By Bill Perry/Special to The Catholic Miscellany
CHARLESTON—The new music director at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is one of the nation’s leading experts in Gregorian chant and classical polyphony.
Scott Turkington is the former organist and choirmaster of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Stamford, Conn.
While at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., he played over 500 services each year, appearing on live television on scores of occasions.
He made his New York debut as an organ recitalist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
He has been a music director at Church of the Covenant in Boston and music teacher and organist at the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School, where he worked under Thomas Marier, his mentor and world-famous chant scholar.
Turkington is a board member of the Church Music Association of America, and conducts master classes on Gregorian chant around the country
“The Catholic Church enjoys a 2,000 year history of chant, with literally thousands of compositions, many of which were discarded or have never been heard,” he said in an interview with The Miscellany
The musician remembers going to Harvard Square as a boy and hearing sacred music being sung. He said that is when he first developed what is now a passion for this type of music.
“I have been lucky to be involved in great church music throughout my career,” he said.
Polyphonic works, those of many voices, composed by Mozart, Palestrina, Tallis, deVictoria and others form a rich musical heritage of the Catholic Church, according to Turkington.
Since the Second Vatican Council, there has been a shift away from chant and polyphony toward more secular compositions.
“Pope Benedict is known to have a personal taste for chant and polyphony and is emphasizing the need to return to these forms in celebration of the sacred liturgy,” Turkington said.
In a bulletin letter to the parish, Father Gregory B. Wilson, interim rector at the Cathedral, said they were fortunate to have such talent.
“Scott obviously comes to us with a phenomenal background in sacred music for the Catholic Church,” he said. “We look forward to a bright and sonorous future.”
Father Wilson also thanked interim music director Larry Long and said he will remain the Cathedral’s associate organist and choirmaster, and music director at St. Mary of the Annunciation Church.
Turkington replaces Mark Thomas, who accepted a position in campus ministry at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Thomas left in October 2009 and Father Wilson immediately formed a search committee for his successor.
Because the Cathedral position is also responsible for diocesan events such as ordinations and Chrism Mass, the committee included music experts and clergy from other deaneries. Turkington was interviewed by diocesan and parish committees and met with the choir and Cathedral music staff. He was hired in February but finished the Lenten season at his parish.