RIP John Scott 1956-2015


The Three Choirs Festival is shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden death at the age of 59 of organist John Scott, shortly after his return to his home in New York after a European tour that had included a recital at this year’s festival.


Dr Scott was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, where he was a cathedral chorister and gained the diplomas of the Royal College of Organists while still at school. He was organ scholar of St John’s College, Cambridge, and in 1977 was the youngest organ soloist to appear at the BBC Proms. He was assistant organist initially of both Southwark and St Paul’s Anglican cathedrals in London, then sub-organist from 1985 and Director of Music from 1990 to 2004 at St Paul’s. Since then he has been organist and director of music at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York. As an organist, he performed in five continents, premiered many new works written for him, and worked with various specialist ensembles. His many recordings include organ music by Elgar, William Mathias, Duruflé, Dupré and Mendelssohn.


On 30 June this year Dr Scott gave an acclaimed inaugural recital on the historic Richard Bridge organ of Christ Church, Spitalfields, following its restoration by the organ-building firm of William Drake Ltd. His Three Choirs Festival Celebrity Organ Recital on 31 July in Hereford Cathedral was described by many people present as one of the best they had ever heard, showcasing the cathedral’s Willis instrument in repertoire that ranged from Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn to works by Franck, Dupré, Cecilia McDowall and the world premiere of  O Gott, du frommer Gott by Anthony Powers, part of the Orgelbüchlein project, which aims to complete the works that were planned but never composed for Bach’s ‘Little Organ Book’.  One of the highlights of Dr Scott’s recital was an effervescent performance of Edwin Lemare’s Concert Fantasia, which combined his usual meticulous musicianship with a sense of humour that was also characteristic.

Immediately after his Three Choirs recital Dr Scott set off for concerts in Finland and Sweden. According to a statement from Saint Thomas Church he was taken to Roosevelt Hospital, New York, on 12 August, suffering from a cardiac complaint, and died without regaining consciousness.

The statement continues: ‘In addition to his beloved wife, Lily, he is survived by two children, Emma and Alex, and two sisters, Judith and Helen.

John’s contribution to music is a lasting legacy to the Church and to the world. He was a man of great faith; the words of J S  Bach, Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone) inspired his ministry.

A Requiem Mass will be offered for the repose of his soul at Saint Thomas Church on Thursday, August 13, at 5:30pm.

May choirs of angels receive him and may he have eternal rest.


[PHOTO: John Scott, taken immediately after his Hereford Cathedral recital, 31 July 2015 c. Gordon Taylor]