years and much enjoyed performing it, especially the pieces written specifically for us. He's a composer with a huge sympathy for and expertise in vocal music, and I really look forward to seeing what choral wizardry he'll create for the BBC Singers over the next three years.’ Jackson responded, ‘I’m terribly excited about this. The BBC Singers are fantastic and the opportunity of working with a group of that calibre affords all sorts of new exciting avenues to explore.’ www.bbc.co.uk/singers

Gabriel Jackson talks to Choir & Organ in the September/October issue – don’t miss it!

The saga continues

24 March 2009

Choir & Organ’s report on the continuing delays in restoring the Royal Festival Hall organ (News & Previews, March/April issue) was followed up by both the national and the specialist press, writes Peter Gillman.

The Guardian’s arts diary splashed with a report that borrowed heavily from ours but which also contained a new statement from Southbank Centre.

Alan Bishop, who became SBC’s CEO in February, was reported as saying that ‘Confirming a timetable [for restoring the organ] is a top priority.’ C&O has now learnt that Bishop also said: ‘I am passionately committed to raising the funds to complete the refurbishment and reinstallation of the organ.’ Bishop’s words at least show greater enthusiasm for restoring the organ than the opaque statements the centre previously released. SBC also said that work to find sponsorship for the restoration continued ‘behind the scenes’. Some £1.5m–£2.3m is required to fund the outstanding work.

Even so, SBC is already certain to miss what was in effect a deadline for completing the work. English Heritage told C&O last month that there was generally a five-year time limit for completing the restoration of listed buildings such as the RFH. As restoration work at the RFH began in the summer of 2005, the notional deadline expires in mid-2010. Mark Venning of Harrison & Harrison has estimated that the remaining restoration requires two years from the moment work begins, which could delay completion to at least 2011. SBC told C&O it was ‘not aware’ of a requirement to complete the work within five years. It added that it would ‘in any event work closely with EH on the refurbishment of the organ’. And it said it would be ‘discussing a realistic completion date with Harrison & Harrison as soon as possible’. It is worth noting that the Grade I listing of the RFH specifically cites the ‘organ built in 1950–53 by Harrison & Harrison of Durham to specification by Ralph Downes and installed behind a screen of pipes designed by Leslie Martin’ – thus confirming, contrary to some suggestions, that the organ is an integral part of the full restoration programme.

It has emerged that the failure to restore the full organ for the RFH reopening in 2008 runs counter to English Heritage’s expectations in another respect. In 2004 an EH spokesperson told C&O: ‘The organ refurbishment is programmed to be completed as part of the overall refurbishment of the auditorium and it will be back there in time for the reopening of the auditorium.’ Asked what would happen if the organ was not ready in time, the spokesperson added: ‘Someone would probably get the sack.’ SBC responded: ‘The full refurbishment of the organ was deferred towards the end of 2004 (November) and subsequently made public.’

Cultural divides

24 March 2009

Choral music in Sweden faces uncertainty as the future of Sweden’s state-funded national coordinating body for musical tours and projects is under threat.

In January Concerts Sweden’s 2009 budget was cut by SEK10 million (£850,000) to SEK62 million, and a third of its 66 staff was made redundant. It was the only arts group to have funding cut by Sweden’s Ministry of Culture. Furthermore, a government review in February suggested that the organisation be dissolved; under the recommendations many smaller cultural groups would form three large national state authorities and one of them would take over parts of Concerts Sweden’s remit, while other parts would be taken over by extant regional authorities. A bill on cultural policy, possibly incorporating these changes, will be presented to the Swedish parliament in the autumn.

Concerts Sweden has now had to cancel its annual ‘Choir of the Year’ competition and call off a tour of Sweden by a choir from Indonesia.

The organisation, which was founded in 1964, arranges tours by foreign artists in Sweden and promotes Swedish music abroad. It has a full-time manager who specifically deals with choir and vocal ensembles, Bo Nilsson, and it is also responsible for the Eric Ericson International Choral Centre Foundation, Swedish Choral Music Board, an annual conference for choral issues (Körforum), the triennial Eric Ericson Award, and the annual Eric Ericson Day concert and choir awards. Concerts Sweden also organises choral seminars and masterclasses, choral tours in Sweden and abroad, and cooperates with international organisations and events, including Aswatuna, the first-ever conference and festival for Arab choirs and choral directors, which took place in Jordan in 2008.

A spokesperson for the Swedish Ministry of Culture, Cecilia Jehler, said: ‘The Swedish music scene has gone through considerable changes since Concerts Sweden was founded. For instance, the regional structure has grown stronger. [So] Concerts Sweden should go through changes and be run differently as well.’
Nilsson said the proposals would have very negative consequences on Swedish musical life. ‘We are not against making changes to the organisation – we have just reorganised after the funding cuts. But there are great differences in conditions in the regions, in terms of population and wealth, and some are very weak. There is also a need for a national platform for music, to bring music to the entire country and internationally.’ Nilsson has set up an online petition against the plans at www.rikskonserter.se.

Choral music is an important part of Swedish life; half a million Swedes, or one in sixteen, belong to a choir.


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