Canadian International Organ Competition

Our Mission

The Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC) is a world-renowned international  cultural organization whose aim is to promote the beautiful art of organ music through competitions, festivals, concerts,  educational activities, and career development for emerging artists.

Every three years, the CIOC organizes one of the world’s largest and most prestigious international organ competitions. Following a rigorous selection process, 12 of the most promising and talented young organists from around the world are brought to Montréal to compete in three live rounds. They present public performances before a nine-person international jury, on some of Montréal’s most iconic pipe organs. The winning candidates are awarded  over  $100,000 in prizes, including cash prizes, concert engagements, and artist-management contracts. In addition to our triennial competition, the CIOC produces an annual organ festival in Montréal each October, featuring dozens of concerts presented by some of the world’s most acclaimed organists, including our past prizewinners.

Seeking to contribute to the Canadian cultural fabric and increase performing opportunities for our laureates and partners, the CIOC also presents a year-round programme of concerts (L’Orgue et son lieu) and activities in collaboration with various  organizations in the organ world. These musical and educational offerings are designed to emphasize the cultural importance of pipe organs – treasures of our heritage – for 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. 

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