Longwood Gardens Announces 2023 Competitors for International Organ Competition 

Keys on the Longwood Organ

KENNETT SQUARE, PA– Longwood Gardens announces 10 talented organists who will compete in the 2023 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition. Hailing from Finland to Canada, the international performers will compete on the 10,010-pipe Longwood Organ for the $40,000 Pierre S. du Pont first prize, the largest cash prize of any organ competition in the world. All competitors will participate in the preliminary rounds June 20-21, with the top five competitors moving on to the final round on June 24. The competition takes place in the magnificent Ballroom at Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tickets are available now at longwoodgardens.org. 

“Technique, style, and expertise bring these 10 outstanding young organists competing to the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition,” said President and CEO Paul B. Redman. “It’s a privilege to bring these competitors together for a memorable experience. We look forward to hearing them perform and to helping further their music careers.” 

The 10 competitors were selected by an audition jury comprised of six esteemed members of the organ community that anonymously evaluated the audition recordings, which included entries from 12 countries. The top 10 were selected to compete in the competition. The competitors selected include: 

Bryan Anderson, 30 

Bryan Anderson enjoys a versatile career as an organist, church musician, teacher, and 

musical collaborator. He is a recent prizewinner in the 2019 Longwood Gardens Organ Competition and the Canadian International Organ Competition, and named as part of the “20 under 30” class of 2017 by The Diapason. Anderson is the Director of Music at Saint Thomas’ Episcopal Church and School in Houston, where he oversees daily services and trains choirs of children and adults. Recent performances have included solo recitals in Canada and the US, and appearances with Mercury Chamber Orchestra, Harmonia Stellarum, Kentucky Baroque Trumpets, and the Oklahoma Bach Choir. Anderson previously held positions at St. Paul’s UMC in Houston; Wells Cathedral in England; and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. He received his master’s in organ performance from Rice University, and holds a bachelor’s and Artist Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music. 

Amelie Held, 26 

Known for her red organ shoes, Amelie Held recently debuted at some of Germany’s major cathedrals and concert halls, such as the Konzerthaus Dortmund, the Philharmonie Essen, and the international Speyer cathedral recital series. Her solo concert activities include performances in Milan, Paris, Zurich, London, Boston, New York, and St. Petersburg (Mariinsky Concert Hall). Raised in Munich, Germany, in a non-musician family, in 2019 Held released her debut album, recorded live at Himmerod Abbey, at the young age of 22. She has won several prizes at international organ competitions and has been placed as one of the youngest finalists of the prestigious French Concours International de Chartres (2018). Currently living in New York City, Herd is pursuing her Artist Diploma studies at The Juilliard School with Paul Jacobs. 
Aidan Hill, 22 

A senior undergraduate at the University of Kansas, studying organ with Dr. James Higdon, Hill is from Kingman, Kansas. He studied piano from an early age with his hometown piano teacher, Joan Robinson, and began organ lessons at the age of 11 with Carole Pracht, organist at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Wichita.  

He was awarded the Diploma Prize as a finalist in the XII Mikael Tariverdiev International Organ Competition in Kaliningrad, Russia. Hill is the Principal Organist at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas, where improvisation is an integral component to his duties. 
Samuel Lee, 26 

Currently a doctoral candidate at McGill University studying organ performance with Isabelle Demers, Samuel Lee has received twice the Graduate Excellence Fellowship and the John Grew Award. In 2021, he placed third in the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ National Organ Playing Competition, awarded the Muriel Gidley Stafford Prize. He also received the Healey Willan Prize and the Heather Spry Prize on completing the Fellow of the Royal Canadian College of Organists in 2018. Lee believes that music expresses feelings and tells stories.  It is this belief that drives him into exploring the potential and possibilities that an organ can offer and the different methods of transcriptions, so that every piece of music—whatever their original instruments may be—can be enhanced to become a vivid presentation of the original. 

Colin MacKnight, 29 

Director of Music at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock, Arkansas, Colin MacKnight oversees Trinity’s music program, which includes four choirs, weekly choral evensongs, a concert series, and choral scholar and chorister programs. Prior to Trinity, MacKnight was Associate Organist at Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, Long Island; Assistant Organist and Music Theory Teacher at St. Thomas Fifth Avenue; and Assistant Organist at Church of the Resurrection, NYC. MacKnight received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from The Juilliard School, studying organ with Paul Jacobs. For his dissertation, “Ex Uno Plures: A Proposed Completion of Bach’s Art of Fugue,” he received Juilliard’s dissertation prize. MacKnight holds the American Guild of Organists’ Fellow and Choirmaster Certifications, receiving the prize for top Choirmaster score. He is represented in North America by Karen McFarlane Artists, Inc.  

