The next generation of Organists

by Philip Nicholls.

Christopher Cook, Director of Music at St John’s Toorak, and Director of Development of the Australia New Zealand College of Organists (ANZCO) wrote to me in August 2019 with a brilliant idea: ‘are there any young women at Lowther Hall who’d be keen to learn the pipe organ?’

Slightly embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of it myself, I got in touch with the keyboard department at the School and asked their head of piano, Dr Jane Hammond. She said she’d ask amongst her students. Two tried out, and one, Lucy Bremner, has finally been able to begin lessons with Lachlan Redd after Easter this year.

Those of us who have attempted to learn the pipe organ— whenever anyone asks if I play it, I quote my long-suffering organ teacher, John Kirkham, who told me that it was very easy to sound very loud on the pipe organ, but very difficult to sound very musical! I can sound very loud—know that learning such an instrument is no mean feat, and takes many, many hours of tireless instruction and careful practice. Lucy has taken to the instrument with aplomb, and Lachlan tells us that she’s making good progress.

Building up the next generation of organists is a task taken very seriously by ANZCO, which holds a number of concerts and try-outs each year in churches, cathedrals, and town halls. The aim is to promote the pipe organ and encourage people to learn it. All information regarding ANZCO can be found online:

St Paul’s Cathedral has a strong reputation of helping young organists achieve proficiency. Dr June Nixon recruited and taught at least ten organists who have gone on to become professional musicians—four still play here at St Paul’s, and the others perform and teach elsewhere.

Such organ scholarships would not be possible without the support of the St Paul’s Cathedral Music Foundation, and I encourage you to think about supporting this work further when you consider donating this year. We are serious about, and effective in, training young musicians, and we are serious about providing the same opportunities to girls as to boys. We are proud of Lucy’s work so far and our part in that, and we look forward to hearing Lucy play a weeknight postlude in the not too distant future.

Mr Philip Nicholls is Director of Music at St Paul’s Cathedral. This article originally appeared in the June Edition of the Music Foundation newsletter.

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