John Scott, organist and director of music at St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, has died aged 59. Previously choirmaster at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, he was also widely regarded as one of the finest organists of his era.
Born in 1956 in Wakefield, Scott began his career when he won an organ scholarship to St John’s College, Cambridge. In 1978, he won the Manchester International Organ Competition and in the same year was offered the role of assistant organist at St Paul’s Cathedral, going on to become organist and director of music there in 1990. His time there was marked by a series of exceptional recordings for the Hyperion label, and well-known choristers to have sung in the choir included Jeremy Budd and Alastair Cook (now famous as the captain of the England cricket team).
Scott remained at St Paul’s until 2004, when he moved to New York to take up the post at St Thomas Church. There, he raised the choir to the same high level that he had achieved at St Paul’s, again leaving the legacy of a number of outstanding recordings. He recently also oversaw the design of a new organ, which when completed will be named in his honour.
Scott enjoyed a formidable career as an organ recitalist. In 1977 he became the youngest organist to perform solo at the Proms, and performed extensively across the US, Europe and the Southern hemisphere. He performed cycles of complete organ works by Buxtehude, Messiaen Louise Vierne, and recorded CDs on several major labels across his career.
Scott’s sudden death came soon after he returned from a tour of Europe. A Requiem Mass will take place at St Thomas Church at 5:30pm today (13 August). Funeral arrangements will be posted on the church’s website.