It is with much excitement that we announce Manuel Piazza as the 2023 winner of the Sir Ernest MacMillan Memorial Foundation Prize. Funded by the Sir Ernest MacMillan Memorial Foundation and administered by the RCCO, this prestigious award of $7,500 is given in memory of Canada’s preeminent musician from the 1920s through the 1950s.
About Manuel Piazza:
Manuel Piazza is the Interim Assistant Director of Music at Trinity Church in the City of Boston (Copley Square). In May 2022, he graduated with an MM from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, where he studied organ repertoire with Martin Jean, improvisation with Jeffrey Brillhart, and choral conducting with Dale Adelmann and Gloria Yin. Additionally, he served as senior organ scholar at Trinity Church on the Green, where he was mentored by Walden Moore. He was also an organist for the Yale Schola Cantorum, conducted by David Hill. Manuel developed a passion for sacred music while attending St. Michael's Choir School in Toronto, where he served as a chorister and began organ studies. He completed his undergraduate studies in Organ Performance at the University of Toronto, studying repertoire with John Tuttle and conducting with Ivars Taurins. He has also performed in masterclasses led by organists such as Olivier Latry, William Porter, Stefan Engels, David Briggs, James O’Donnell, Ben van Oosten, Jürgen Essl, Wolfgang Zerer, Christophe Mantoux, Olivier Penin, and Fréderic Blanc. While in Toronto, he served as choir director and organist at Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, organ scholar at Trinity College (University of Toronto), organ scholar at St. James' Anglican Cathedral, and one of the five organists of St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica. From September 2019 to July 2020, he was organ scholar at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall (UK), where he played at Evensong three times a week, accompanying a fantastic group of choristers under the direction of Christopher Gray. While living in the UK, he also taught theory and organ, led chorister rehearsals, and performed with ensembles such as the London Sinfonia. After returning to North America, he won first prize in the 2021 Royal Canadian College of Organists’ National Organ Playing Competition. Other awards include the Godfrey Hewitt Memorial Scholarship (RCCO), the Mary Baker Scholarship in Organ Accompanying (Yale Institute of Sacred Music), the Julia R. Sherman Memorial Prize for excellence in organ playing (Yale School of Music), and the Aidan Kavanagh Prize for Academic Achievement (Yale Institute of Sacred Music). In Summer 2023, Manuel looks forward to beginning a term as Assistant Director of Music at St. Thomas's Anglican Church in Toronto, where he hopes to found a new chorister program with the Director of Music and the Rector.
Hear Manuel perform here:
About Sir Ernest MacMillan:
Sir Ernest (1893-1973) was a Companion of the Order of Canada, and recipient of the only knighthood conferred on a Canadian musician. Perhaps best known as the conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 25 years, he was also conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for 15 years, as well as Dean of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music for 25 years, and Principal of the Royal Conservatory of Music for 16 years. He founded and/or presided over most of the major national organizations dedicated to music, including the Canadian Music Centre, the Canadian Music Council, the Canada Council, CAPAC (now SOCAN), and Jeunesses musicales du Canada. Sir Ernest's extraordinary contributions to the development of music in Canada, in virtually all aspects, as orchestral and choral conductor, organist, chamber musician, composer, arranger, educator, administrator, lecturer, adjudicator, writer, and statesman, are unparalleled.
As an organist, he was a prodigy, and was appearing publicly in Toronto by the age of ten. He passed the (British) ARCO exam in 1907 while still only 13, and the next year assumed his first professional position as the organist at Knox Presbyterian Church in Toronto. In 1911 he was awarded the Carte-Lafontaine prize as the top student in the FRCO exams that year in London. He later held organ positions at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Hamilton and Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto, toured widely as an organist, and composed the fine concert piece Cortège académique (1953). MacMillan wrote about his career as an organist in the article “The Organ Was My First Love,” published in the Canadian Journal of Music in 1959.
His life story has been told in an award-winning biography by Ezra Schabas: Sir Ernest MacMillan: The Importance of Being Canadian (University of Toronto Press, 1994) and in the fine Encyclopedia of Music in Canada article by John Beckwith, available in English here and in French here.
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