Finalists for $40,000 prize selected

Five talented musicians have advanced to the finals of the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition to compete for the $40,000 Pierre S. du Pont First Prize. The finalists are Rashaan Allwood (Mississauga, Ontario); Bryan Anderson, (Stockbridge, Ga.); Thomas Gaynor (Wellington, New Zealand); Sebastian Heindl (Gera, Germany); and Colin MacKnight (Morristown, N.J.). The five will play for the top prize on Saturday, June 22 on the famed Longwood Organ.

The winner receives the $40,000 Pierre S. du Pont First Prize, a contract with Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists, and a 2019-20 performance at Longwood Gardens. Second place receives the Firmin Swinnen $15,000 prize and third place receives the Clarence Snyder $5,000 prize. The Audience Choice Prize winner receives $1,000. New this year is the AGO Philadelphia Chapter Prize of $1,000 recognizing outstanding performance of the judges’ choice piece, which is To Longwood Gardens by Samuel Barber (1910-81).

The Longwood Organ is the largest residential organ in the world, with 10,010 pipes, 146 ranks, and a beautiful console. This kingly instrument is not easy to wrestle with musically, but these valiant performers have proven their talents. All of the contestants performed a varying and challenging repertoire, which ranged from Bach to Wagner, Debussy to Rossini. For the final round, each will present a 45-minute performance featuring both required and selected pieces.

The final on Saturday, June 22 is sold out. However, a live stream is available at Longwoodgardens.org/organcompetition. The final sessions begin at noon and 6 p.m.

The panel of expert judges include Peter Richard Conte, Grand Court Organist of the renowned Wanamaker Organ and Principal Organist at Longwood Gardens; Dr. Marnie Giesbrecht, Professor Emerita and University Organist at the University of Alberta and Adjunct Professor of Music at The King’s University, Edmonton as well as organ soloist and performer with Joachim Segger as Duo Majoya; Maggie Hamilton, Editor of Choir & Organ magazine and organist, choir director, and founder-director of Counterpoint, a world music partner project of Christian Aid; Thomas Heywood, the only professional concert organist in Australian history, and one of the world’s finest concert organists; Rossen Milanov, Music Director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Princeton Symphony Orchestra, and the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias in Spain; Alan Morrison, Head of the Organ Department at the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music; and Todd Wilson, Head of the Organ Department at The Cleveland Institute of Music and Curator of the E.M. Skinner pipe organ at Severance Hall in Cleveland, OH. The Master of Ceremonies is Haig Mardirosian, Dean Emeritus of the College of Arts and Letters, and Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Tampa.

The Five Finalists
Rashaan Allwood, 24, Canada
A pianist, organist, and harpsichordist, Rashaan Allwood has played in a variety of settings, including performances with the Kent Nagano and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, and the University of Toronto’s Collegium Musicum. Allwood was the first prize winner of the Concours d'orgue de Québec in 2017 and of the Canadian National OSM Manulife competition in 2016 for the organ category. He is now one of the artists for Rice University.

Bryan Anderson, 26, US
Bryan Anderson enjoys a varied career as a concert organist and church musician. For several years, Anderson was an assistant organist at the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ. He performed at the OHS National Convention in 2014 and the AGO National Convention in 2012, and has been featured on APM’s Pipedreams. Bryan is employed as interim director of music of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church and School in Houston, TX. He recently held positions at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Houston, and Wells Cathedral in Somerset, England.

Thomas Gaynor, 27, New Zealand
The first-place winner of a number of international competitions, including St Albans (2017), Erfurt/Weimar Bach-Liszt (2015), and Sydney (2015), Thomas Gaynor is a doctoral student in David Higgs’s studio at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he was recently awarded the highly coveted Artist’s Certificate—an honor the institution had not given an organist for three decades. Born in New Zealand, he began his organ studies at Wellington Cathedral. Currently, he is associate director of music at Christ Church in Pittsford, NY.

Sebastian Heindl, 21, Germany
Sebastian Heindl received his fundamental musical education as a chorister in St. Thomas Boys Choir Leipzig, and contributed as a youngster organist to the BBC TV documentary Bach: A Passionate Life with Sir John Eliot Gardiner at the famous Trost organ in Altenburg. Heindl recorded his debut CD at age 17 at Magdeburg Cathedral. Heindl studies church music at the University of Music in Leipzig, and in 2017 won the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition.

Colin MacKnight, 25, US
Colin MacKnight is a third year C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow at The Juilliard School, where he also completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and serves as Associate Organist/Choirmaster at Cathedral of the Incarnation on Long Island. MacKnight’s first prizes and scholarships include the 2017 West Chester University International Organ Competition, 2016 Albert Schweitzer Organ Competition, 2016 Arthur Poister Scholarship Competition, M. Louise Miller Scholarship from the Greater Bridgeport Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (AGO), the 2013 Rodgers North American Classical Organ Competition, and the Ruth and Paul Manz Organ Scholarship, as well as the Clarence Snyder Third Prize in the 2016 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition.

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