RCO celebrates 150 for 150 Recital Challenge success
The Royal College of Organists’ 150 for 150 Recital Challenge drew to a spectacular close in December, with a Grand Finale performed at Royal Festival Hall and the last of a total of 202 recitals played in Pisa.
The RCO, which celebrated its 150th anniversary throughout 2014, launched its challenge with the aim of uniting organists across the world in a unique recital series of at least 150 concerts.
Organists of all ages and levels of achievement were invited to register, organise and perform a recital as part of the series.
Opening with Clive Driskill-Smith playing at St Lawrence Parish Church, Alton, on 14 January 2014, the series went on to pass its original target of 150 recitals with a performance by Geoffrey Holdroyde at Holy Trinity, Gosport on 7 September.
The 202nd and final recital was performed by Riccardo Gnudi at Chiesa Nazionale di S.Stefano dei Cavalieri, Pisa on 19 December.
Challenge recitals ranged in scale from local events by personal invitation only (including at least one first-ever recital, inspired by the challenge) through to performances involving some of the world’s leading recitalists, venues and instruments.
There were performances in 13 countries, and a total of £10,000 was raised towards the College’s charitable work.
Among a string of notable highlights was the recital in April by Thomas Trotter at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, at which the College was honoured by the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, our Patron, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.
An astonishing gala performance by acclaimed recitalist and improviser Martin Baker at Royal Festival Hall on 10th December marked the challenge’s official Grand Finale.
As part of a programme conceived to reflect significant RCO connections (alongside Bach’s 9/8 C major Prelude and Fugue, Bairstow’s fine Sonata in E flat offered music by a former President and the famous Symphony No. 6 by Widor provided music by an Honorary Member), Martin was joined by chorister Louis Negri for the world premiere of a new work.
Co-commissioned by the College in collaboration with Southbank Centre, Simon Holt’s innovative piece for organ and treble, The Legend of Melusine, was also explored in detail at a pre-concert talk featuring the composer and performer in conversation.
RCO President Catherine Ennis said: “We are extremely proud that the 150 for 150 Recital Challenge has generated so much support, enthusiasm and engagement among so many people.
“When we launched the challenge towards the end of 2013 we said that we hoped it would inspire organists of all ages, levels of attainment, backgrounds and traditions to join us in celebrating the College’s 150th anniversary.
“Looking back over the programme of 202 recitals in 13 countries, it is clear that this is exactly what has happened. We are so grateful to all those who took part by organising, performing, fundraising or simply by attending a recital.
“The 150 for 150 Recital Challenge has helped turn our anniversary year into a truly spectacular celebration, not just of the College but of the organ, its music and everything that unites organists around the world.”