Shock in cloisters as St Paul’s Cathedral appoints a woman organ scholar

It’s only taken a couple of millennia, but tonight the great church has announced a breach with its breeches.

The new organ scholar of St Paul’s is going to be Rachel Mahon, 24, presently organ scholar at Truro Cathedral. She’s the first woman to hold any organ post at the Cathedral.

Rachel is Canadian, originally from Toronto. The press release says she sometimes plays in stilettos, which is too much information. Oddly, they forgot to say if she’s the first Canadian to play at St Paul’s.

Rachel joins a team of Organist Simon Johnson, Sub-Organist Timothy Wakerell and Director of Music Andrew Carwood.


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  • Hardly a shock, Norman. Many cathedrals have female organists and assistants. Indeed, St Paul’s have had female altos deputising in their ranks for a good few years now.

  • Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

    There’s a very good reason why St. Paul’s did not state that Rachel is the first Canadian to hold the position and that’s simply because she isn’t: Nova Scotian-born Donald Hunt was the first Canadian to hold the organ scholar position at St. Paul’s from 2010 to 2011. I hope you will make this change to the article.

    With thanks,

    Mark McDonald

  • Hardly a great shock. When I was Organ Scholar of Keble College, Oxford, we appointed our first ever female organ scholar. She started in 1989!

  • Let’s wish her all the very best at St Paul’s.

    Truro has a wonderful tradition,and it is a proud day for them.

    The organ is tough,tough,tough,to master.

    Have a Diapason cocktail on me Rachel.

  • I am truly thrilled for Rachel and that her talent has been recognised to such a degree. I had the pleasure of hearing her perform twice in Ottawa last year. Her playing is at times, exquisite.

    How sad though that in 2014, it is her gender that is hitting the headlines. Get over it, and listen to her musicality.

    Brava Rachel, your success is thoroughly deserved. London’s gain is Cornwall’s loss.

  • I found the stilettos thing quite relevant and interesting actually since using the pedals is an important part of organ playing so it indicates she is more skillful than her flat-shoed peers. Not just another remark on her being female – at least I didn’t read it that way.

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