Accreditation Update 2019-2020

Accreditation Update 2019-2020

The RCO Diploma Regulations for 2019–2020 will be published on the 15th of this month, just as the current examination session draws to a close. The Regulations will be available on the Accreditation pages of the website at

This session has seen a welcome uptake in diploma applicants, which has meant scheduling a dozen examination days and using three (rather than two) examination centres: Edinburgh’s Canongate Kirk hosted various practical examinations in mid July. In total, some seventeen examiners have listened to performances or assessed papers. Candidates successful in this session will join those from the Winter 2019 session at the Conferment ceremony at Southwark Cathedral on 9 March.

Accreditation has been central to the College’s work since it was founded. The Royal Charter charges the RCO with the promotion of the arts and practice of organ-playing and choral directing ‘to the highest standards of competence and artistry’, and empowers it to implement such standards through examinations, for the benefit of the public. The College’s diplomas are highly prized and they mark specific levels of attainment in skills and musicianship. In organ-playing, the Colleague diploma (CRCO) validates ‘reliable and confident musicianship’, Associateship (ARCO) ‘professional competency’ and Fellowship (FRCO) ‘professional expertise’.

The 2019–2020 Regulations will give all the details of the diploma accreditation programme and identify the topics and works set for historical studies. They also include details of prizes which have been founded in memory of officers of the College and others. This year we are pleased to add three prizes funded by the United Grand Lodge of England for high-scoring CRCO candidates and a new prize founded by Dame Gillian Weir in memory of her husband, Lawrence Phelps, the innovative US designer and builder of organs who died in 1999. The Lawrence Phelps Prize is to be awarded annually to a candidate who has written most perceptively in either the Summer or Winter period about the organ, its construction and relationship to performance-related topics.

The early-level Certificate of Accredited Membership (CAM) has recently augmented the College’s accreditation portfolio and has seen enthusiastic uptake by a new and broader constituency of organists wishing to establish and strengthen their fundamental skills and musicianship, in some cases in preparation for taking either the CRCO or ARCO diploma.

A newly accredited member through the CAM scheme, Gillian Collins, from South Australia, has written of her experiences in the Newsletter of the Organ Music Society of Adelaide. She writes:

"There were several things that appealed to me about this scheme. There is a free choice of repertoire at the appropriate level: there are three lists of suggested pieces (Bach, pre 1800, post 1800) but one’s choice is not limited to these pieces.

"Having selected a programme, it is then possible to submit this to the RCO well in advance to get approval that the pieces are of a sufficient standard and varied enough to fulfil the requirements.

"The other practical part of the assessment is to accompany a singer/singers or instrumentalist in a piece at the appropriate level, so hymn playing can form this part of the assessment.

"Written notes about the pieces, composers and learning techniques make up the final part.

"The aspect that is of most relevance to those of us not based primarily in the UK is that the assessment may be made by audiovisual recording which is uploaded to an RCO secure site. The other advantage of an AV recording is that you can have a second – or third or more – stab at the recording! The pieces have to be recorded as a continuous performance but you can start again if you make a mess of the first piece – or even the verbal introduction which is required at the beginning of the recording, which happened to me several times!"

The College sends it congratulations to all newly accredited Members. Details of the CAM scheme can be found at

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