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St James' International Organ Festival: James O'Donnell

Event description

The St James' International Organ Festival

As we see the vision to give Sydney a fabulous new organ become a reality, St James' King Street are proud to launch the St James' International Organ Festival. As the first of its
kind, it aims to bring internationally renowned organists to our doorstep, while showcasing the might and versatility of our new Dobson organ.


Pott - Fanfare: Resurgam (world premiere)

Duruflé - Prelude et Fugue sur le nom d'Alain

Bingham - St Bride, Assisted by Angels

Bach - Toccata and Fugue in F

Widor - Symphony No. 6


One of the leading organists and choral conductors of his generation, James O’Donnell has successively been director of music in two of the most prominent churches in the UK before moving to the US in 2023 to be Professor of Organ and Sacred Music at Yale University.

James O’Donnell held a junior scholarship at the Royal College of Music and then read for a degree in Music at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he was organ scholar and is now an Honorary Fellow. His first appointment was as Assistant Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral in London.  Subsequently appointed Master of Music in 1988, his work as director of the renowned Choir of Westminster Cathedral, especially its many recordings for Hyperion Records, had an international following and won several awards. His 1998 recording of masses by Frank Martin and Ildebrando Pizzetti won the coveted Gramophone Record of the Year Award and, in the same year, the choir received a Royal Philharmonic Society Award, both of which were unprecedented for a cathedral choir.

In 2000 James O’Donnell was appointed Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey where he was responsible for the music at all services, including many significant national and state occasions, among which the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, and the state funerals of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and, most recently, that of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, stand out. During his tenure the reputation of the Abbey Choir developed considerably, in part thanks to its many recordings, concerts, broadcasts, and international tours (including a highly successful visit to Australia in October 2007).

After twenty-three years as director of music at Westminster Abbey, in January 2023 James O’Donnell moved to the United States to be Professor in the Practice of Organ and Sacred Music at Yale.  Alongside his teaching and academic work at the university he is in demand  throughout the United States and internationally as organ recitalist, conductor, and speaker, with forthcoming engagements in Australia and Europe. He is also a Visiting Professor of Organ and Choral Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, London.

On leaving Westminster Cathedral James O’Donnell received the papal award of Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great (KCSG), and, on leaving Westminster Abbey, he was appointed Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO) by King Charles III in the 2023 New Year’s Honours List.

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