Past NIIOC Winners
It has been a real privilage to see how past NIIOC winners have grown and developed their playing over the years. To see these players grow and go on to play in some of the world's great venues and for royalty, reminds us just how valuable the competition can be for young players as they establish their careers and take their next big step forward.
2017 - Sebastian Heindl (Germany)
Sebastian Heindl, aged 19 and a student of Martin Schmeding at the University of Music and Theatre, Leipzig, has won the Senior section of the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (NIIOC), which took place on Monday 21 August on the Walker organ in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh.
Hiendl is a former chorister of St Thomas Church in Leipzig, where J S Bach was organist. He is currently studying for a degree in church music, which includes liturgy, conducting, singing and jazz as well as organ performance. Hiendl’s NIIOC recital programme included his own transcription of the ‘Fanfare pour précéder La Péri’ by Paul Dukas, and concluded with the virtuosic Etude Héroique by the contemporary Canadian composer Rachel Laurin.
‘I have very much enjoyed taking part in the NIIOC,’ he said. ‘It is the third competition I have entered and this has been my biggest success. It is good for me to get to know this kind of organ which is quite different from the instruments we have in Germany, especially because of the shape of the pedalboard. Luckily I knew my programme from memory because I spent most of the time looking at my feet! It also has some very different sounds. I liked the tuba stop, and used it a lot in my programme.’
2016 – Mona Rozdestvenskyte (Russia)
Mona Rozdestvenskyte was born in Moscow in 1994. She began her studies in piano and organ at the M. A. Balakirev School of the Arts in 2000.
Since October 2012, she has studied church music at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold, Germany. There she receives organ lessons with Martin Sander and she has enjoyed masterclasses with immenent figues including Guy Bovet, Wolfgang Zerer, Hans Martin Corrinth, Jaroslav Tuma, and Sylvain Pluyaut.
While Mona Rozdestvenskyte has participated successfully in several organ competitions. She won the 2016 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition. Prior to that she took the Interpretation Prize at the 2010 Jonas Žukas Organ Competition in Marijampolė (Lithuania); 3rd prize at the Petr Eben International Organ Competition in Opava (Czech Republic); and 1st prize at the 2015 MK Čiurlionis Organ Competition (Lithuania).
2015 – Alex Hamilton (UK)
Alexander Hamilton is Senior Organ Scholar and a second-year undergraduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, reading Music. At Trinity he works with the world-famous college choir directed by Stephen Layton in a busy schedule of services, concerts, tours and recordings. During July and August 2016, he accompanied the choir on their tour of Hong Kong and Australia, with some concerts being broadcast on ABC Classic FM.
He was a music scholar at Merchant Taylors’ School and in the Sixth Form became an Associate of the Royal College of Organists. Prior to arriving at Trinity, Alexander was Organ Scholar of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. At Windsor, his role as organ scholar involved accompanying and directing the choir in the round of daily services, as well as at special services attended by Her Majesty The Queen and other members of the Royal Family.
Alexander won the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition 2015. He has performed in recital at numerous prestigious cathedrals and churches across the UK. He has studied the organ with renowned concert organist Ann Elise Smoot and now studies with Colin Walsh, Stephen Farr, David Briggs, and also with Pieter van Dijk in Alkmaar, NL. He has participated in many masterclasses, with Dame Gillian Weir, Robert Quinney, Margaret Phillips and Henry Fairs as part of the Three Choirs’ Festival.
2014 – Andrew Forbes (UK)
Andrew Forbes was appointed as the Director of Music of Glasgow Cathedral in 2014, where he directs the professional choir and leads the Cathedral’s diverse program of music, including the artistic direction of the Glasgow Cathedral Festival. He has previously held posts at St Mary’s Cathedral (Edinburgh), Glasgow University Chapel, and St John’s Kirk (Perth). Andrew is reading for an MMus in Historically Informed Performance Practice, jointly at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Glasgow University, and is an Associate of the Royal College of Organists.
In demand throughout Europe, Andrew has given solo recitals at Westminster Abbey (London), St Afra Kirche (Berlin), Trinity College (Cambridge), Caird Hall (Dundee), Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum (Glasgow), St Antoine Abbey (Isère) and De Krijtberg Kerke (Amsterdam). He is also an active ensemble player.
Andrew won First Prize at the 2014 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition and, besides performing as a keyboardist and conductor, is a trustee of the Glasgow Society of Organists and a dedicated lover of food and drink. He has recently returned from a solo recital in Berlin and a CD recording in Armagh Cathedral (for release Spring 2017). Andrew’s forthcoming engagements include recitals in London and Hungary.
2013 – Richard Gowers (UK)
Richard Gowers is Senior Organ Scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, where he is reading Music. He began learning the organ with Nigel Kerry while a chorister in the King’s College Choir, and won a music scholarship to Eton College, where he studied with David Goode.
Shortly before his final year of school Richard became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, and was awarded the Limpus, Shinn and Durrant Prize.
After winning the 2013 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition, he spent a year in Germany, studying at the Mendelssohn Conservatoire in Leipzig. Thanks to generous support from the Nicholas Danby Trust he studied with Prof. Stefan Engels and Daniel Beilschmidt and was given access to historic instruments familiar to Bach and Mendelssohn. He is currently taught by Gordon Stewart.
At King’s Richard plays for daily services in term time, as well as recordings, concerts and tours. He also maintains an active concert schedule independent from the choir, and has travelled the world as a concert organist.
2012 – Ben Bloor (UK)
Ben Bloor began his musical education as a chorister in Derby Cathedral where, after many rewarding years as a treble, he became the organ scholar there. In 2010, he achieved the prestigious organ scholarship at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, where he resided and worked for the year, playing (on occasion for royalty) and teaching the young choristers.
Recently, Ben graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Music from the University of Oxford, where he was also organ scholar at New College, under the direction of Edward Higginbottom. Thereafter, Ben spent a year as the organ scholar at Westminster Cathedral and subsequently as the Assistant Sub-Organist at Rochester Cathedral, where he played for the majority of the services and assisted with the day to day running of the music department, as well as teaching piano and organ at the King’s School.
Ben was the winner of the 2012 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition, and was recently a semi-finalist in the inaugural Wadden Sea International Organ Competition held in Denmark in January 2017. He holds the Limpus prize for highest marks in the 2013 FRCO examinations and was subsequently awarded the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians for his contribution to organ-playing.
Ben is currently pursuing a freelance career as a musician in London, combining this with the posts of Organist of the Brompton Oratory, and School Organist at Westminster School.
2011 – Ben Comeau (UK)
Ben Comeau is a freelance musician based in London, where he divides his time between organ, piano, composition and jazz. In 2014 he graduated top of his year from Cambridge University with a starred first in music.
He is equally at home in a huge variety of musical contexts: as a classical performer he has won international competitions, but he is also active on the London jazz and cabaret scenes, and is in heavy demand as an accompanist, provider of background music, and much more.
At the age of 18 he won the inaugural Northern Ireland International Organ Competition, playing part of his own transcription of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite; he recently passed his FRCO organ diploma exam with all the available prizes. He was the organ scholar at Girton College, Cambridge for three years, and recital venues have included twelve Cambridge colleges, as well as several English cathedrals and Ulster Hall, Belfast.