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Ballywillan Church resounds for ten years of organ competition

Ballywillan Presbyterian Church organ hit all the right notes as part of a series of free lunchtime Recitals celebrating ten years of the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (NIIOC) recently.

Northern Ireland Resounds has been taking place in venues across Northern Ireland, featuring first prize NIIOC winners from the last ten years from Germany, Hungary, and Lithunia and the UK.

The Portrush concert was performed by 2013 prize winner Richard Gowers from the UK.

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The recitals were dedicated to the memory of Lisburn organ builder the late David McElderry, former MD of Wells-Kennedy Partnership, who lovingly maintained the organs featured in the performances.

Richard Gower

Another gala performance was held at Southwark Cathedral, London on March 28 and the series culminated with a stunning gala recital at Belfast Cathedral on April 6 featuring all ten of its first prize winners.

The Belfast Cathedral evening gala concert was introduced by Fr Eugene O’Hagan of the singing group The Priests.

Richard Gowers, senior prize-winner in 2013, also gave the NI premiere of a work by Grace-Evangeline Mason, specially composed for NIIOC and the Commission for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland. It is dedicated to all those touched by the Northern Ireland Troubles.

NIIOC stemmed from the demand of local organists who wanted to encourage, challenge and recognise the talents of young performers in a competitive environment. It quickly established itself as one of the leading platforms internationally for committed young organists and rising talent.

Ballywilan church organ

Richard Yarr, founder and chair of NIIOC, said: “We are very proud that NIIOC has been a proper trailblazer, changing the organ landscape locally and internationally. Competitors from Australia, the US, China and all across Europe have come to the beautiful cathedral city of Armagh each August to perform in St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral.

“We’re thrilled to be celebrating our first ten years with these very special concerts featuring ten young organists who are such great ambassadors for the king of instruments and for our competition. NIIOC takes pride of place on their CVs and I know these events will offer something for everyone.”

Renowned conductor and organist Dr David Hill is on the judging panel every year and is also a Competition patron.

Commenting on its development over the past decade he said: “NIIOC has gained an increasing respect internationally as a competition to launch the careers of young organists. I’m in awe of what has been achieved and by the level of playing we have listened to in the past ten years. What a fitting tribute to gather the illustrious prize winners as a way of celebrating ten outstanding competitions.”

The NIIOC anniversary celebrations are sponsored by bodies including The Priests Charitable Trust.

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