Longwood Gardens is hosting international organ competition
Organ aficionados, take note: Longwood Gardens’ is hosting an international competition with a $40,000 first prize.
Ten renowned organists will compete in the inaugural International Organ Competition, playing Longwood’s restored, 10,010-pipe organ in the ballroom. All contestants will compete in the preliminary rounds June 18-19, with the top five contestants advancing to the final round on June 22, a Longwood news release said. Tickets are now available for the preliminary or final rounds at www.longwoodgardens.org.
The competitors, whose homelands range from France to South Korea, all boast impressive credentials. For example, Daria Burlak, 27, began studying piano at age 5 in Vladivostok, Russia, and has gone on to win numerous competitions, including the 6th International Mikael Tariverdiev Organ Competition, and the second Grand Prix. She was recognized as the youngest soloist at the International Organ Competition Ville de Paris.
Thomas Gaynor, 21, of Wellington, New Zealand, began his music studies at age 10 with piano lessons, moving on to the organ at 13. In 2009, he won first prize in both the New Zealand Association of Organists’ Performance Award competition and the intermediate class of the Sydney Organ Competition. He is the recipient of an Arts Excellence Award from the Dame Malvina Major Foundation, the Kiwi music scholarship and the Maxwell Fernie Trust Scholarship.
James Kennerley, 28, a native of the United Kingdom, works as an organist, conductor, singer, coach, and educator. He began his musical career as a chorister of Chelmsford Cathedral and has been an Organ Scholar at venues such as Jesus College and Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. Known for his improvisation skills, Kennerley has performed at many of the major venues in Europe and the U.S., both as a soloist and accompanist.
Adam Pajan, 26, a Monroeville, Pa. native, is a DMA degree student in organ with a church music emphasis at the University of Oklahoma’s American Organ Institute. He was awarded first prize at both the 2011 Arthur Poister Organ Scholarship Competition and the 2009 Albert Schweitzer Organ Competition USA and was a semifinalist in the American Guild of Organists’ National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance in May 2012. He holds an MM degree from the Yale University School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music and a BM degree from Furman University.
Benjamin Sheen, 23, from London, a first-year master’s student at the Juilliard School in New York. Having recently graduated from Oxford University with a First Class Honours degree (BA) in music, Sheen is gaining recognition as an international concert organist, having given recitals throughout the United Kingdom, U.S., Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Organists, and a recipient of the prestigious Worshipful Company of Musicians’ Silver Medal for 2011.
A distinguished panel of experts will judge the competition, including Paul Jacobs, chair of the Organ Department at The Juilliard School; Thomas Murray, professor of music at Yale University; Oliver Condy, editor of BBC Music Magazine; Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin, titular of the Grand Orgue of Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle in Paris; and Peter Richard Conte, Grand Court organist of the renowned Wanamaker Organ and principal organist at Longwood Gardens.
“We are pleased to have 10 such outstanding young organists competing in the inaugural Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition,” said Longwood Gardens Director Paul B. Redman. “They are truly among the finest young talents in the organ world today, and we look forward to hearing them perform on The Longwood Organ and helping them to further their music careers.”
The Longwood Organ is among the world’s largest concert organs, with 146 ranks and 10,010 pipes. After a seven-year restoration completed in 2011, the organ is restored to its original 1930 condition and incorporates today’s most innovative technology.
The winner will receive the $40,000 Pierre S. du Pont First Prize, a contract with Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists, and a 2013-14 performance at Longwood. The second- place finisher will receive the Firmin Swinnen $15,000 prize, and the third-place winner will take home the Clarence Snyder $5,000 prize. Swinnen and Snyder were past resident organists at Longwood.