St Albans International Organ Festival is 'a complete triumph and sensational tonic' at the Cathedral

Jess Gillam Ensemble performing in St Albans Cathedral.

Jess Gillam Ensemble performing in St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: Stephen Boffey

Music lovers in St Albans have enjoyed a very special return to live music thanks to the 31st St Albans International Organ Festival.

Between July 5 and July 16, some of the biggest worldwide stars of British classical music played for enthusiastic and socially distanced festival audiences at St Albans Cathedral.

Nicola Benedetti with Aurora Orchestra performing in St Albans Cathedral.

Nicola Benedetti with Aurora Orchestra performing in St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: Stephen Boffey

The performers included violinist Nicola Benedetti and Aurora Orchestra, saxophonist Jess Gillam, pianist Steven Osborne, the Tenebrae Choir, baritone Roderick Williams, organists Thomas Trotter, Daniel Hyde and Martin Baker, and St James’ Baroque.

A free art exhibition was also presented in the Cathedral throughout the 11 days of the festival.

Roderick Williams, baritone, performing in St Albans Cathedral.

Roderick Williams, baritone, performing in St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: Stephen Boffey

David Titterington, artistic and executive director of the festival, said: "It has been huge joy and relief to experience live music once again, albeit with the necessary precautions and restrictions.


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"This year’s festival and competition has been unlike any other but for two weeks we have been sustained by a wave of extraordinary enthusiasm and gratefulness, on the part of audiences and artists alike, that the festival went ahead.

Pianist Steven Osborne performing in St Albans Cathedral.

Pianist Steven Osborne performing in St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: Stephen Boffey

"Countless plans had to be revised, and restricting ticket sales to half potential capacity to meet social distancing requirements was a financial blow, exacerbated further by the loss of our SADC grant.

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"The final reckoning has still to be done, but thanks to the extreme generosity of our supporters and several trusts who have dug deep we hope to come out on the far side.

"I extend heartfelt thanks to everyone who was involved – audiences, performers, competitors and jury members, volunteers and supporters – for their patience and understanding. Our collective persistence produced one of the best festivals."

The annual Organ Competition – the 31st since the festival and competition were founded by Peter Hurford in 1963 – was presented virtually.

Over 60 talented young organists applied to take part, representing 17 countries all around the world.

The 12 selected finalists each submitted a 40-minute video. Over three evenings, the videos were streamed on the festival’s website and shown on a big screen at St Albans Cathedral – as well as being considered by the international judging panel.

Prizes were awarded to Daniel Chang (USA), Quentin du Verdier (France), Mitchell Miller (USA), Magdalena Moser (Austria) and Mona Rozdestvenskyte (Lithuania).

Violinist Nicola Benedetti performing in St Albans Cathedral.

Violinist Nicola Benedetti performing in St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: Stephen Boffey

Councillor Annie Brewster, a patron of the St Albans International Organ Festival since she was Mayor of St Albans & District in 2013, said: "The festival was a complete triumph and a sensational tonic following the dearth of live cultural events we have all endured during the pandemic.

"St Albans has witnessed the most mesmerising Cathedral concerts by two of today’s most influential young soloists, violinist Nicola Benedetti and saxophonist Jess Gillam.

"This event really puts St Albans on the map the world over. Huge congratulations to the organising team as we look forward to the festival’s Diamond Jubilee."

Councillor Annie Brewster and Thomas Trotter on Euro 2020 finals day.

Councillor Annie Brewster and Thomas Trotter on Euro 2020 finals day. - Credit: Stephen Boffey

The next festival, celebrating 60 years since its foundation, will take place in July 2023.

The festival is planning to resume its monthly Saturday Organ Recitals around St Albans this autumn.

See organfestival.com for the latest Festival information.

Tenebrae Choir singing in St Albans Cathedral.

Tenebrae Choir singing in St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: Stephen Boffey

St James' Baroque performing in St Albans Cathedral.

St James' Baroque performing in St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: Stephen Boffey


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