Full details of 2018 Competiton...


The Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (NIIOC), has announced the 13 competitors who will participate in this year’s senior competition, taking place on Monday 13 August in the St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh.

They are:
Francesco Botti (Italy)
Ilaria Centorrino (Italy)
Xiaoting Chang (China)
Barbara Cornet (France)
Amelie Held (Germany)
George Herbert (UK)
Ismaele Gatti (Switzerland)
Johannes Krahl (Germany)
Alex Little (UK)
Donal McCann (UK)
Will Peart (UK)
Pierre-François Purson (France)
Josh Roebuck (UK)

The shortlist of organists who will perform in Armagh was chosen from an extensive longlist of applicants representing countries across the world.

‘We are thrilled that the competition is now firmly established as a milestone for young players and is consistently attracting an international field of candidates,’ commented NIIOC chairman Richard Yarr. ‘The standard of applicants this year was so high that we have increased the number of performers in the senior category from 12 to 13. They include some competitors from previous years who are returning to have another attempt winning the first prize, and others who are visiting Armagh for the first time.

‘The competition sessions take place at 14.00 and 19.00 on 13 August and are open to the public. The audience is in for a real treat!’

This year’s competition jury will be chaired by Dame Gillian Weir, a patron of NIIOC since its inception. The Dame Gillian Weir Medal, designed in collaboration with Belfast College of Art, will be awarded for the first time, to the performer who gives the most outstanding performance of one work in the senior category of the competition. Dame Gillian will be joined on the 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.

NIIOC is for organists under the age of 21 and 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 has been increased for 2018 from £1,000 to £1,500.

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.

The Junior Category for players of Grades 4-5 standard takes place on Tuesday 14 August in St Malachy’s Church, Armagh.

The event also includes a masterclass on 14 August at 19.00 and performance workshop on 15 August at 11.00, both given by Dame Gillian Weir. Jury member Martin Ennis will perform in the Opening Concert of the Charles Wood Summer School on 12 August at 20.00 and will lead a performance workshop on 17th and 18th-century organ music, in association with the Dunleath Organ Scholarship Trust, in St Malachy’s Church on Tuesday 14 August at 14.30. The winner of the senior competition will perform in the Charles Wood Summer School’s Gala Concert on 17 August at 20.00.

For more information 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.

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.

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.’

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 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 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 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.