Organist, composer and conductor Francis jackson died at the age of 104. His advanced age made him one of the last in recent memory to work alongside great figures in English religious music – with him a connection to our illustrious heritage was lost. One of these greats was York Minster organist and composer Edward Bairstow, who in 1929 heard the talent of an 11-year-old at the piano and signed him up as a backing vocalist at the Minster, without forcing him to complete a probationary year.
Jackson considered Bairstow to be one of his main influences (he wrote Bairstow’s biography) and continued to study with him until his call in the military in 1940, serving in North Africa until the end of the war. Back in York, he slipped onto the maintenance-free assistant organist bench – after all, Bairstow himself was his referee. Upon Bairstow’s death in 1946, Jackson was immediately appointed organist and musical director. He remained at the Minster until 1982, where he rose to fame not only for his sure hand with the chorus, but also for his phenomenal playing, evident in several acclaimed recordings. A notable record was his recording for Canadian composer Healey Willan’s EMI. Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue which brought the piece into the general public repertoire.
Jackson was an excellent composer, writing over 150 works for organ, choir and more, including his inspired work Vierne Toccata, Choral and Fugue (1955), Sonata No.3, the widely sung hymn Acklam East and another work inspired by the 20e– French school of the century, Hallelujah, laudate pueri Dominum for double choir. He also wrote a symphony, an organ concerto and various liturgical works, including a beautiful Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. He continued to compose until his death.
Jackson was president of the Royal College of Organists between 1972 and 1974, and received an OBE in 1982, plus a CBE in 2007. His autobiography Music for a long time was released in 2013.