News & Editorial

News articles are welcome and should be sent to Submissions may be edited, and this page is updated regularly. News is archived monthly, and news from previous months can be found here. More news can also be found in the current edition of The Organ. All editorial comment is that of the author and does not necessarily represent the view of The Organ.

UK News

Jean-Willy Kunz Appointed Artistic Director of the Canadian International Organ Competition

Jean-Willy Kunz

The Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC) has announced that John Grew, co-founder of the CIOC with philanthropist and businessman Noël Spinelli, is leaving the position of artistic director he has held for 10 years. The CIOC Board of Directors has appointed Jean-Willy Kunz, organist-in-residence of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and organ professor at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, as his successor. “Jean-Willy is young and bursting with creativity,” said Grew. “He has already demonstrated how he wants to democratise organ music, and I know how committed he is to CIOC’s mission.”

For his part, CIOC Executive Director Thomas Leslie said, “We are sad to see John leave: he created the CIOC from A to Z, and we owe him a lot for the energy he has brought to Montréal's organ community.” He added, “I had the opportunity to meet John and Jean-Willy many times, and we a lot of good discussions together about CIOC’s future, the upcoming Festival in October 2018, and of course the next Competition in 2020. The CIOC has grown in popularity and Jean-Willy will lead us to other artistic discoveries.”

The CIOC will organize a special event in 2019 to honour the work of John Grew. Details will be unveiled in the spring of 2019.

Grew will continue his work on the CIOC Board of Directors. In addition, in recognition of his role as a builder and his dedication to the CIOC for over a decade, the Board has named him Artistic Director Emeritus.

John Grew

John Grew is a leading figure among Canadian organists and founder of the Canadian International Organ Competition. He contributed to the growth of McGill’s Early Music and Organ program, was dean of its Faculty of Music, and has trained many Canadian organists and harpsichordists. He has concertized extensively in Europe and North America both as organist and harpsichordist; he has also participated as a judge in 14 international competitions in Europe. He has performed on ATMA Classique, McGill Records, and OHS; his recordings include the complete works of Nicolas de Grigny and the works of Charles-Marie Widor, Dietrich Buxtehude, Louis Claude Daquin and Bengt Hambraeus.

In 2005, he received the Distinguished Teaching Award from McGill in recognition of his outstanding achievements with his students. Professor Grew was recently named a Member of the Order of Canada for bringing new energy to organ music in Canada as a performer and educator.

Jean-Willy Kunz

Jean-Willy Kunz is the first organist in residence of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. In addition to playing both with the orchestra and in recital, he sees to the development and showcasing of the OSM's Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique at Maison symphonique de Montréal. Kunz studied at McGill University, where he earned a doctorate with John Grew, and has been a prize-winner at a number of organ competitions, including the Canadian International Organ Competition, where in 2011 he won third prize and the Richard-Bradshaw Audience Prize. His discography includes many recordings which reflect the broad range of his musical influences.

Canadian International Organ Competition

The Canadian International Organ Competition is the cornerstone of organ music in Canada and around the world; it celebrates the king of musical instruments at an annual festival and triennial competition. The next festival will take place from October 7 to 30, 2018 in Montréal.


Return to top of page


24,000-mile journey for Wellington Cathedral’s new organ

The Wellington New Zealand Cathedral of St Paul will soon be home to a hand-crafted, bespoke digital organ all the way from England.

After a 24,000-mile round trip to find the best digital organ, Wellington Cathedral’s Director and Assistant Director of Music recommended to the congregation a custom-made instrument from one of the UK’s leading digital organ designers and manufacturers.

Regent Classic Organs has been commissioned by some of the UK’s most prestigious institutions such as York Minster and Canterbury Cathedral, and is now making its mark in Australasia.

The tailor-made, 400-kilogram, light oak console is designed to complement the timber of the existing Cathedral furniture and will be the biggest single instrument the Regent Classic team have ever installed, and the furthest away!

Organist and Director of Music Michael Stewart said: “The Cathedral's Music Department is based on an English Cathedral model of quality sacred choral music. Therefore, we were drawn to the stately tone of English organs.

“We needed to source the highest sound quality for our congregation, and after playing various digital organs it was clear that the Regent Classic instrument exceeded all our expectations.”

