PIPEWORKS: New Music for the Moot Hall Organ


by Alexander Blustin
Committee member (fundraising and publicity)
Colchester New Music (CNM)

The PIPEWORKS project was an opportunity for East Anglian composers to write new music for the restored instrument, with an added incentive of prize money generously donated by the Friends of the Moot Hall Organ. We were especially interested in creating a body of works for use at the civic occasions in the Hall for which the organ was designed — the Oyster Feast and Mayor-Making ceremonies, and encouraged adventurous pieces making full use of the instrument’s capabilities.

The Moot Hall Organ team joined forces with local composers’ co-operative Colchester New Music to run the PIPEWORKS project. The call for scores was released to the public in December 2014, distributed widely via local and regional organists’ and composers’ networks, university and school music departments, and announced in the local press.

To aid those writing for the organ for the first time, and to introduce new ideas to more experienced composers, we ran a free workshop at St. Botolph’s Church, Colchester on 14th February 2015. For this session, we were fortunate to secure the services of Tom Bell, an established concert organist with a particular specialism in new music. He was ably assisted on the day by Colchester organist and Colchester Royal Grammar School alumnus James Bowstead, who is currently Senior Organ Scholar at Jesus College, Oxford.

The workshop was well attended and enjoyed by a wide cross-section of composers and organists. It covered the workings of the instrument, styles of traditional and modern organ music, and contemporary techniques. Composers were also able to receive individual feedback on works in progress. The day provided an ideal opportunity to ask local musicians what they wanted from the restored Moot Hall Organ. The responses revealed a strong appetite for concerts, recitals by local organists, opportunities for amateurs, students and young people to play the instrument, and further composing workshops.

Entries for the call for scores began arriving in late February, and by the deadline on 23 March, seventeen entries had been received. The task was then to assemble a full set of scores for the judges, ensuring that these copies were anonymous but could be matched up with names at results time. It then fell to the judges to make some tough decisions.

The judges were Duncan Chapman, Soosan Lolavar and Alexander Campkin.

The overall winner was:

John Furse
for his composition Moot Points
receiving the £250 prize.


Mark Bellis was runner up (£150 prize)
with Graduation Toccata.

Other works selected
for performance were:
Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Oysters,
Garglyjock and Bulkybones (after Alderman
W Gurney Benham)
by Alison Willis,
Tempestuous by Jenni Pinnock,
and Paean by Peter Thorne
We hope to announce the dates
of performances of the winning
works in due course.

The Call for Scores was issued inviting submission of new compositions, emphasising that they should be contemporary and innovative works which must be original and previously unperformed. The anonymous entries were scored against the following criteria: originality, character, musical coherence, conciseness of texture and narrative, and organ-related considerations of performability, how idiomatic the writing is, practicality and suitability for the Moot Hall Organ.