KENNETT SQUARE, PA . . . The inaugural Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition has come to a close and is proud to announce the first ever winner of the Pierre S. du Pont prize. The Juilliard School master’s graduate Benjamin Sheen (age 23) impressed the judges with his repertoire and virtuosic playing. “It’s been 10 days of hard work and I couldn’t believe it was my name called. To have won it is a dream,” said Sheen. “I would recommend this competition to anyone . . . It was a wonderful experience.”
In addition to the grand prize of $40,000, Sheen also takes home a contract with Phillip Truckenbrod Concerts Artists and a guaranteed 2013-2014 Performance at Longwood Gardens.
The Firmin Swinnen Second Prize of $15,000 was awarded to Monroeville, PA native Adam Pajan (age 26), and the Clarence Snyder Third Prize of $5,000 was presented to French organist Baptiste-Florian Marle-Ouvrard (age 31). Pajan is a DMA degree student in organ with a church music emphasis at the University of Oklahoma’s American Organ Institute where he studies with John Schwandt and is both a Graduate College Research Fellow and Graduate Assistant. Marle-Ouvrard is the organist at Église Saint Vincent-de-Paul in Clichy-la-Garenne (Paris). He pursues an international concert career in Europe, Russia, Canada and United States and teaches improvisation at the Conservatoire in the city of Viry-Châtillon in France.
"While the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition has surely captured the attention of the organ world, it is, perhaps, most exciting to observe the wider effect this will have in bringing much-needed attention to the organ in the United States and abroad,” Head Judge Paul Jacobs said. “The caliber of the finalists left the jury and large audiences convinced that the art of organ playing has a vibrant future, one deserving of greater awareness amongst all lovers of music."
The inaugural Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition was designed to give the organ world’s best young talents a platform to present their musical artistry,” said Longwood Gardens Director Paul B. Redman. “Throughout the week the competitors delighted our audiences and judges with their talent and their creative use of the Longwood Organ. We are honored to be a part of launching our winners onto the world stage and helping them advance their performance careers.”
Benjamin Sheen, 23, from London, UK, is a recent graduate (MA) of The Juilliard School in New York and a graduate of Oxford University with a First Class Honors degree (BA) in Music. Sheen is increasingly gaining recognition as an international concert organist, having given recitals throughout the UK, including the Royal Albert Hall and Westminster Abbey, as well as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, and a recipient of the prestigious Worshipful Company of Musicians' Silver Medal for 2011. Sheen was recently appointed Assistant Organist-Designate at St. Thomas Church in New York City. He will assume his duties in September.
The expert panel of judges included Paul Jacobs, Chair of the Organ Department at The Juilliard School; Thomas Murray, Professor of Music at Yale University; Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine; Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin, Titular of the Grand Orgue of Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle in Paris; and Peter Richard Conte, Grand Court Organist of the renowned Wanamaker Organ and Principal Organist at Longwood Gardens.
The Longwood Organ is among the world’s largest concert organs, with 146 ranks and 10,010 pipes. After a seven-year restoration completed in 2011, the organ is restored to its original 1930 condition and incorporates today’s most innovative technology.