David Mason, owner of Regent Classic Organs, said: “Organs play a significant role in the spiritual life of places of worship. This unique instrument will provide a lasting euphonious legacy for many years to come in Wellington.”

After the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, the Cathedral’s pipe organ was so badly damaged it was inoperable. Regent Classic Organs shipped a small, interim organ to the Cathedral earlier this year which meant that its extensive music programme could continue. 

The new organ will be installed during the first two weeks of October 2018 and will serve as a long-term interim instrument for the Cathedral while they evaluate the feasibility of replacing the pipe organ. 

Regent Classic’s Viscount instruments are built using ‘Physis’ technology - which is a computer-generated physical model of an organ pipe. The model can be manipulated in just the same way as a Pipe Voicer would approach an organ pipe. 

For further information visit


New Ambassadors For Blue Coat School's King of Instruments

Blue Coat School's King of Instruments

Liverpool’s Blue Coat School has appointed two acclaimed organists have been appointed as ambassadors for the project to restore its rare ‘Father’ Willis pipe organ, in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Dr Chris McElroy, Director of Music at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, and Lee Ward, Director of Music at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, have accepted the School’s invitation to become Blue Coat Ambassadors for the ‘Blue Coat For All’ project to restore the 144-year-old Henry Willis & Co ‘peerage’ style organ to full working order.

As Blue Coat students they both had organ lessons on the Father Willis organ at the School, in Wavertree, south Liverpool. Coincidentally it also means that for the first time both of the Liverpool cathedrals’ Director of Music posts are occupied simultaneously by ‘Old Blues’.

The aim is for Blue Coat Ambassadors to promote the ‘Blue Coat For All’ project within their own fields of professional expertise. The project also involves a community outreach programme to use the restored Willis organ for public concerts and interactive music lessons with primary school pupils from Liverpool’s disadvantaged areas. The Blue Coat’s Willis organ was built at the Henry Willis workshop in London in 1874 and was transported to Liverpool for installation in the School’s original Georgian city centre building (now Bluecoat Arts Centre).

It was presented in memory of James Hardy Macrae, a wealthy cotton broker from West Derby, by his family and was considered so valuable it was dismantled and reinstalled at the School’s new larger premises in 1906 as the centrepiece of Shirley Hall (the main assembly hall), thereby avoiding destruction in the WWII Blitz when the old building was bombed.

The organ has never been altered or rebuilt, making it a rare survivor from the prime years of the Willis company’s organ production. It would have been heard by John Lennon’s father Alfred, who was a boarder here in 1924-9, and is now part of this building’s English Heritage Grade II* listing. Probably uniquely for a state school, Blue Coat has a second large pipe organ, a 1906 Walker instrument in the School Chapel.

Lee Ward said: “The organ at the Bluecoat School is an extremely fine version made by the world famous organ builder Henry Willis. As a young pupil at Blue Coat School, I remember vividly the beautiful tonal colours of the instrument and the power it had in leading the hymn singing of a hall full of boys.

“Its versatility made it an ideal instrument to learn all sorts of repertoire and I owe my own love of organ and church music to my initiation on this instrument, as do many other colleagues in the world of music.” Chris McElroy said: “Blue Coat School’s Willis organ has been heard by generations of pupils and I remember on my first day the whole school singing a hymn accompanied by the Willis organ.  

“From then on I wanted to learn to play the Willis organ. I was fortunate to spend five years practicing and performing daily on both Blue Coat organs, which prepared me for studying organ at university and my career as a Cathedral Director of Music.  

“I hope by restoring the Willis organ that future students will be inspired just as I was by the majestic sound of the ‘King of Instruments’.” Mike Pennington, Blue Coat School Head Teacher, said: “We could not hope for two more passionate advocates than Lee Ward and Chris McElroy to promote the ‘Blue Coat For All’ project to restore our Father Willis organ.

“They both confirm that hearing this wonderful instrument while students here inspired them to learn how to play it and took them to the top of the music profession. This is testament to the power of formative experiences created at Blue Coat School.”

For further information contact: Peter Elson, Development Officer, The Liverpool Blue Coat School, Church Road, Wavertree, Liverpool, L15 9EE; email:; tel: 0151 733 1407 ext. 207.


Return to top of page