Full house for a memorable RCO Conferment

RCO members, students and their families filled Southwark Cathedral on Saturday for the 2016 Conferment of Diplomas.

A glorious early Spring day saw 53 Members of the College – the largest number for many years – conferred with Fellowship of the College (FRCO) and Associateship of the College (ARCO), and presented with the Certificate (CertRCO).

The ceremony also saw the Medal of the Royal College of Organists awarded to three distinguished practitioners and scholars from the fields of organ and choral music:

Prof. John Caldwell, in recognition of distinguished achievement in organ-related scholarship.

Dr Christopher Robinson CVO, CBE, awarded in absentia, in recognition of distinguished achievement in organ playing and choral conducting.

Mr Thomas Trotter, in recognition of distinguished achievement in organ playing.

The RCO President, Dr Philip Moore, also announced that the RCO Medal had been awarded posthumously to Dr John Scott, a distinguished Fellow of the College whose untimely death occurred last year.

RCO President Dr Philip Moore with the successful candidates. See below for more photos.
RCO President Dr Philip Moore with the successful conferees. See below for more photos.

In his Conferment address, Dr Moore said: “We have been most encouraged by having 53 new diploma holders in this examination year, a year of special significance, for 2016 sees the 150th anniversary of the first examination session.

“We have been examining without a break ever since; yet another pointer to the tremendous value that is placed on organ and choral music.”

And he added: “With your recent success you are laying firm foundations for the whole of your life, both personal and musical, to help fulfil your hopes and ambitions.

“‘Mozart,’ wrote Goethe, ‘is a human incarnation of the divine creative power.’ And he went on to write: ‘I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights and you have yours.  But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us in all times and in all places. Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality, for music is the common language of all humanity.’

“This is the language to which you have dedicated your lives.  Thank you for doing so; we wish you every possible success.”

The ceremony closed with a wonderful Ede & Ravenscroft Recital in which John Scott Whiteley, Organist Emeritus, York Minster, played music by J.S. Bach, Saint-Saëns, Verdin, MacMillan and Jackson. The work by Belgian composer Joris Verdin was a setting of the chorale ‘Mein Wallfahrt ich vollendet hab’ (‘I have completed my pilgrimage’). It was specially commissioned by the RCO for the Orgelbüchlein Project in memory of John Scott.

The vote of thanks was given, according to custom, by Ghislaine Reece-Trapp FRCO, the highest scoring winner of the Limpus Prize (in Summer 2015) and the Coventry Cathedral Recital Award.

Congratulations to all the successful examination candidates and prize winners, who were:


Summer 2015

Jonathan Bunney (Hayling Island)

William Fox (Hereford)

Laurence Lyndon-Jones (Chelmsford)

David Maw (Oxford)

Henry Meehan (Oxford)

Edward Picton-Turbervill (Alton)

Ghislaine Reece-Trapp (Oxford)

Daniel Soper (Bury St Edmunds)

Limpus Prize, Frederick Shinn Prize, and Durrant Prize: Ghislaine Reece-Trapp

Turpin Prize and Durrant Prize: William Fox

Dixon Prize: David Maw

Harding Prize and Durrant Prize: David Maw

Samuel Baker Prize: David Maw

Arnold Richardson Prize: David Maw

The Coventry Cathedral Recital Award 2015/2016: Ghislaine Reece-Trapp


Winter 2016

Gregory Drott (Cambridge)

Andrew Furniss (London)

Christopher Jacobson (Durham, North Carolina, USA)

Jeremy Lloyd (Oxted)

Joseph McHardy (Guildford)

Joseph Wicks (Salisbury)

John Wyatt (Watford)

Limpus Prize, Frederick Shinn Prize, and Durrant Prize: Joseph Wicks

Harding Prize and Durrant Prize: Joseph McHardy



Summer 2015

Callum Alger (Portsmouth)

Harvey Brink (London)

Thomas Brockington (Princes Risborough)

Timothy Kwan (London)

George Lacey (York)

Anna Lapwood (Oxford)

Amanda Lockyer (Ipswich)

Gillian McNaughton (Guildford)

Benjamin Newlove (Manchester)

Georgina Sherriff (Truro)

Charles Warren (Beckenham)

Charles Whitham (Ilford)

Limpus Prize, Frederick Shinn Prize, and Durrant Prize: Anna Lapwood

Sawyer Prize and Durrant Prize: Benjamin Newlove

Lord St Audries Prize: Benjamin Newlove

Sowerbutts Prize and Durrant Prize: Anna Lapwood

Doris Wookey Prize: Benjamin Newlove

Samuel Baker Prize: Anna Lapwood


Winter 2016

Rebecca Baker (Oxford)

