The St. Albans International Organ Festival was founded in 1963 by British organist and composer Peter Hurford. Every two years, the historic city about 20 miles north of London hosts concerts, lectures, an art exhibit, a fringe festival, and a multi-round competition that elicits entries from young organists all over the world.
Just 16 organists were selected to travel to England for the Festival, including artists from the UK, Germany, Hungary, Japan, and South Korea. Caroline Robinson is a doctoral student of David Higgs at the Eastman School. Originally from Greenville, South Carolina, Robinson is the only American accepted in this year’s competition. Another Higgs student at Eastman, Thomas Gaynor from Wellington, New Zealand, was also accepted.
The preliminary round was done by recording. The next round takes place live in St. Albans. Robinson and the other 15 quarter finalists will have the opportunity to perform on five different organs over the course of the Festival, depending on how far they advance in the competition. The quarter finals are followed by a semi-final round and a final round.
All of the quarter finalists have been preparing for the St. Albans competition for months. They are required to perform a large and diverse repertoire, particularly if they make it all the way to the final round. The goal of the St. Albans Festival is to attract larger audiences to hear the organ as a versatile concert instrument, and not something confined to Sunday morning church services.
Caroline Robinson, Thomas Gaynor and the other 14 quarter finalists will be at the festival in England through July 22, no matter how far they advance in the competition. This year’s events at the St. Albans Festival also include a tribute to David Bowie, a puppet show presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a harpsichord recital by Eastman School professor William Porter.
More details about the St. Albans International Organ Festival are at www.organfestival.com.