Arthur Nicolas-Nauche, 28 

Arthur Nicolas-Nauche started learning organ in Britanny (France) with Loïc Georgeault and later at the Conservatory of Rennes in the class of Damien Simon. After having obtained the Prize at the Conservatory of Rennes, he pursued studying organ, conducting and improvisation at several Parisian conservatories. Nicolas-Nauche takes particular interest in the music of 19th and 20th century as well as in improvisation. Convinced by the idea that the organ should be closer to the public, he has realized projects of chamber music with organ, as well as many projects with contemporary dance. He published a memoir about the future of the organ called L’Orgue ; promesse d’avenir ou disparition probable?! (The Organ; promise of the future or probable disappearance?!) , as well as various articles for music journals. Currently, he is the titular organist of Saint Gabriel Church in Paris and professor of musical 

theory at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Départemental de Montreuil. 

Alexander Straus-Fausto, 23 

Working on his master’s degree in organ performance at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Alexander Straus-Fausto from Kitchener, Ontario is thrilled to be studying under the direction of Dr. Martin Jean and playing on Yale’s Newberry Memorial Organ. He completed his Bachelor of Music at McGill University Schulich School of Music and his secondary school studies at Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy. While still a teenager, Straus-Fausto undertook a Canada Council-funded summer 2019 concert tour of the UK, playing in historic churches and cathedrals. In fall 2019, he was appointed Titular Organist at Église du Très-Saint-Nom-de-Jésus in Montréal, whose four-manual, 120-rank Casavant organ is acclaimed as one of Canada’s finest. He has further expanded the organ’s reach by creating more than 50 original transcriptions of major orchestral works, reflecting his passion for the symphonic organ as a virtually unlimited medium for artistic expression. 

Ádám Tabajdi, 29 

A member of the young generation of Hungarian organists, Ádám Tabajdi has gained extensive international experience as the intern of the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris and as the resident organist of the Sapporo Concert Hall, Kitara, Japan. Beyond the largest cathedrals in Hungary and the Müpa Budapest, he has played as a participant at the concert series at the Royal Chapel of Versailles, in the Cathedral of Chartres, in the St. Johannis-Kirche of Hambourg, and in major concert halls of Japan. He studied at the Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest, and the Paris Conservatory; he is currently a doctoral student at the Liszt Academy, Budapest. His first recording of arrangements of symphonic works, among them his own arrangement of Bartók’s Dance Suite, was published in 2020. In 2021 he won the First Prize and the Audience Prize of the 13th Toulouse International Organ Competition. 

Ashley Wagner, 27 

Ashley Wagner BMus (Hons) FRCO is the Assistant Head of Music of Birmingham Cathedral, where he is the principal accompanist to the cathedral choirs and assists with running the music department. Wagner graduated with a first-class honors degree from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, specializing in organ performance, and assumed his current position at Birmingham Cathedral during his final year of study. He has studied the organ with Terence Atkins, Robin Walker, Henry Fairs, and Daniel Moult and continues his studies with Thomas Trotter. He has held positions at Worcester Cathedral and St.Sepulchre-without-Newgate. As a soloist, Wagner has performed at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Amsterdam Orgelpark, and St Paul’s Cathedral. He has broadcast on radio and television and has won awards through the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Essex Organ Competition, and the Royal College of Organists. 

Aleksanteri Wallius, 23 

A Finnish organist currently living in Helsinki, Aleksanteri Wallius is a first-year master’s student of organ performance at the Sibelius Academy. His teachers include Markku Hietaharju and Markku Mäkinen. Wallius was nominated as the “young artist” of the 2018 international Pori Organ festival and in 2020 performed all of Louis Vierne´s six organ symphonies in one day in the Turku Cathedral. Along with studies, Wallius frequently performs as a recitalist, orchestra member, or with choirs, and has played recitals at renowned venues and festivals in Finland, Sweden, and Estonia. Wallius has attended several masterclasses with distinguished teachers around the world, such as Jean Guillou, Ton Koopman, Thierry Escaich, Balint Karosi, and Jean-Baptiste Monnot. His special interest lies in contemporary music and French romantic music, and in the last two years has premiered three major contemporary works. Wallius is also a board member of the Turku organ festival.   

The Longwood Organ is among the world’s largest concert organs, with 146 ranks and 10,010 pipes. The organ underwent a seven-year restoration completed in 2011, restoring it to its original 1930 condition. 

Limited tickets remain to see the competition and are available at www.longwoodgardens.org 

About Longwood Gardens  
In 1906, industrialist Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954) purchased a small farm near Kennett Square, PA, to save a collection of historic trees from being sold for lumber. Today, Longwood Gardens is one of the world’s great horticultural displays, encompassing 1,100 acres of dazzling gardens, woodlands, meadows, fountains, a 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ, and grand conservatory. Longwood Gardens is the living legacy of Pierre S. du Pont, bringing joy and inspiration to everyone through the beauty of nature, conservation, and learning. Open daily, Longwood is one of more than 30 gardens in the Philadelphia region known as America’s Garden Capital. For more information, visit longwoodgardens.org.