John Scott (1956-2015)

posted on Friday, August 21, 2015

Saint Thomas Church is heartbroken by the sudden death of John Scott, Organist and Director of Music, on Wednesday, August 12.

John returned to New York on August 11 after a very successful European tour. He was not feeling well the next morning and suffered a sudden cardiac episode. He was taken to Roosevelt Hospital but never regained consciousness. His wife, Lily, was by his side when he died. Lily welcomed their newborn son in September.

The Rector, Headmaster, Wardens, Vestry, and Staff are shocked by John’s untimely death. Our thoughts and prayers are with Lily and John’s family. John and Lily are at the very heart of the Saint Thomas Church family and its mission.

John was appointed Organist and Director of Music of Saint Thomas Church and Choir School in 2004. He previously served at Saint Paul’s Cathedral for 26 years. He was born in 1956 and is a graduate of Saint John’s College, Cambridge. In addition to his beloved wife Lily and their newborn son, 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 message from Andrew Dietsche, Bishop of New York:

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

The sudden death of John Scott is, indeed, grievous news for Saint Thomas, and for the church in every place where Christians find consolation and inspiration in the finest expression of sacred music. In truth, he was an international figure of excellence and grace. The contributions which John has made to the fullness of life and worship at Saint Thomas have enriched the lives of the countless number who have come to draw near our Lord before the altar of Saint Thomas, and I am one of them. I, too, have been blessed by John's presence and service to Saint Thomas Church. I pray that you will accept the condolences of your bishop, and of the two hundred churches of the Diocese of New York. May God shelter John's wife and unborn child, his children and family, and bear them up in safety through this almost unbearable loss.

+Andrew, Bishop of New York

Funeral Mass

The Solemn Funeral Liturgy will be held on Saturday, September 12 at 11am at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and will be sung by the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys. Further details, including the music, will be posted here in due course.

Memorial Service

A memorial service will be held in the United Kingdom. Details including venue and date and time will be posted here in due course.

Obituaries and Tributes

Read an article about John published on Sunday, August 16, by New York Times classical mausic critic James R Oestreich.

Listen to John Scott, In Memorium, a two-hour tribute to John's musical legacy on the program Pipedreams hosted by Michael Barone

Saint Paul's Cathedral has also posted an article about John. It includes a video of John conducting the David Willcocks arrangement of "Hark! the herald angels sing" at the 1997 Saint Paul's Cathedral Choir Christmas Concert. Access the article here.

Giving in John's Memory

If you would like to contribute to the Miller-Scott Organ in John’s memory, please visit this page.


John Scott was born in 1956 in Wakefield, Yorkshire, where he became a Cathedral chorister. While still at school he gained the diplomas of the Royal College of Organists winning the major prizes. In 1974 he became Organ Scholar of St. John’s College, Cambridge, where for four years he acted as assistant to Dr. George Guest and held the University John Stewart of Rannoch Scholarship in Sacred Music. His organ studies were with Jonathan Bielby, Ralph Downes, and Dame Gillian Weir. He made his debut in the 1977 Promenade Concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, playing Reubke’s Sonata on the 94th Psalm. He was the youngest organist to appear as a soloist in the Proms.

On leaving Cambridge, he was appointed Assistant Organist at London’s two Anglican Cathedrals, St Paul’s and Southwark. During this time he won first prizes from the Manchester and Leipzig J. S. Bach International Organ Competitions in 1978 and 1984 respectively.

In 1985 he became Sub-Organist of St Paul’s Cathedral, becoming Organist and Director of Music there in 1990.

His work at St Paul’s involved the training and direction of the choir, and the overseeing and development of the Cathedral’s busy music program. He was responsible for the music at a number of high-profile events, including the National Service of Thanksgiving for the Millennium, the services to mark the 100th birthday of HM The Queen Mother and the Golden Jubilee of HM The Queen (for which he was asked to compose an anthem) and the service held on 14 September 2001 following the terrorist atrocities in the USA. Under his direction, the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir toured extensively in Europe, Japan, and North and South America, made many widely acclaimed recordings, worked with a number of distinguished orchestras and ensembles and gave world premieres of many works commissioned especially for them.

As an organist, John Scott has performed in five continents, premiered many new works written for him, and worked with various specialist ensembles. In November 1989 he inaugurated the new Rieger organ in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and in 1990, he was one of five international Cathedral organists invited to play in Washington National Cathedral to celebrate the completion of the Cathedral. In recent years, recital engagements have included venues in the USA, UK, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, South Africa, Slovakia, Australia and New Zealand. Highlights have included recitals in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Notre Dame in Paris, St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, the Aarhus Organ Festival in Denmark, Cologne Cathedral, Disney Hall in Los Angeles, London’s Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and King’s College, Cambridge. At St Paul’s he played a complete cycle of the organ works of J.S. Bach in 2000 and followed this in subsequent years with the organ symphonies of Vierne and Widor, as well as the complete organ works of Franck and Buxtehude. At St Thomas, Fifth Avenue, he has performed complete cycles of the organ works of Buxtehude in 2007, Messiaen in 2008 and the six organ symphonies of Louis Vierne in 2009.
In addition to his work as a conductor and organist, John Scott has published a number of choral compositions and arrangements and he has jointly edited two compilations of liturgical music for the Church’s year, published by Oxford University Press.

John Scott’s many recordings include the organ sonatas of Elgar, organ music by William Mathias, Duruflé and Mendelssohn, as well as two discs of music by Dupré. He has also recorded the solo organ part in Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. He recently made a recording at the organ of Washington’s National Cathedral for the JAV label.

In 1998 he was nominated International Performer of the Year by the New York Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. He is a Past President of the Incorporated Association of Organists and he has been a member of a number of international competition juries, including those in Manchester, Dublin, Chartres, Dallas, St. Albans, Erfurt and the Bach/Liszt Competition in Weimar.

In the summer of 2004, after a 26 year association with St Paul’s Cathedral, he took up the post of Organist and Director of Music at St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, where he directs the renowned choir of men and boys. He was awarded the LVO in the New Years Honours List of 2004, a personal gift from HM Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of his work at St Paul’s Cathedral. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin in 2007.

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

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