Herts man wins St Albans International Organ Festival prize

Mayor with prizewinners on cathedral staircase

Mayor with prizewinners on cathedral staircase - Credit: Archant

FOR the first time in its 50-year history an organist from Hertfordshire has carried off the top prize in the St Albans International Organ Festival’s competitions.

Simon Thomas Jacobs, 26, who was born in Welwyn Garden City and brought up in Potters Bar, beat off competitors from Germany, South Korea, Hong Kong, Croatia, Italy, Japan and the USA to win the £6,000 Interpretation Prize and gold medal.

Simon Thomas, who now lives in the USA where he is Fellow in Sacred Music at Christ Church Cathedral Indianapolis, used the International Organ Festival’s own organ in St Saviour’s Church, St Albans, for practice when he was in his teens.

As well as carrying off the £6,000 prize and gold medal for the festival’s interpretation competition, he also won the £500 audience prize and the opportunity to give recitals at leading venues across the UK, Europe and the USA.

The £2,500 second prize was won jointly by Germany’s Anna-Victoria Baltrusch and Benjamin Sheen from the UK, who has recently been appointed assistant organist at St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York.

Benjamin also won the £500 Jon Laukvik prize for the best performance of the work specially commissioned for the festival’s interpretation competition.

Winner of the Peter Hurford prize for the best performance of a piece by J S Bach went to Jihoon Song from South Korea. The prize honours Peter Hurford, the founder of the competition who was also Master of the Music at St Albans Abbey. Unfortunately Dr Hurford was too ill to attend the festival.

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The winner of the £6,000 Tournemire Prize and medal in the improvisation competition was Martin Sturm from Regensburg, Germany and the Douglas May Award of £800 for the best performance of a competition work in either the quarter or semi-final rounds or either competition was won by David Cassan from France.

Nineteen young organists from across the globe took part in the 50th anniversary competitions and artistic director David Titterington said: “The quality of standard and playing in the competitions this year has been quite remarkable and the jury have been hugely imprssed by the competitors across all rounds.”

The competitions are the longest-running of their kind in the world and the roll call of past winners includes many of today’s most influential organists.