All Saints Church, Pittville in Cheltenham has recently welcomed a new Director of Music. James MacDowall-Scott is the latest organist and Director in All Saints’ long history of professional organist appointments which has included Adolf von Holst – the father of English composer, Gustav Holst.
James’ career as a professional organist began early, at the age of just 15 when he was Assistant Organist at two churches in Warwick. Despite working full time in different roles, church life and music has always played a large part in James’ life. He was Assistant Director of Music at Cirencester Parish Church, Director of Music at Holy Trinity, Watermoor and later Head Verger and Deputy Organist at Bath Abbey from 2006 to 2015, where he was responsible for managing secular events, concerts and festivals as well as supporting worship each day.
In 2018, he was a full-time organist at Coychurch Crematorium – the largest in Wales. Working through the height of the pandemic, James says, “Sadly, it was a very busy time, but if ever I needed reminding of the power of music to comfort, soothe, heal and celebrate, working at the crematorium during the pandemic did it in spades for me. People needed it and it was an absolute privilege to be there to support those grieving families.”
Throughout his working life, James has performed solo recitals in some of the top venues in the country including St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Kings College Cambridge and many of the cathedrals in England and Wales. He is well respected throughout the organ world and an accomplished harpsichordist.
James is proud of what he has achieved. He reckons he inherited his musical ability from his paternal grandmother who was a concert pianist.
“Grandma Sylvia gave me my first piano lesson and it went from there.”
The offer of a senior role in Gloucestershire facilitated James’ move from Wales to Cheltenham where he assisted as organist at Christchurch on Sundays before being offered the role of Director of Music at All Saints, Pittville.
James is ambitious for All Saints Church. “My primary responsibility is ensuring I and the choir offer excellent music as part of our worship. We have a sung mass each Sunday morning, but we are the only church in Cheltenham offering weekly Choral Evensong. We have quite a responsibility to maintain this glorious liturgy and music.
“Importantly, this is a beautiful church with a good acoustic and a wonderful organ – it deserves to be more widely used for music and events in Cheltenham and I am working with Father Robert Wright to enable that happen. We have a great organ recital series with many top names performing during the autumn and several other events featuring All Saints Choir. We’d welcome new singers in the Choir – especially altos and tenors. If that is you, do get in touch! But All Saints would also welcome choirs or instrumental groups who are looking for a place to rehearse during the week or perform concerts. I’d love to talk with you.”
On his appointment, James says, “I’m thrilled and excited to have this role. All Saints is a fabulous church with a long musical tradition. I have a wonderful choir to work with, one of the best organs in the county and a very appreciative congregation – what more could a church musician want?”
To contact James about organ and harpsichord lessons, if you need an accompanist or continuo player: www.jamesmacdowallscott.com
Information about worship at All Saints can be found here: Services at All Saints