Every three years, we welcome 10 of the brightest young organists from around the globe to compete before a panel of renowned judges … all in hopes of garnering the $40,000 Pierre S. du Pont First Prize. The 2019 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition is fast approaching (preliminary rounds are held June 18 and 19 and the final round June 22), but before the competitors arrive here at our Gardens, they must first design their repertoire according to our guidelines.
It’s a tough process, choosing selections that will most impress the judges and guests … as well as selections that will best showcase the unique capabilities of The Longwood Organ. Our competitors must walk the fine line between using our organ effectively and succumbing to the temptation to use every bell and whistle.
Now that these rising organ stars have selected their competition repertoire, sure to captivate every listener, we asked what piece they are most looking forward to performing.
Rashaan Allwood, 24, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Outside of playing the organ, Rashaan Allwood’s favorite hobby is “reading philosophy and good literature.” He’s currently reading Plato’s The Apology.
“I am most looking forward to performing Olivier Messiaen’s Alleluias sereins d'une âme qui desire le ciel, from L'ascension, because I think The Longwood Organ and all of its devices is the perfect organ to allow that piece to truly ascend.”
Bryan Anderson, 26, Stockbridge, GA, US
Bryan Anderson cites one of his favorite things about the Longwood competition is that “originality and creativity in repertoire and presentation are explicitly encouraged.”
“This is difficult to answer! I really love all the music that I am planning to play; one that I’m particularly excited about is a new ‘re-transcription’ of the orchestration of Maurice Duruflé’s Scherzo pour Orchestra, which I think will represent something of the composer’s evolving intent for the work.”
Tyler Boehmer, 27, Cardston, Alberta, Canada
Tyler Boehmer first became interested in the organ when he was a teenager; he has played the piano since age 4 and the French horn since fifth grade.
“I have a special connection with all the pieces that I’ve chosen for the competition, but the one I am most excited about is a transcription of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dance No. 3. I worked for many hours with my incredible friend Mark Campbell poring over the orchestral score, transposing the instruments, making decisions about the importance and prominence (or lack thereof) of each part. In the end, I think the final product is absolutely awesome, and beyond that, I feel so connected to this piece because of the time I have personally taken to transcribe it.”
Thomas Gaynor, 27, Wellington, New Zealand
When asked what he would be doing if he wasn’t playing the organ, Thomas Gaynor shares that he has dreamed of being “an architect, pilot, or ENT doctor working with singers.”
“I’m most looking forward to playing the overture to Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger. It’s such gloriously rich music and I think it will sound fantastic in the Ballroom with the myriad of stop combinations possible.”
Nathaniel Gumbs, 30, Bronx, NY, US
If Nathaniel Gumbs wasn’t playing the organ, he imagines himself being a concert pianist or conductor, thanks to his love of piano, choral, and orchestral literature.
“I’m really looking forward to playing Harmonies du Soir by Sigfrid Karg-Elert. It is a beautiful lyrical piece that has become very dear to me and will show the various colors of The Longwood Organ.”
Sebastian Heindl, 21, Leipzig, Germany
When asked about his hobbies outside of the organ, Sebastian Heindl shares that most are “connected to music somehow. The only thing I’m sometimes doing is bouldering, although I guess it is very dangerous for a musician.”
“On one hand it is Johann Sebastian Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor, which is the connection to my musical origin. On the other hand, my own transcription of Olivier Messiaen’s Alleluia sur la Trompette, Alleluia sur la Cymbal, which is a great showpiece for all the percussion stops at Longwood. I think very deep inside Messiaen and Bach have some similarities in their spiritual and musical genetic code.”
Chase Loomer, 22, Huntersville, NC, US
Chase Loomer would love to perform with Chick Corea: “I love jazz and especially Latin jazz, and Mr. Corea is a legend of that genre.”
“Each piece on the program presents an opportunity to create a unique musical experience, so I am looking forward to performing every piece on the program. However, The Longwood Organ is famous for its ability to bring transcriptions to life, so I am especially looking forward to performing works by Antonín Dvořák and Camille Saint-Saëns. In addition, Max Reger’s Sonata No. 2 is a work that is seldom heard yet incredibly moving, so I am looking forward to sharing that particular piece as well.”
Colin MacKnight, 25, Bethesda, MD, US
One of Colin MacKnight’s most memorable organ moments? “I played a trio sonata from memory in organ class when the console was infested with water bugs, so I had to avoid touching them while playing.”
“It’s hard to choose one because I really love everything that I’m playing and I’m looking forward to different pieces for different reasons, but if I have to choose, it would probably be Franz Liszt’s Les preludes (if I make finals!). It’s such an incredible piece, and at 17 minutes, there’s time to really show off an instrument.”
Justin Maxey, 30, Windner, GA, US
“As a young child, I had a fascination with mashing buttons,” shares Justin Maxey. “The mechanical aspect of the organ has always fascinated me.”
“Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde (by Richard Wagner). It is simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written and I think it will sound wonderful on The Longwood Organ.”
Grant Wareham, 22, Dayton, OH, US
Outside of the organ, Grant Wareham shares that his favorite musical genre is classic rock, particularly Steely Dan. “I had great fun with one of my undergraduate theory professors doing a harmonic analysis of a few songs, including Turn That Heartbeat Over Again.”
“I’m very excited to play my transcription of the finale of Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. I’ve loved that piece ever since playing it in my high school orchestra as a violinist. It’s been a dream come true to be able to transcribe it and premiere it for this competition.”
Come see these 10 young talents pull out all the stops with their daring programs and dazzling performances! Learn more and buy tickets.