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To encourage and reward a high standard of organ playing, the College holds playing competitions. Every two years the National Competition takes place, coincident with the annual College Festival. In addition, some Centres organise local Competitions.
The most recent National competition was held on June 29 and July 1, 2017 in Montréal. The competition is open to Canadian organists, and non-Canadian organists studying toward a degree or diploma in Canada under the age of 30 who are members of the RCCO or joint members with the AGO. Previous first prize winners are not eligible. Rules and regulations (including repertoire lists) for 2017 are available here.
Five competitors were selected in the Preliminary (taped) round of the 2017 National Organ Playing Competition to proceed to the Semifinal round on June 29: Emmanuel Bernier, Jason Biel, Mária Budáčová, Alcee Chriss and Helen Tucker.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 RCCO National Organ Playing Competition:
1st place: Jason Biel [Godfrey Hewitt Memorial Prize]
Jason Biel was born and raised on the family farm east of Lacombe, AB, where he spent many hours trying to practice piano. He was introduced to organ by Dr Wendy Markosky at the Canadian University College, wherefrom he earned an undergraduate in organ performance. Next came a (far too) brief year of compressed study with Dr Marnie Giesbrecht through The King’s University in Edmonton, during which he was also privileged to assist Jeremy Spurgeon as organ scholar at All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral. In September 2015 he started graduate studies with Hans-Ola Ericsson at McGill University in Montreal, and since November 2015 has also become actively involved as organist at the parish of L’église du Très-Saint-Nom-de-Jésus. By the end of May 2017 he will graduate with his MMus and will continue at McGill for one more year in the Graduate Diploma Performance program, and is currently exploring options for further studies.
2nd place: Helen Tucker [Paul Murray Prize]
Helen Tucker is currently a second year student in the Faculty of Law at McGill University, where she also works as a research assistant, volunteers at the Legal Information Clinic, and is a Senior Editor for the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law. Helen also completed a master’s degree in organ at McGill, where she studied with Hans-Ola Ericsson and held a SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship. She obtained a Bachelor of Music from Mount Allison University in 2013, where she studied organ with Dr. Gayle h. Martin, as well as composition, musicology, and collaborative piano. From 2014 to 2016 Helen was organ scholar at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Montreal, as well as chapel organist at the Presbyterian College. She has been awarded prizes at several Canadian competitions, including 2nd prize at the RCCO National Organ Playing Competition (2015) and 2nd prize at the Lynnwood Farnam Organ Competition (2016).
3rd place: Emmanuel Bernier [Muriel Gidley Stafford Prize]
Originally from Matane, QC, Emmanuel Bernier began playing music at the age of 15 in a self-taught manner. After studying piano and organ in Rimouski, he arrived in Québec City to study organ with Danny Bélisle, and voice with Jacqueline Martel-Cistellini and Sonia Racine. In April 2014, he was awarded First Prize with Honours in organ by a unanimous jury. In 2014-2015, he completed a year of training in Paris where he studied organ with Christophe Mantoux, Vincent Warnier and Thomas Ospital. Over the years, he has been mentored by renowned musicians such as Olivier Latry, James David Christie, Jacques van Oortmerssen, Dom André Laberge, Paolo Crivellaro, Mireille Lagacé and Pierre Perdigon.
Bernier has three times won first place in organ at the Canadian Music Competition. In June 2014, he received Second Prize ex-aequo and the Award for Best Interpretation of a Canadian Work at the Quebec Organ Competition. Bernier is also a writer for several concert societies and has been a contributor for the newspaper Le Soleil. In September, he will begin a Master’s degree in rural history at Université Laval.
The Jury Members for the Preliminary Round were:
· Dr. Marnie Giesbrecht: Professor Emerita, Dept. of Music, University Organist, University of Alberta
· Dr. Gordon Johnston: Chair, Board of Examiners (RCCO), Organist and Choirmaster, St. John the Evangelist, Ottawa
· Sarah MacDonald: Fellow and Director of Music, Selwyn College, Cambridge, UK
The Jury Members for the Semifinal and Final rounds were:
· Thomas Annand: Director of Music, St. Andrews, Ottawa
· Frédéric Blanc: Notre-Dame d’Auteuil, Paris
· Rachel Laurin: Organist, Composer
· Stephanie Martin: York University
· Yves-G Préfontaine: Grand Séminaire de Montréal, Marie-Reine-des-Coeurs, Montreal
1st - Stephen Boda
2nd - Helen Tucker
3rd - Sarah Svendsen
1st - Shawn Potter
2nd - Rachel Mahon
3rd - Stephen Boda
1st - Aaron James
2nd - Sarah Svendsen
3rd - Stephen Boda
1st - Aaron Tan
2nd - Matthew Coons
3rd - Kevin Dill
1st - Ryan Enright
2nd - Aaron Tan
3rd - Philip Chow
1st - Ryan Jackson
2nd - Ryan Enright
3rd - Isabelle Demers
1st - Andrew Henderson
2nd - Gary Tong
3rd - Geoff Ward