Play the Organ Year

Play The Organ Year 2025

Play The Organ Year 2025 logoThe Royal College of Organists is delighted to announce Play the Organ Year 2025.

Play the Organ Year is designed to inspire a year-long effort by the whole organ-playing community, not just to increase the number of people learning to play the organ, but also the number enjoying live and recorded organ music.

We firmly believe that the best way to achieve both these objectives is to get as many people as possible not just hearing and seeing the instrument, but playing it!

The organ is a magnificent instrument unlike any other – powerful, versatile, visceral and enormous fun to play. At the heart of Play the Organ Year will be an attempt to open this experience to as many people as possible - to encourage them to take a step towards the organ, to lay hands on it wherever possible, and to discover for the first time the unique and thrilling experience of playing this remarkable instrument.

How to take part

During the coming months we will be releasing information to help organists plan and programme First Encounter organ recitals during 2025.

Accompanying this will be a resource pack outlining short Play the Organ sessions that can be offered after, or separately to, such recitals to allow people of any (or no) musical experience to have their first organ playing experience.

In the autumn we will be launching a Play the Organ Year listings page, where event organisers can post details of their events. The RCO and its partners across the organ world will then help publicise those events, and we will be running some of our own events around the UK with the help of our Play the Organ Year ambassadors.

And these resources will also be published on a new First Stop! website. Designed to be – as the name suggests - a comprehensive resource for anyone looking to play, hear or learn about the organ, this will provide an opportunity for anyone unable to attend a physical event to take part online.

Patron and Ambassadors

Patron: Anna Lapwood MBE
Anna Lapwood

No one has done more in recent years to widen the appeal of the organ than Play the Organ Year Patron Anna Lapwood.

As well as being a hugely successful performer, recording artist, conductor, and broadcaster, Anna is a tireless advocate for music education and engagement. A natural communicator, she reaches a huge audience through her concerts, her many television and radio appearances, and via social media where she has more than a million followers.

Anna’s passion for the organ is matched by her mission to support girls and women in music, with her #playlikeagirl hashtag becoming a rallying cry for a whole new generation of young female musicians.

Anna was awarded the MBE in 2024 for services to music, and we are delighted to welcome her as our Patron for Play the Organ Year 2025.

Ambassadors

South of England
Richard McVeigh

West Midlands
Daniel Moult

East of England
Sarah MacDonald

Wales
to be confirmed

North of England
to be confirmed

Northern Ireland
Matthew Owens

Scotland
John Kitchen

Why do we need a Play the Organ Year?

The Royal College of Organists' vision is for “a world in which organ and choral music are widely valued as being central to cultural and spiritual life”.  

As organists we work to achieve this by promoting and advancing the highest standards of organ playing and choral directing, in order that our music making can inspire and engage those who encounter it.

But what do we do when not enough people do encounter our music? 

The story of declining church attendances, drastic cuts in school music education, and ever-smaller audiences for live performances, is a familiar one. Wherever one looks, music – and particularly classical music – seems to be in trouble. 

Of course this is by no means a new challenge for organists. More than 30 years ago National Learn the Organ Year, the brainchild of Anne Marsden Thomas MBE, set out to tackle this same problem. There are undoubtedly organists performing today whose first experience of the organ was at such an event. 

Now, with the need and the challenge arguably greater than ever before, we are aiming to engage and inspire even more people by adding the power of modern technology to a new year-long programme of ‘real world’ events and activity. 

It’s time for Play the Organ Year 2025!