Douglas Major

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Douglas Major
Douglas Major.jpg
Berwick, Pennsylvania
OccupationOrganist, Choirmaster, and Composer

Douglas R. Major (born 1953 in Berwick, Pennsylvania)[1] is a prominent American composer of sacred music and concert organist. He is the former choral director and organist at the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., where he frequently performed on nationally televised services and state occasions.[2] He has made several recordings.

Following his tenure at the Cathedral between 1974–2002, he moved to Massachusetts to concentrate on concert touring and composing. He also became Music Director at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Marblehead, serving there until retiring in 2019.

Early life and education[edit]

Major's childhood was spent in the Scranton, Pennsylvania, area, where he first began piano lessons. He commenced organ studies with Ronald Arnatt, while serving as assistant organist at Christ Church Cathedral (St. Louis, Missouri). Major earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Webster University there.[1]

At the Washington National Cathedral[edit]

At just twenty-one years of age in 1974, he was appointed assistant organist at the National Cathedral by Paul Callaway. He subsequently succeeded Richard Wayne Dirksen as organist and choirmaster at the Cathedral in 1988, administering one of the country’s largest church music programs and concert schedules, which were frequently attended by heads-of-state and televised nationally. Among the many state occasions occurring during his tenure at the cathedral were the Presidential inaugural service for George W. Bush in January, 2001, and the national day of mourning service on September 14, 2001, following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

As a concert organist[edit]

In 2002, Major left the National Cathedral after 28 years of distinguished service to concentrate on concertizing and composing. As an internationally recognized performer, Major frequently tours throughout North America, Europe and the Far East.[2][3] In 1982 and again in 2006, he performed in Bermuda.[4] He also makes joint concert appearances playing organ with the Empire Brass quintet.[4]

Recordings and compositions[edit]

Major has made eight compact disc recordings playing the Washington Cathedral's large pipe organ. In 2009, he released a CD of trumpet and organ music entitled Hope, with trumpeter Richard Watson, recorded at Methuen Memorial Music Hall.[5] Major's compositions for organ and choir include:

  • Concertino
  • Festival Te Deum
  • Love Poem to God, commissioned by the American Guild of Organists
  • Mary's Lullaby
  • Requiem in C Minor, premiered in Atlanta in 2005
  • Sing to the Lord a new song
  • Cape Ann Portraits, a suite for organ based upon locations along the Massachusetts coastline

Personal life[edit]

Douglas Major lives in Salem, Massachusetts. He retired in 2019 as Music Director at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in nearby Marblehead, following 16 years of service there.[2][3]


  1. ^ a b Great is the Lord (LP liner notes). Needham, Mass: Vogt Quality Recordings. 1984. LCCN 84743180.
  2. ^ a b c "Douglas Major's biography". Atlas Communications. 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-09. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b "Summer Music at the Cathedral". Washington National Cathedral. 2008-06-29. Archived from the original on 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2008-08-27. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b Acton, Nancy (April 21, 2006). "Major weekend treat for organ music lovers". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved May 8, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Internet Radio Program Interview – Douglas Major". Planetary Spirit. 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-02. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]