Applications open for 31st St Albans International Organ Festival

PUBLISHED: 10:34 27 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:34 27 May 2020

St Albans Cathedral organ. Picture: Chris Christodoulou

St Albans Cathedral organ. Picture: Chris Christodoulou


Organisers have announced details of the 31st St Albans International Organ Festival with applications now open.

The organ at St Albans Cathedral. Picture: Chris ChristodoulouThe organ at St Albans Cathedral. Picture: Chris Christodoulou

The international event will return to the historic city in July 2021.

Since its foundation by Peter Hurford in 1963, the St Albans International Organ Competition has attracted exceptional young organists from around the world.

Performers travel from all over Europe, North America, East Asia and Australasia to compete in this famous biennial competition.

The Interpretation Prize has an impressive roll call of winners, starting from its very first recipients of Susan Landale and Dame Gillian Weir.

St Albans Cathedral. Picture: Alan DaviesSt Albans Cathedral. Picture: Alan Davies

More recent winners include Thomas Trotter, Kimberley Marshall, David Goode, Pier-Damiano Piretti, Ulrich Walter and Konstantin Volostnov.

In 2019, it was won by Kumi Choi of South Korea.

The interpretation final will include a Concerto Round in St Albans Cathedral, in which each finalist will perform a Handel concerto with St James’ Baroque directed by David Hill.

Earlier rounds for all competitors will include the Peter Hurford Bach Prize, and the premiere performances of a new six-minute work commissioned from leading British composer Roxanna Panufnik.

Inside St Abans Cathedral. Picture: Alan DaviesInside St Abans Cathedral. Picture: Alan Davies

David Titterington, festival artistic director, said: “I am delighted to open our 31st competition to entries.

“More than ever in these current uncertain times, it will be so important to celebrate the very best of live performance with its most talented young organists.

“We look forward to receiving applications from all around the world, and to making our competitors truly welcome in St Albans.”

Interpretation competitors in 2021 will perform on a range of impressive instruments including the Harrison & Harrison Organ in St Albans Cathedral, built in 1962 to a revolutionary design, and Robin Jennings’ continuo organ built for Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Cantata pilgrimage in 2000.

A three-manual Mander Organ in the historic St Peter’s Church and the unique 18th-century Richard Bridge organ of Christ Church Spitalfields in east London will also be used.

The Improvisation (Tournemire) Prize has been substantially redesigned for 2021 and will provide a fascinating test for all creative and fast-thinking improvising organists.

The comprehensive semi-final round will feature performance to a silent film, improvisations based on Allegri’s Miserere and Walpurgisnacht (Faust), and five contrasting variations on a chorale, provided with one hour’s notice.

The roll call of Improvisation winners at St Albans is equally impressive, starting with Guy Bovet in 1963 and André Isoir in 1964.

Other winners include Jos van der Kooy, Martin Baker, Jean-Baptiste Dupont, Paul Goussot and Martin Sturm.

In 2019, the Tournemire Prize was won by Gabriele Agrimonti from Italy.

The competitions are open to organists of all nationalities born after July 17, 1988.

Applications are open now at

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