The Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (NIIOC) 2019 will take place Monday 19 – Wednesday 21 August in the cathedral city of Armagh.

The competition jury will be chaired by Martin Baker, Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral in London and President of the Royal College of Organists. He will be joined as guest adjudicator by New Zealand-born Katherine Dienes-Williams, Organist and Master of the Choristers at Guildford Cathedral, Surrey. David Hill, music director of the Bach Choir, London, principal conductor of the Schola Cantorum at Yale College, Connecticut, US and artistic director of the Charles Wood Summer School, Armagh, which runs concurrently with NIIOC, completes the jury.

The 2019 competition will see the second 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 again use the design made in collaboration with Belfast College of Art by jewellery and silversmithing specialist Declan Coyle from Londonderry. The inaugural award was made in 2018 to Donal McCann from Belfast, currently organ scholar at King’s College, Cambridge.

NIIOC is for organists aged 21 and under. 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 Johannes Krahl 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 talented young players 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 19 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 2019 consists of £1,500 plus promoted recitals at seven internationally-acclaimed venues, including St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York; Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, London; and King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. They will also give a recital at a Royal College of Organists The Organ Scholar Experience event.

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 20 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.

This year will see the first award of The Dunleath Organ Scholarship Trust Prize, a £200 prize for the best overall performance by an Irish competitor in the Intermediate category.

The Junior Category for players of Grades 4-5 standard takes place on Tuesday 20 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.

No shortlisting recordings are required for the junior or intermediate categories.

The closing date for entries for all three categories is Friday 19 July 2019 at 6pm.

Contact the competition organisers by email info@niioc.com
Facebook / NorthernIrelandInternationalOrganCompetition
Twitter / @NIIOC1

Press and media enquiries, interview and photo requests to:
Clare Stevens
01544 262709 (office)
07968 367079 (mobile)

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 2017 the jury was chaired by Thomas Trotter (UK) and in 2018 by Catherine Ennis (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.

Martin Baker is Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral in London and President of the Royal College of Organists. Born in Manchester in 1967, he studied at the Royal Northern College of Music Junior School, Chetham’s School of Music and Downing College, Cambridge. He held positions at London’s Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedrals, before being appointed to Westminster Abbey at the age of 24.  During his eight years at the Abbey, initially as Sub-Organist and subsequently as Acting Organist and Master of the Choristers, his performances on broadcasts and recordings with the Abbey Choir received wide critical acclaim.

As an organist, Martin Baker is much in demand all over the world.  Performing regularly in the UK, he has recently given concerts in France, Holland, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, the USA, and Russia.  The winner of the St Alban’s Improvisation competition in 1997, improvisation features regularly in his recital programs. He is also regularly appears on international competition juries. 

Martin Baker is also recognized as a dynamic choral conductor.  Since his appointment to Westminster Cathedral as Master of Music in 2000, the choir has maintained its high profile both in the Roman Catholic Church and in the musical world in general.  He has commissioned and directed the choir in the premieres of a number of new choral masses, including works by composers such as James MacMillan, Peter Maxwell Davies, Judith Bingham and John Tavener. 

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.

New Zealand-born Katherine Dienes-Williams was appointed Organist and Master of the Choristers at Guildford Cathedral in January 2008 following six years as Director of Music at the Collegiate Church of St. Mary, Warwick. She was the first-ever female member to be elected to the Cathedral Organists’ Association, and on her appointment to Guildford, became the first ever woman to hold such a post in the Church of England.

Katherine was educated in Wellington, New Zealand and studied for a BA in Modern Languages and a BMus at Victoria University, Wellington. Katherine was Organ Scholar at Wellington Cathedral from 1988 to 1991 when she was appointed Assistant Organist there. 

Katherine has won numerous awards for organ playing, including the prestigious New Zealand Gillian Weir Waitangi Scholarship. Katherine came to England in 1991 to take up the post of Organ Scholar at Winchester Cathedral and Assistant Organist at Winchester College. She is a sometime guest tutor for the Royal College of Organists and is regularly asked to be a guest workshop leader for the Royal School of Church Music both in the UK and the USA. During the past sixteen years, Katherine has given several organ recitals in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, U.S.A., Bermuda, the Netherlands, Australia and Singapore. She has performed as organ soloist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hallé.