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ARCO at 15

14 September 2012

HE WAS not only believed to be, at 14, the youngest cathedral organ scholar in the country to have been awarded a diploma of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music; but, at 15, Henry Websdale, in Bradford Cathedral, has become one of the youngest musicians ever to be awarded the Associateship of the Royal College of Organists (ARCO).

He has gained the Limpus, Shinn, and Durrant prizes for the highest mark nationwide in the practical exam, as well as the Lord St Audries prize for the highest overall mark for a candidate under the age of 19. And all this after he has been playing the organ for barely four years.

Henry's desire to play came when he was a chorister at St Margaret's, Ilkley. He had organ lessons with Edward Scott, before joining the cathedral. After he gained his diploma, he said: "I love playing the organ, and I'm inspired by the likes of the great Stephen Cleobury and Robert Quinney. It's my ambition to become an organ scholar at one of the Oxbridge colleges."

Meanwhile, he is continuing his education at Bradford Grammar School, where he has had singing lessons with James Griffett, director of the school's choral scholars and founder of Northern Youth. His musical future looks assured.

The examinations of the Royal College of Organists are regarded as the gold standard in organ playing. The ARCO entails playing three contrasting pieces, and then undergoing a succession of keyboard tests, besides sitting six hours of written papers, and an aural examination. I am told that the failure rate is high; so for Henry not only to have passed, but to have been awarded prizes, is a testament to his preparation and dedication.


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