Michael Carter (Portsmouth)

Richard Cook (Worcester)

Matthew Edwards (Alloa)

Hannah Gill (London)

Claudia Grinnell (Wolverhampton)

Edward Hewes (Scarborough)

David Hinitt (London)

Ben Hulme (London)

Harry Jacques (Chepstow)

Nathaniel Keiller (Windsor)

Christopher Mair (London)

Daniel Mathieson (Oxford)

Rory Moules (Wells)

Jack Oades (Exeter)

Asher Oliver (Windsor)

David Rees (Maidstone)

David Rice (Cambridge)

Matthew Searles (Poitiers, France)

Aaron Shilson (Dover)

David Thomas (South Croydon)

Limpus Prize, Frederick Shinn Prize, and Durrant Prize: Daniel Mathieson

Sawyer Prize and Durrant Prize: Richard Cook and David Rice

Lord St Audries Prize: David Rees

Sowerbutts Prize and Durrant Prize: Daniel Mathieson

Doris Wookey Prize: Richard Cook

Dr F J Read Prize: Daniel Mathieson



Summer 2015

Keith Foley (Bourne)

Luke Hayden (Chichester)


Winter 2016

William Briant (London)

Christopher Embrey (Leominster)

Matthew Kelley (Worcester)


The following Members were awarded the Dr John Birch Scholarship: Nathaniel Keiller ARCO, Charles Whitham ARCO, Jonathan Bunney FRCO, and Joseph McHardy FRCO.

The soundtrack to our lives – organists’ Bowie tributes go viral

by Morwenna Brett

David Bowie 1947-2016

As the RCO has said many times before, no other instrument seems quite able to embrace and sum up the public mood like the organ.  At moments of high emotion, whether personal or public, the organ speaks in a way few instruments can.

The death of David Bowie on Sunday 10th January saddened fans world-wide.  Many people had loved and admired the man as musician and artist; his music the soundtrack to their formative years; his life an example of how personal identity can be successfully transformed many times over.  It was still, however, remarkable to witness the media coverage of his death, which dominated the mainstream news as well as the popular music press, even making the lead story on Radio 4’s Today programme on the Monday morning.

No better example then, of the organ marking a moment of strong public feeling than when two organists’ spontaneous tributes to Bowie went viral on the internet.

Nicholas Freestone, organ scholar at St Albans Cathedral, has been ‘astonished and humbled’ by over a million hits on YouTube and Facebook received by his version of Bowie’s  Life on Mars, played on the organ at St Albans.  ‘So many fans have got in touch and said how much the performance moved them, and how much it helped them deal with their grief at the death of such a cultural icon,’ he said in a later interview with a news agency which filmed a repeat performance,  also to be found on YouTube.

Organist Christopher Nickol decided he would include Life on Mars during the regular Kelvingrove Art Gallery lunchtime recital, after hearing the news of the singer’s death on the morning news.  Chris, Director of Music at New Kilpatrick Parish Church in Bearsden, Glasgow, was similarly ‘overwhelmed’ by the 1.7 million views on Facebook of mobile phone footage of his performance.

Gordon Wilson, in the audience, who was responsible for posting the recording on the internet, said in an interview with BBC News Glasgow ‘It was the strangest thing. People just suddenly appeared.  In the main concourse, people just stopped.  You could still hear kids running around – but people were just in rapture.  I’ve never heard Bowie like that before,’ he added.  ‘The man just played a blinder. I was welling up and I could see people beside me welling up – and it was just crazy.’

Chris Nickol, also interviewed afterwards by BBC News Glasgow, said ‘I thought that would be a good song to do, it’s very melodic, got some good harmonies, it would work well on the organ – and I thought it would be appropriate to play it as it was very much topical yesterday – and a great piece of music.’

He added that he watched Bowie on YouTube before setting off to Kelvingrove and the recital just to check the chords and harmonies.   No better example, then, of the musicianship that is taken for granted in our profession.  Two organists take a piece of music outside the customary genre, adapt it for a complex instrument, and produce a convincing and moving performance, all within the space of a few hours.

Something we are all probably too modest about.

Watch the Kelvingrove Gallery performance on YouTube

Watch the Kelvingrove Gallery performance and an interview with Chris Nickol  (via BBC News Glasgow & West)

Watch Nicholas Freestone’s performance at St Albans Cathedral

Watch Nicholas Freestone interviewed (and performing) on On Demand News