Student and alumnus make top three finalists in international organ competition

Charles Frances

Third-year BMus student Charles Francis (pictured) took first prize recently, beating competitors from Leipzig and London in the semi-finals of the Incorporated Association of Organists (IAO) / Royal College of Organists (RCO) Organ Playing Competition 2022. Alumnus Ashley Wagner took third place this year, on top of his achievement of being joint second in the competition last year.

The contest, which was online last year due to the pandemic, took place in person at St Cuthbert's Church in Edinburgh during the IAO's Music Festival. The competition was open to young organists aged from 18-26 years, who used the church’s versatile four-manual organ throughout.

As well as cash prizes of £1,000 for first place, £500 and £200 for second and third places respectively, the winners were offered recital opportunities at a number of high-profile venues.

Five finalists were chosen from recordings to participate in the semi-finals. From there, three competitors were selected to go through to the final. The adjudicators were choral conductor and organist David Hill MBE, conductor, organist and early music scholar John Kitchen MBE, and the French organist and composer Naji Hakim.

Head of Organ Daniel Moult said: "We send our warmest congratulations to Charlie and Ashley on their triumphs! Their success is the latest in our impressive and proud track record of competition winners in the organ department."

Charles said: "It was an absolute delight to win first prize in the IAO/RCO Organ Playing Competition. The opportunity to perform to such an engaged audience and listen to my fellow competitors has left me incredibly inspired for my next musical pursuits."

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