The Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC) is a world-renowned International Cultural Organization whose objective is to promote the beautiful art of organ music through competitions, festivals, concerts, educational activities, and monetary and professional support to emerging artists.
Every three years, the CIOC organizes an international competition in which a prestigious jury representing various countries awards more than $100,000 in prizes to a selection of the best young organists in the world. Every year in October, the CIOC presents a major festival featuring performances by world-class concert organists and previous competition prizewinners.
Seeking to actively participate in cultural life, the CIOC presents a program of year-round activities in collaboration with various arts organisations, including the Canada-wide concert series The Organ Takes its Place (l’Orgue et son lieu). These musical and educational activities are designed to highlight the cultural importance of pipe organs – treasures of our heritage – to a wide and diverse audience.
John Grew, former Dean of Music and professor emeritus at McGill University, gathered several interested businessmen headed by E. Noël Spinelli, and expressed the idea of creating an international organ competition in Montreal. The city has a long-standing tradition of organ concerts. Its music schools are excellent, the teachers world-renowned, and the pipe organs found in the province of Quebec are of the highest quality, produced by local organ builders with international reputations. With so many favourable elements, the setting of Montreal was the ideal setting for the creation of the Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC).
Open to organists of all nationalities under 35 years of age, the CIOC is held in Montreal every three years. Sixteen organ virtuosos perform for a jury of nine internationally renowned specialists and compete for major awards. In addition to the prize money, the top prizewinner receives a career development contract, a CD recording with ATMA Classique and recitals. These awards surpass the prizes of any of the world’s organ competitions. The first edition of the CIOC, held in 2008, attracted some 60 applications from 17 countries. Following a pre-selection round, 16 competitors from 11 countries were chosen for the Competition.
As the only international organ competition in the Americas in 2008, the event offered a diverse programme of activities to help the public discover a fascinating repertoire that spans over five centuries of music, all presented on high-quality instruments and in venues of immense architectural beauty. The 2008 CIOC was the first international organ competition to show the competitors, as they played, on large screens in front of the audience. Enhanced by these screens, as well as by the innate surround-sound quality of the organ, the Canadian International Organ Competition provided the public with a unique concert experience. Frédéric Champion from France won the First Prize, as well as the Richard Bradshaw Audience Prize, a $5,000 award from the Dane and Polly Bales Foundation, a career management contract with Karen MacFarlane Artists, and the first CIOC CD recording with ATMA Classique.
In order to provide additional performance opportunities for CIOC artists, and to offer wider public access to pipe organ music, the CIOC created our annual Grand Organ Festival in 2012. What began as a modest three-day event has developed into a month-long showcase of the majesty and versatility of the King of Instruments!
As we worked to perfect our formula for presenting organ music in Montreal, we expanded our reach by launching our Orgue et son lieu concert series across Canada in 2013. Modelled on the Jeunesses Musicales concept of bringing the most talented and promising young artists to communities large and small, this program has allowed us to build a truly national profile and vocation, and develop a network of generous donors and supporters from coast to coast.