Westminster Abbey organist here Sunday

Organist and Master of Choristers of West­min­ster Abbey James O’Don­nell will perform with the Elora Festival Singers this Sunday at 2:30pm at St. John’s Church in Elora.

Born in Scotland in 1961, O’Donnell won a junior schol­arship in organ and harpsichord from the Royal College of Music while still at school, and was elected Organ Scholar of Jesus College, Cambridge, where he studied the organ with Peter Hurford, Nicolas Kynas­ton, and David Sanger on an open scholarship.

While at Cambridge he won several academic awards and prizes and graduated with first class honours. At 21, O’Don­nell began to serve as Assistant Master of Music at Westmin­ster Cathedral, and was ap­point­ed Master of Music five years later, the same year that he won first prize in the com­petition for the Royal College of Organists’ performer of the year award.

Under his 12-year leader­ship, the choir of Westminster Cathedral consolidated its rep­u­tation as one of the finest choirs of its type in the world, and won much praise and sev­eral awards for its recordings, notably the Gramophone Rec­ord of the Year and Best Choral Recording awards (1998) for a Hyperion recording, Masses, by Frank Martin and Ilde­bran­do Pizzetti. 

In 2000, O’Donnell was ap­pointed to Westminster Abbey, where he is responsible for the direction of the music at the daily choral services and state occasions for which the Abbey is renowned. He also directs the Abbey Choir in its program of concerts, tours, broadcasts, and recordings, including visits in recent years to the far east, Denmark, Germany, Spain, and the United States, and the first two discs in a new series of re­cordings for Hyperion Records.

“I’m delighted to have an organist of such high regard join us,” said Noel Edison, ar­tistic director of the Elora Festival and Singers. “I’m even going to lend him my baton for some of the pieces we will perform.”

The repertoire for the con­cert, Lift up Your Heart, will be totally British, with sacred and secu­lar pieces by such com­pos­ers as Britten, Howells, Elgar, and Parry. O’Donnell will ac­company the choir, and also play some solo works.

Tickets are $35, and are available in person at 33 Hen­derson Street, Elora, online at www.elorafestival.com, or by phone at 519-846-0331.­