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York Minster launches composers’ competition to celebrate Grand Organ’s return

10 Jun, 2021

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York Minster is inviting composers to write a new piece of music to celebrate the return of its Grand Organ, following the completion of a once-in-a-century refurbishment of the instrument.

Working in partnership with the Cathedral Music Trust and Banks Music Publications, the Grand Organ Composers’ Competition is open to both amateur and professional musicians who are invited to submit a new work for solo organ in one of two categories – ages 18 and under or 19 and over.

Entries will be judged by a panel of industry experts including New York based American composer Nico Muhly, composer and former York Minster Organist and Master of Music Philip Moore, British composer Roxanna Panufnik, Canadian-born organist, conductor and composer Sarah MacDonald and York Minster’s Assistant Director of Music Ben Morris.

The winning entries will be premiered at the cathedral later this year during services for Advent and Christmas.

“We’re delighted to have the Grand Organ back in regular use at the cathedral after nearly three years of refurbishment work and are inviting people to help us celebrate its return by writing an original composition,” York Minster’s Assistant Director of Music Ben Morris explains.

“The competition is open both to established composers and those who are just starting out in their careers, who may not have written anything specifically for a pipe organ before.

“Organ music has played a central role in worship at York Minster for centuries and we hope the competition gives people an opportunity to be part of that heritage and to celebrate its future, both through this century and beyond.”

As well as hearing their piece performed as part of the cathedral’s carol services later this year, winners and runners-up will receive financial prizes ranging from £250 to £1,500, with the winner in each category also having their score published by choral and organ specialists Banks Music Publications.

Both the winner and highly commended entries in the age 18 and under category will also receive a masterclass on organ composition with Philip Moore and Ben Morris.

Peter Allwood, Chair of Cathedral Music Trust, added: “We’re thrilled to be working with York Minster on this exciting project.

“The Trust exists to provide a voice for cathedral music and encourage excellence in choral and organ music, including nurturing the next generation of musicians.

“The competition provides a great opportunity for young people to get involved and develop their talents, with the chance of expert guidance through the organ masterclasses for the lucky winners.”

Renowned composer Roxanna Panufnik said: “This competition offers budding composers from all walks of life a fantastic opportunity to write new music and explore the almost infinite possibilities of communication and creativity that this magnificent instrument offers.

“I’m eagerly anticipating joining fellow judges to celebrate and enjoy the wealth of compositional talent from across the UK and beyond.”

The competition is now open for entries and interested applicants should send submissions to composition@yorkminster.org by 5pm on Monday 13 September.

Entries should be a piece for solo organ, between four and seven minutes in length and playable on an instrument of at least two manuals including the use of pedals. A full brief with details for each category and terms and conditions of entry is available to download from the York Minster website at www.yorkminster.org/whats-on.

The Grand Organ returned to use during worship at the cathedral in March this year, following the completion of a £2m, once-in-a-century refurbishment which started in 2018.

The project was the first refurbishment of the instrument on this scale since 1903. It involved the removal of the organ, including nearly all of its 5,000 plus pipes, to organ specialists in Durham for cleaning, repair and replacement.

The instrument was rebuilt and voiced over several months from summer 2020, before returning to use as part of services in March with a formal dedication by the Archbishop of York on Easter Day (Sunday 4 April).

A programme of events to celebrate the organ’s return will take place throughout 2021 and 2022, starting with a month-long photography exhibition about the refurbishment which opens at the cathedral on 18 June and concluding with a series of inaugural recitals planned for summer 2022.

For further details about the composers’ competition and the programme of events to celebrate the organ’s return, visit www.yorkminster.org.

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