James O'Donnell


James O'DonnellJames O’Donnell is Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey and is currently President of the Royal College of Organists. Internationally recognised as a conductor and organ recitalist, he has given organ concerts all over the world, including the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and throughout Europe, and appeared as organ soloist in the BBC Proms and at many other festivals.

James O’Donnell was a junior exhibitioner at the Royal College of Music and subsequently Organ Scholar of Jesus College, Cambridge, where he read music and studied the organ with Peter Hurford, Nicolas Kynaston and, later, David Sanger. He was appointed Assistant Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, and became Master of Music six years later. Under his direction the Choir of Westminster Cathedral won many plaudits, including the Gramophone ‘Record of the Year’ award (for its Hyperion recording of masses by Frank Martin and Pizzetti in 1998), and the Royal Philharmonic Society award (1999), both of which were unprecedented for a Cathedral Choir.

In January 2000 James O’Donnell became Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey, where he is responsible for the direction of the Abbey’s music, both at the daily choral services and the many great occasions which take place there.  These have recently included the State Visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last year. He directs the Abbey Choir in its concerts, broadcasts, recordings and tours, which in recent years have included visits to the Far East, the United States, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Russia, Spain and, in June 2012, Rome, where the Abbey Choir sang in a historic partnership with the Sistine Chapel Choir at the Pope’s invitation.  The Abbey Choir’s series of Hyperion recordings has attracted critical acclaim and an international following.  

Alongside his responsibilities at Westminster Abbey, James O’Donnell has worked widely as soloist and director with many of the country’s leading orchestras and ensembles.  In 2011 he became Music Director of St James’s Baroque. He was professor of organ at the Royal Academy of Music from 1997 until 2004, and is now Visiting Professor. In November 2010 he was Artist in Residence at Yale University. He was awarded the papal honour of Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory in 1999. He received Honorary Membership of the Royal Academy of Music in 2002, and a Fellowship of the Royal College of Music in 2009. He was made Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge in 2011.