RCO Medal awarded in cathedral ceremony

RCO Medal awarded in cathedral ceremony

The Royal College of Organists has recognised the achievements of two distinguished musicians and scholars by awarding them its highest honour, the RCO Medal.

The 2017 recipients of the RCO Medal are:

Ms Anne Marsden Thomas MBE, in recognition of distinguished achievement in organ pedagogy and distinguished service to the College

Prof. Ton Koopman, in recognition of distinguished achievement in organ playing, choral conducting, and organ- and choral-related scholarship

The honorands received the RCO Medal at the College’s Conferment of Diplomas at Southwark Cathedral on 11th March 2017.

Awarded for the first time in 2012, The Medal of the Royal College of Organists (‘The RCO Medal’) recognises distinguished achievement in one or more of the following areas relating to organ and choral music: performance, teaching, scholarship, composition, organ-building, conducting, administration, and philanthropy; it is also available to recognise specific service to the College.

Anne Marsden Thomas

Anne Marsden Thomas has devoted her entire career to the pursuit of excellence and the education and empowerment of other musicians. She has taught hundreds of organ students over the last 40 years, with many of them continuing into the music profession. She has wide experience of examining, from grade examinations to diplomas, and her teaching and concert work has taken her to the USA, Canada, Japan, Europe, and all over the UK.

Anne has compiled and/or edited 20 books for the student organist, all of which are in print. Her most recent volumes of graded anthologies, for Oxford University Press, have been taken up by many organists at home and abroad and are marked by a judicious choice of repertoire and excellent editorial standards and supporting material. Anne has published a number of articles for organists and their teachers, including a long-running series ‘Anne Marsden Thomas’s Organ Lessons’ published in both the Church Music Quarterly (for the RSCM) and The American Organist (for the American Guild of Organists). She has also published teaching articles in the RCO News.

Anne Marsden Thomas studied at the Royal Academy of Music. She was awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists in 1971 and subsequently built a portfolio career as an organist and teacher. She was an organ tutor at the Junior Department of the Royal Academy of Music between 1980 and 1996, and was appointed Director of St Giles Cripplegate Church in 1982. She still holds this appointment. In 2006, Anne returned to the Royal Academy of Music to devise and deliver the courses for the LRAM teaching qualification.

It was in 1990 that Anne, concerned about an acute shortage of organists, thought up and, with a number of colleagues, initiated National Learn the Organ Year, of which she became the honorary secretary and administrator. The campaign sought to unite the many organisations which had an interest in organists and organ education, and it mounted a series of events to recruit and provide information for new organists. It was hugely successful, resulting in 2,000 applications from organists across the country who wished to improve their skills: but the campaign also revealed that there was a dearth of well-qualified, committed organ teachers in the UK. Undaunted and without funding, Anne decided to set up her own school, based at St Giles Cripplegate Church. Her initial pilot class attracted 32 applicants, and from its foundation the school – named the St Giles International Organ School – grew rapidly.

Assisted by a cohort of teachers, Anne directed the Organ School for 20 years, from 1992 until 2012, when it became part of the College’s ‘RCO Academy’ programme. For many years a highlight of the St Giles calendar was the Summer Course, which consistently attracted over 70 students who devoted themselves to the study of the organ and related disciplines for an intensive week in many fine City of London churches. Reflecting Anne’s commitment to the nourishment of all levels of organ playing, the Summer Course has helped to define and consolidate the early-level sector, and it continues to thrive under RCO auspices. Anne was also secretary of the St Giles Organ Project, which raised funds for three organs, including the provision of two fine new organs for the City of London.

Anne has been a hardworking Fellow of the College who has given her time generously to this institution. She was a member of the RCO Council between 1987 and 2007, and was a founder member of the College’s Academic Board in 2001. She was appointed MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours 2015 for ‘services to organ music’.

Ton Koopman

Born in the Dutch city of Zwolle, Ton Koopman studied the organ, harpsichord, and musicology in Amsterdam. He received the Prix d’Excellence for both instruments. Naturally attracted by historical instruments, Ton Koopman concentrated his studies on Baroque music (specializing in particular on the music of J. S. Bach) and soon became a leading figure in the historical performance movement.

At 25, Ton created his first Baroque orchestra, and in 1979 he founded the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra followed, in 1992, by the Amsterdam Baroque Choir. The ensemble soon gained worldwide fame as one of the very best ensembles on period instruments. The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir have performed in many prestigious concert halls around the world, including the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, the Théatre des Champs-Elysées and the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Barbican and Royal Albert Hall in London, the Musikverein and Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Philharmonie in Berlin, and many other locations in Europe, the United States, and Japan.

Among Ton Koopman’s most ambitious projects has been the recording of the complete Bach cantatas, which was awarded the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis ‘Echo Klassik’ and The Hector Berlioz Prize, and was nominated for the Grammy Award and the Gramophone Award. He has long been an advocate of Dieterich Buxtehude’s music too, and is president of the International Dieterich Buxtehude Society. In 2005, Ton embarked on the recording of the complete works of Buxtehude. The edition comprises an astonishing 30 CDs, the last of which was released in 2014.

In recognition of his advocacy Ton was awarded the Bach prize of the City of Leipzig in 2006, and the Buxtehude Prize of Lübeck in 2012. The Bach Prize of the Royal Academy of Music followed in 2014.

Ton Koopman has a wide repertoire as a keyboardist and conductor of his ensemble. As a keyboardist, equally at home on the organ and the harpsichord, he has delighted audiences over many years with enthralling and memorable interpretations. A reviewer of a recording of the Bach partitas in the Gramophone magazine reminds us of the many qualities which have delighted and enlightened listeners: ‘Big effects are a hallmark of Koopman’s style. The playing … is consistently extrovert and red-blooded, with frequent changes of registration … Koopman creates a rich drama of dynamic contrasts, thin fluty sounds alternating with grander, thicker, coupled passages, in orchestral style’.

Ton Koopman has also frequently conducted modern orchestras, being active as a guest conductor with orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonie, the New York Philharmonic, the Munich Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Royal Concertgebouw, and many others. He has recorded for Erato, Teldec, Sony, Deutsche Grammophon, and Philips. He founded his own recording label in 2003: ‘Antoine Marchand’, a sub-label of Challenge Classics. He has published regularly, and has edited the complete Handel Organ Concertos for Breitkopf, and new editions of Messiah and works by Buxtehude for Carus.

Ton Koopman is a professor at the University of Leiden and an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music. In 2003 he was knighted in the Netherlands with the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

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