The Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC) promotes organ music by increasing public awareness and interest for this fascinating art form while taking an active role in the development of the world’s most talented young and emerging organists.
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 develops a program of year-round activities in collaboration with various arts organisations, including the Canada-wide concert series The Organ Takes its Place. 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, Organist of 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 present CD recording with ATMA Classique.
The Competition returned to Montreal in 2014 with unparalleled prizes and a prestigious jury of nine presided over by John Grew, Artistic Director of the CIOC. The CIOC continues to promote the organ as a major instrument in Canada’s musical heritage, as well as contributes to the development of organ music through the talent of young organists. Past prizewinners Frédéric Champion (France, 2008), Christian Lane (USA, 2011), David Baskeyfield (UK, 2014) and Alcee Chriss III (USA, 2017) act as the organization’s ambassadors during concert tours in North America, Europe and Asia.