Gold medals for St Albans International Organ Festival

THE winners of the top prizes at next year’s St Albans International Organ Festival are to be presented with gold medals for the first time to mark the event’s 50th anniversary.

The new awards, on top of the �6,000 cash prizes in both the Interpretation and Improvisation competitions, were announced last week at the launch of the competition’s programme which was attended by world-renowned organist Susan Landale, winner of the first competition in 1963, and the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire the Countess of Verulam.

Lady Verulam told the audience: “It is a fantastic thing for Hertfordshire in general and St Albans in particular to host such a prestigious international event such as this.”

Festival artistic director, Professor David Titterington, said the competition was already being widely anticipated by young organists around the world.

He went on: “There is nothing quite like the St Albans competition. In 50 years it has become pre-eminent in the organ world with a remarkable roll call of winners over 26 festivals.”

Over the last three competitions entries have been drawn from 22 countries across five continents.

Prof Titterington said he had just returned from a business trip to China, Japan and South Korea where he had found a very high level of interest in the festival.

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Next year’s jury, which was also announced at the meeting, will include Susan Landale as well as leading organists from Germany, France, Italy, Finland, Japan and the USA.

It will also see the reinstatement of the Tournemire Prize for improvisation which was last awarded in 1997. The competition was created in memory of the French organist and improviser Charles Tournemire who died in 1939.

The festival takes place from July 11 to 20, 2013, and the competitions are open to organists under the age of 33.

The festival was founded by Peter Hurford, the then Master of Music at St Albans Abbey, who is still its president.