New College scholar scoops major prize for young organists
5 September 2012
The award ceremony of this year’s Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (from left): winner Ben Bloor (20), Martyn Noble (21), Tom Etheridge (18) and Michael Papadopoulos (21). Behind, judges Mark Duley, David Hill and Kimberly MarshallLiam McArdle
Ben Bloor, 20, organ scholar of New College, Oxford, won the senior category of the second Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (NIIOC), held in Armagh on 20 – 22 August. Born in Derby, Bloor was a chorister at Derby Cathedral and organ scholar at St George’s Chapel, Windsor and is now in his second undergraduate year at New College, Oxford. In addition to the £1,000 NIIOC cash prize sponsored by Allen Organs he will receive a professionally recorded CD and online promotional package and will give hosted recitals in Westminster Abbey, Trinity College Cambridge, Christ Church Cathedral Dublin and St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast. A recital recorded in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh, was broadcast in September on BBC Radio Ulster and will be followed by other showcase opportunities under the auspices of the competition.
Runner-up and winner of the NIIOC Bach Prize of £200 awarded in memory of Northern Irish organist William McDonald was London-based Martyn Noble, 21, who has just taken up the post of organ scholar at Southwark Cathedral. Third prize went to Tom Etheridge, 18, of Eton College, organ scholar-elect of King’s College, Cambridge, and Michael Papadopoulos, 21, of Trinity College, Oxford, was highly commended by the judging panel, which was chaired by Professor Kimberly Marshall, professor of organ at Arizona State University, assisted by David Hill, chief conductor of the BBC Singers, and Mark Duley, organist of the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas, Galway.
The NIIOC is unique in offering an important performance platform and competition experience specifically to organists under the age of 21. Established last year, it has successfully attracted entries from a substantial number of cathedral and collegiate organ scholars and assistant organists from the UK and Ireland. ‘I don’t think there is anything like this anywhere else in the world,’ said Professor Marshall in her speech at the senior awards ceremony. ‘The standard of the organists in the senior class was very impressive. The jury voted unanimously for Ben Bloor as winner. He is an outstanding player and a versatile musician.’
Richard Yarr, chair of the competition, said that it fills a gap for young organists in the international music scene and that he is delighted that NIIOC is leading the way. ‘There are very few opportunities for young local organists, and further afield, to show what they can do, and NIIOC has successfully provided something unique and special.’
The competition also features two categories for young players. First prize of £300 in the intermediate category 2012 went to Martina Smyth, a student of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin, with Catherine Olver highly commended, and first prize of £200 in the junior category was jointly awarded to Ellen Mawhinney and Richard Carey, both from Belfast.