Douglas Major

Fifth Organist and Choirmaster

Douglas Major (b. 1953) was associated with Washington National Cathedral for nearly three decades. He joined the staff in 1974 as assistant organist and choirmaster when he was just twenty-one years old. He also served under Paul Callaway as accompanist and assistant director of the Cathedral Choral Society. In July 1988, when Richard Wayne Dirksen stepped down as organist and choirmaster to devote full time to the preparation of the Cathedral’s consecration services in 1990, Major succeeded him as the Cathedral’s fifth organist and choirmaster. For the next fourteen years, he directed the Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys and helped to establish the Girls Choir in 1997. Major resigned in June 2002 in order to devote more time to composition and performance. He is currently music director at historic St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Born near Scranton, Pennsylvania, Major received his Bachelor of Music degree in organ from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. He studied organ under Ronald Arnatt and was associate organist and choirmaster at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis before coming to Washington. During Major’s tenure at Washington National Cathedral, the music program expanded its activities to include daily singing of Evensong, choir outreach tours to twenty-five cities in the United States, radio broadcasts, choir recordings, and guest concert appearances.

As a composer, Major’s works include anthems, canticles and psalms for chorus; organ solo music; piano and vocal compositions. He was the first to introduce the synthesizer into the musical fabric of the Cathedral, continuing the tradition of incorporating cutting-edge compositions from living composers as well as presenting the great depth of the Church’s musical heritage. He is heard as organ soloist on seven compact discs recorded on the Cathedral’s 185-rank Skinner organ.