Wellington organist wins prestigious international organ competition


Thomas Gaynor, at one time an organist at St Mary of the Angels Wellington, has been awarded both the first and the audience prizes in the 2017 St Albans International Organ Competition.

He is only the second New Zealander to win the competition, after New Zealand-born organist Dame Gillian Weir in 1964.

In 2009, as an 18-year-old, Gaynor was the first recipient of the Maxwell Fernie Centenary Award.

Fernie was the director of music at St Mary of the Angels from 1958 until his death in 1999.

The trust continues Fernie’s legacy by awarding scholarships to students of the pipe organ, choral music and conducting.

As a young boy, Gaynor learned the piano for a while but was transfixed by the power of the organ when he was listening to a concert at the Wellington Town Hall.

His mother thought it was unusual, but she found him an organ teacher at St Paul’s Cathedral, where from the age of 11 he learned to play. He went on to be honorary sub organist there, later working as the organist at St Mary of the Angels.

In May, while visiting New Zealand, Gaynor gave a recital in St Mary of the Angels on the newly refurbished Maxwell Fernie organ.

It was the organ’s first recital after the church reopened following its earthquake-related work.

Douglas Mews, artist teacher in organ at the New Zealand School of Music, says St Albans is probably the most famous organ competition in the English-speaking world.

Winning St Albans launched a huge career for Weir: “So I imagine Tom’s career, which was already very successful, will be rocketing to the stars now,” Mews says.

Held every two years in the historic city north of London, the two-week long, multi-round competition ends with three finalists giving a solo recital, then playing a concerto with the Royal Academy of Music Chamber Orchestra at St. John’s Smith Square in London.


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