Dame Gillian Weir to chair Northern Ireland International Organ Competition jury & a new Dame Gillian Weir Medal to be awarded in her honour


New Dame Gillian Weir Medal to be awarded in her honour

Dame Gillian Weir is to chair the jury for this year’s Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (NIIOC), taking place Monday 13 – Wednesday 15August in the cathedral city of Armagh.

Dame Gillian will be joined on the competition jury by David Hill, former organist of Westminster Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral and St John’s College Cambridge and former chief conductor of the BBC Singers; and Martin Ennis, Director of Studies and Director of Music at Girton College, Cambridge.

The 2018 competition will see the inaugural award of the Dame Gillian Weir Medal for the most outstanding performance of one work by a performer in the senior category of the competition. The medal will be designed in collaboration with Belfast College of Art.

Dame Gillian Weir has been a patron of NIIOC since its inception. Commenting on the introduction of the new medal in her name, she said: ‘I am delighted that the Northern Ireland Competition has been so very successful. In just a short time it has been established as a major player on the scene, and I congratulate the chairman, Richard Yarr, and his colleagues; I know what a tremendous amount of hard work and determination it takes to achieve such a result. 

 ‘I am greatly honoured to be associated with the competition so closely with the award of the new Dame Gillian Weir Medal. I look forward with enthusiasm to chairing this year’s jury in Armagh, hearing a new generation of young organists perform, and choosing the first recipient of the medal.’

NIIOC is for organists under the age of 21. It offers substantial monetary prizes, prestigious recital opportunities and masterclasses with leading organists across the globe. Founded in 2011, from the outset it has attracted exceptionally gifted young players; early winners Ben Comeau, Ben Bloor, Richard Gowers and Andrew Forbes are already establishing successful careers. Last year’s competition was won by Sebastian Heindl from Leipzig, Germany. The first winner from outside the British Isles was Mona Rozdestvenskyte from Russia in 2016. 

The first NIIOC CD recording was launched in 2017. It features performances by the senior winners of the 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 competitions, playing the Walker organ of St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh, which is used in the competition.

A partnership with the St Albans International Organ Competition was established in 2016, with the aim of creating both competitive and performance opportunities for organists aged under 21 (NIIOC) and under 33 (St Albans).

Richard Yarr, founder and artistic director of the competition, said: ‘We created the competition to discover great young talent and give them a platform to show everyone what they can do. Our competition continues to grow year on year as we attract top organists from across Europe and beyond. It has been a real privilege to see how past NIIOC winners have grown and developed their playing over the years.’

NIIOC is organised in three categories:
The Senior Category for Post-Grade 8 players takes place on Monday 13 August in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh.  Entrants must perform a balanced 20-minute programme, consisting of at least three pieces and including a major work of J S Bach. The first prize for 2018 will be increased from £1,000 to £1,500.

Entry is limited to 12 competitors, chosen on the basis of CD or MP3 recordings which must be submitted with application forms. 

The Intermediate Category for players of Grades 6-8 standard takes place on Tuesday 14 August in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh. Applicants should not have gained an organ diploma. There is a free choice of repertoire for recitals which must consist of two or three pieces, lasting in total no more than 12 minutes. 

The Junior Category for players of Grades 4-5 standard takes place on Tuesday 14 August in St Malachy’s Church, Armagh. Applicants must not have Grade 6 organ or above. There is a free choice of repertoire for recitals which must consist of two or three pieces, lasting in total no more than eight minutes.

The closing date for entries for all three categories is Friday 20 July 2018 at 2pm. More information and downloadable application forms can be found on the competition website
or contact the competition organisers by email info@niioc.com

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The Northern Ireland International Organ Competition was established in 2011 to provide talented young organists, aged 21 and under, with major recital engagements, financial support and recording opportunities. It is now recognised as the world’s leading international competition for young organists and is officially partnered with the St. Albans International Organ Festival.

