Francis Jackson (composer)

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Francis Jackson
Background information
Birth nameFrancis Alan Jackson
Born(1917-10-02)2 October 1917
Malton, North Yorkshire
Died10 January 2022(2022-01-10) (aged 104)
York, North Yorkshire
Occupation(s)Organist, choirmaster and composer (Director of Music at York Minster (1946-1982)

Francis Alan Jackson CBE FRCO (2 October 1917 – 10 January 2022) was a British organist and composer who served as Director of Music at York Minster for 36 years, from 1946 to 1982.[1][2]

Personal life and family[edit]

Born in Malton, North Yorkshire, Jackson was the son of William Altham Jackson (1888-1944), an engineer and sanitary inspector, and Eveline May Suddaby (1889-1974), who both sang in the local church choir.[3] He was a first cousin once removed of the lyric soprano Elsie Suddaby, who, like him, studied with Sir Edward Bairstow.[4]

Jackson married Priscilla Procter, who died in 2013 at the age of 95.[5] They had three children: Alice, William and Edward.[6]

He turned 100 in October 2017,[7] and the occasion was marked by a special concert during that year's Ryedale Festival.[8] He died on 10 January 2022 at the age of 104.[1][2][9] His last visit to York Minster was in 2021, to see the newly-restored organ following its £2 million refurbishment.[10]

Career and legacy[edit]

The choir of York Minster, where Jackson served as Organist and Director of Music for 36 years.

Jackson had been a chorister at St Michael's Church, Malton, along with his brother Paul,[3] until he joined the choir of York Minister in 1929, where he sang under Sir Edward Bairstow for four years, after which he returned to Malton to serve as organist at St Michael's from 1933 to 1940. He studied at Durham University and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO) in 1937, winning the Limpus Prize. After active service during the Second World War he returned to York Minster in 1946 to become Organist and Director of Music, succeeding Bairstow. He held this post for 36 years. After his retirement in 1982, he was appointed Organist Emeritus.[1][2]

In 1961 Jackson played for the wedding of Elizabeth II's cousin, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, to Katherine Worsley. The final voluntary was the Toccata from Widor's Symphony for Organ No. 5, which set the fashion for the use of this piece for weddings.

From 1972 to 1974 he served as President of the Royal College of Organists. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to music in 1978 and a Commander (CBE) in 2007. He was also recognised with many academic degrees and awards throughout his lifetime.

After his retirement, Jackson and his wife retired to the Ryedale village of Acklam, where they had bought a house in 1954, and for many years he gave recitals in the surrounding area.[11]

Jackson was the mentor of Oscar-winning film composer John Barry.

Compositions and recordings[edit]

Jackson gave recitals and concerts all over the world and made numerous recordings of solo organ music and of choral music with the choir of York Minster. His extensive output of sacred and secular music includes canticles, anthems, hymn tunes (including the widely sung "East Acklam"), organ sonatas and other organ pieces such as "Diversion for Mixtures", but his 164 opus numbers range well beyond choral and solo organ music. There are two acclaimed monodramasDaniel in Babylon and A Time of Fire - as well as the overture Brigantia, an organ concerto (1985), a symphony (1957), chamber music and solo songs.

Jackson's creative output continued after his retirement. He recorded four CDs of his own organ music for Priory Records,[12] and the organ concerto in 1999.[13] Two CDs of his choral works have also be published.[14][15]


Jackson was the author of a biography of his teacher, mentor and predecessor, Sir Edward Bairstow, entitled Blessed City: The Life and Works of Sir Edward C. Bairstow. His autobiography, Music For A Long While, was published in 2013.[16]

Key events[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Dr Francis Jackson CBE, Organist Emeritus dies aged 104, York Minster. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "'Legendary' York Minster organist Francis Jackson dies aged 104", The York Press, 11 January 2022. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b Legendary organist born in Malton dies aged 104, Gazette & Herald, 12 January 2022. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  4. ^ Jackson, Francis (2013). Music For a Long While. York: York Publishing Services. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-9576722-0-8.
  5. ^ Announcements: Death Notices & Obituaries: Priscilla Jackson, The York Press, 9 August 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  6. ^ Frankly Speaking: Francis Jackson, Yorkshireman, organist, composer and biographer, in conversation with Simon Lindley, Simon Lindley (undated). Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  7. ^ Darley, Karen (16 October 2017). "Musician and composer celebrates his 100th birthday". York Press. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  8. ^ "Review: Ryedale Festival, Francis Jackson 100th birthday recital, Lastingham parish church, July 28", The York Press, 31 July 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  9. ^ Condy, Oliver (11 January 2022). "Organist and composer Francis Jackson dies, aged 104". BBC Music Magazine. Classical Music. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  10. ^ "Francis Jackson: Musicians pay tribute to organist and composer", Classical Music, 13 January 2022. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Discovering a real gem of a village", Gazette & Herald, 21 March 2001. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  12. ^ The Organ Works of Francis Jackson, PRCD930
  13. ^ Amphion Phi CD155, reviewed at MusicWeb International
  14. ^ British Church Composer Series Vol. 11, PRCD841
  15. ^ Sacred Choral Works, Delphian DCD34035 (2017), reviewed at MusicWeb International
  16. ^ Jackson, Francis (2013). Music For a Long While. York: York Publishing Services. ISBN 978-0-9576722-0-8.
  17. ^ Archbishop of Canterbury awards Lambeth degrees,, 16 October 2012.
  18. ^ "RCO News: RCO awards inaugural Honorary Medals". Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  19. ^ "New Honorary Fellow Elected – The Burgon Society". Retrieved 10 August 2020.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Organist and Director of Music, York Minster
1946 – 1982
Succeeded by