John Scott was one of the leading English concert and church organists from the latter 20th and early 21st centuries. Actually, he effectively managed parallel careers: not only did he hold several important organ posts at London cathedrals and concertize as an organ soloist, but he regularly conducted the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral in concert and on recordings before becoming music director and organist at New York's St. Thomas Church in 2004. As soloist and conductor he performed extensively both at home and abroad, traveling to five continents including to the Far East. Scott's choice of organ repertory divulged a bias for the larger works from the late-Romantic period and from the 20th century, including much contemporary music. Scott was prolific in the recording studio, having turned out more than 30 albums for Hyperion Records alone. He also recorded for Collegium, Priory Records UK, and others.
Scott was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, England, on June 18, 1956. In his youth he was a chorister at the local cathedral and later studied organ at the Royal College of Organists. In 1974 he entered St. Johns, Cambridge, as an organ scholar and graduated in 1978. There he served as assistant to George Guest and studied organ with Gillian Weir and Ralph Downes.
1978 was a breakthrough year for Scott: he won the Manchester Organ Competition and accepted a pair of important, albeit assistant organ posts at London's two Anglican cathedrals: Southwark and St. Paul's. In 1984 he won the J.S. Bach International Organ Competition in Leipzig, and the following year departed the Southwark Cathedral post to focus on work at St. Paul's.
Scott began recording for Hyperion in the mid-'80s and among his first releases was a 1986 disc of organ music by Marcel Dupré. In 1990 he was elevated to director of music and organist at St. Paul's, and thereafter led the choir in many acclaimed choral concerts and on numerous recordings: from 1993-2000 he recorded an eight-disc series of Psalms with the choir for Hyperion, and from 1989-2004 he recorded an eight-volume series of Anthems with the same forces. With the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, Scott was able to perform more nontraditional works, although he also conducted the Church's annual Messiah performances with the period instrument ensemble, Concert Royal.
Throughout the 1990s and in the new century, Scott remained active internationally as an organ soloist to match his busy choral conducting schedule. He also did some composing, writing an anthem for Queen Elizabeth's golden jubilee. Scott died suddenly in August 2015 from cardiac arrest.