Since NIIOC began recital venues have included St. Thomas Fifth Avenue New York, Westminster Abbey, Southwark Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral Dublin, St. Columb’s Cathedral Londonderry, Trinity College Cambridge, Canongate Kirk Edinburgh, St. Peter Mancroft Norwich, St. Peter’s Cathedral Belfast, Worcester Cathedral and St. Michael's Cornhill London.

International jurors have included Thierry Mechler (France), Kimberly Marshall (USA), Mattias Wager (Sweden), Frédéric Blanc (France), Erwan le Prado (France) and Martin Jean (USA). In 2017the jury was chaired by Thomas Trotter (UK).

David Hill, Chief Conductor of the BBC Singers and former Organist and Director of Music of Westminster Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral and St John’s College Cambridge, is a patron of the competition and has been a jury member every year since its inception. The other patrons are Mark Duley, Organist of St Nicholas Cathedral, Galway; James O’Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey; and Dame Gillian Weir. 

Partners include the Charles Wood Festival and Summer School, Armagh (which runs concurrently with the organ competition); Pipeworks Organ Festival, Dublin; the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; the Dunleath Organ Scholarship Trust; and St Albans International Organ Festival.

Dame Gillian Weir has become established as a distinguished musician through her unique career as an internationally acclaimed concert organist, performing worldwide at the major festivals and with leading orchestras and conductors, She is known for her virtuosity and integrity, her reputation extending well beyond the world of the organ.  Her renown as a performer, which has stimulated numerous young players to follow her, is backed by her scholarly reputation; she is in demand as an adjudicator for the leading international competitions and as lecturer, broadcaster, teacher and writer, while her television appearances have reached vast new audiences.

Gillian Weir has received many prizes, awards and honours, and in the 1996 New Year’s Honours List was created Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her services to music, having been made CBE in 1989. She is the Prince Consort Professor of Organ at the Royal College of Music, London, and Distinguished Visiting Artist at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Baltimore USA, and is sought after for her master classes and as Artist-in-Residence.

David Hill is widely known as one of the leading choral directors in the UK. His fine musicianship is recognised by his appointments as Chief Conductor of The BBC Singers, Musical Director of The Bach Choir, Music Director of the Southern Sinfonia, Music Director of the Leeds Philharmonic Society, Associate Guest Conductor of The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor of Yale Schola Cantorum. He is also artistic director of the Charles Wood Festival and Summer School, Armagh, Northern Ireland.

Born in Carlisle and educated at Chetham’s School of Music, of which he is now a Governor, he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists at the remarkably young age of 17. Having been Organ Scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge, David Hill returned to hold the post of Director of Music from 2004-2007. His other appointments have included Master of the Music at Winchester Cathedral, Master of the Music at Westminster Cathedral and Artistic Director of the Philharmonia Chorus. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Southampton for Services to Music.

David Hill has a broad-ranging discography covering repertoire from Thomas Tallis to a number of world premiere recordings. As well as achieving prestigious Grammy and Gramophone Awards, many of his discs have been recommended as Critic’s Choices. His ongoing series of English choral music for Naxos has received particular acclaim, including being shortlisted for the 2010 Gramophone Awards. He is also well known as an orchestral conductor in the UK and beyond.

Martin Ennis is Senior Lecturer in Music at the Faculty of Music and Fellow and Director of Music at Girton College, Cambridge. He began his higher education as Organ Scholar of Christ’s College, Cambridge, and on graduating pursued further studies first at the Musikhochschule in Cologne and later back in Cambridge. From 1989-90 he was Director of Music at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and in 1990 he was appointed inaugural Pilkington Fellow at Girton College. He joined the permanent staff of the Cambridge Music Faculty in 1994. From 2002 to 2005 he served as Chairman of the Music Faculty.

Martin Ennis combines his university life with a busy career as a performer, specialising as a continuo player. A Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, he has been a prizewinner at several international competitions. In addition to his work as the principal keyboard player of the London Mozart Players he has performed with such groups as the Monteverdi Choir (for their 25th anniversary concert), the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Kölner Bach-Collegium, the Polish Chamber Orchestra, and the Orchestra of St Luke’s in New York. He has made many recordings, including a first concerto recording with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

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