New CertRCO promotes a more practical vision for organists

New CertRCO promotes a more practical vision for organists

The Royal College of Organists has announced a major revision to its Certificate (CertRCO) examination, with an increased emphasis on practical skills and the organist's role in religious worship.

The changes are designed to widen the appeal of the examination to both experienced amateur organists and developing students looking for a first rung on the public examination ladder.

The new syllabus, which will be examined from summer 2008, more closely reflects the fact that the vast majority of organists either make a living, or supplement their income, by playing for services in churches on a regular basis.

As a result, the CertRCO examination will emphasise the importance of good hymn playing, encourage efficient aural awareness and promote an in-depth knowledge of repertoire through the study of set works, some of which are appropriate for liturgical use.

The stylistic exercises - simple Bach chorale and Baroque two-part counterpoint - remain an important part of the Certificate's written paper, and offer grounding for more advanced work in this field in the College's higher diplomas.

The regulations and repertoire of the organ playing component of the practical examination remain unaltered.

The College has also announced two introductory events to help students get to grips with the new syllabus.

Sarah MacDonald FRCO, who sits on the RCO¡¦s Academic Board, explained: "The CertRCO has been in existence for nearly five years now, and although the take-up has been consistent, numbers have been slightly below expectations.

"The 2008 revisions attempt to refocus the CertRCO's form and purpose in order to help it flourish in the same way that similar qualifications do for our sister organisations, The Royal Canadian College of Organists and the American Guild of Organists.

"With this in mind, we have looked closely at the examination requirements set by the RCCO and the AGO, and taken on board the more practical elements which we believe will greatly increase the attraction of CertRCO.

"The new syllabus amply demonstrates the expectations of the RCO as an examining body; exemplifies the high standards that continue to be required; and nurtures the technique and musicianship to which we all aspire."

The RCO's Chief Examiner, Patrick Russill, added: "It is the College's intention that CertRCO should offer accreditation to the extensive bedrock of the British organ-playing tradition. It is an ideal goal for those who have been playing for years and who would like to push themselves to achieve a recognised RCO qualification. And for the developing student, although it is not a pre-requisite for the ARCO, candidates would be well advised to begin their preparation for the Associateship by achieving the CertRCO."

Organists interested in exploring the CertRCO can attend one of two special RCO events this spring.

The first afternoon event, entitled All you need to know about the revised CertRCO, takes place on 26th January 2008 at St George's Church, Hanover Square in London, and will offer comprehensive guidance on the requirements of the new syllabus.

The second, a study day on 21st June 2008, will take place at St Barnabas Church, Dulwich, London. This will offer practical help to students (and to teachers preparing students) on all components of the examination.

Patrick Russill said: "The new CertRCO is a genuine test for the able organist, not just as a player, but as an informed, rounded musician, demonstrating, as the examination regulations put it: "reliable and confident musicianship in public performance, and those skills which support practical musicianship."

"I very much hope that the new revisions will help firmly place the CertRCO in the minds of organists and their teachers as the natural first rung of public qualification."

For more information about the RCO's Certificate examination and all other aspects of the RCO examination programme, see or contact the College's Director of Academic Development, Andrew McCrea at
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Notes to editor

1. The Royal College of Organists is an educational charity whose first objective is to 'promote and advance the arts and practice of organ playing and choral direction; to set and maintain proper standards and to educate and promote study and research in such arts.' As well as having some 2,700 members based in 40 countries, it is the only organisation in the United Kingdom with a Royal Charter to be dedicated to the promotion and advancement of a single instrument, the pipe organ. Described by Mozart himself as 'the king of the instruments', the organ holds a unique place in world music with a tradition stretching back nearly two thousand years.

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