John Scott, Organist and Director of Music of St Thomas Church New York, and formerly of St Paul's Cathedral, London, died yesterday, aged 59. He suffered a heart attack the day after returning from a European recital tour.
Scott had led the music at St Thomas, Fifth Avenue - an Episcopalian church very much in the spirit of the Anglican choral tradition, and boasting America's only residential church-affiliated choir school - since 2004. Prior to that, he'd served at St Paul's Cathedral for 14 years.
Born in 1956, Scott was a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral, before taking up an organ scholarship at St John's Cambridge, under George Guest, in 1974. In 1977 he became the youngest organist to appear as a soloists at the BBC Proms, playing Reubke’s Sonata on the 94th Psalm.
He initially held the posts of Assistant Organist at St Paul's and Southwark Cathedral, before in 1985 becoming Sub-Organist of St Paul's, and then in 1990 the Organist and Director of Music. In 2004 he moved to St Thomas, New York, conducting the choir in services throughout the week, as well as making a number of well-received recordings including, in 2013, the Requiems of Duruflé and Howells of which Gramophone’s critic wrote: ‘As sung by the Saint Thomas forces under conductor John Scott, each work is illuminated through exceptional purity of pitch, delicately nuanced phrasing and lucid articulation of texts. The warm and spacious acoustics of the Manhattan church help to heighten the music’s sense of mystery and reverence.’
The choir of St Thomas recently struck a 10-disc recording relationship with the UK-based label Resonus Classics - their first release together, reviewed in the current (August) edition of Gramophone was of Bach motets, while future releases were to have included Rachmaninov’s Vespers, Fauré’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah as well as solo recitals by Scott. They also recently recorded an album of Christmas music, including works by Britten and Rutter.
A Requiem Mass will be offered for Scott at Saint Thomas on Thursday, August 13, at 5.30pm.