St. James Cathedral Music presents a nationally renowned series of sacred music, classical concerts, and organ recitals throughout the year. Some cathedral concerts are ticketed events and others are a free will offering. The annual concert series runs from September to June and contributes beautifully to the rich music culture of the city.
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About St. James Cathedral
In 1838, the Very Reverend François Norbert Blanchet and the Reverend Modeste Demers were dispatched to Fort Vancouver to establish a Catholic Church presence in the Pacific Northwest.
The French Canadian priests ministered primarily to the native peoples (and a very few white Catholic settlers in the area), preaching the Gospel to local tribes in their native language. However, God had already been worshiped on this ground for thousands of years. Chief Sealth is quoted: “Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors — the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems [chiefs], and is written in the hearts of our people.”
In 1850, Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Nesqually and named Augustin Magloire Alexandre Blanchet its first bishop (and today, namesake of Blanchet High School near Green Lake in Seatle). His brother, F. N. Blanchet, became the first Archbishop of Portland. A year later, A. M. A. Blanchet dedicates the first Cathedral of St. James in Vancouver, Washington. A. M. A. Blanchet was succeeded in 1879 by Bishop Aegidius Junger and in 1896 by Edward J. O’Dea. O’Dea ultimately receives permission from Rome to move the diocese seat from Vancouver to Seattle. He also secures a plot of land at 9th and Marion on First Hill, overlooking the city.
On December 15, 1907, the doors of the newly built Cathedral are opened for the first time. (It takes 38 more years to pay off the debt incurred during construction.) The occasion is marked by an organ recital on the brand-new west gallery organ. The first piece played on the new Hutchings-Votey instrument is Bach’s Grand Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, by organist Dr. Franklin Sawyer Palmer.
In 1916 a Seattle snowfall collapses the grand central dome of the cathedral. The building is closed for repairs for a year. The dome is replaced with a flat ceiling that included a fresco copy of Raphael’s Ascension. In 1924, a dedication ceremony establishes O’Dea High School across the street from St. James Cathedral.
The cathedral was renovated several more time over the years. In 1950 and 1974 the interior was upgraded and other improvements were made. In 1992 repairs were required after an arson fire caused one million dollars damages. Most recently in 1994, the Cathedral was restored and renovated, in keeping with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Major changes include moving the altar to the center of the building, the installation of an oculus [skylight], new baptismal font, east apse windows, and more.
St. James Cathedral pipe organs
St. James Cathedral is home to several magnificent pipe organs.
The oldest pipe organ is over a hundred years old. This instrument was specially built for the Cathedral by Hutchings-Votey and installed when it opened in 1907. A second organ by Casavant Frères was added in 1927 to complement the Hutchings-Votey organ in the west gallery. It is equipped with state-of-the-art electrical wiring that allows both organs to be played from a single console. In 2000, a Manuel Rosales organ replaced the Casavant, dedicated as The Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Millennium Organ.
Together, the Hutchings-Votey and the Rosales form the largest instrument in Seattle and are capable of beautifully rendering a wide array of repertoire. The grand organ is used in Sunday masses and other large liturgies throughout the year and can also be heard frequently in concerts.
St. James also owns two much smaller organs that are used in smaller prayer services, such as weekly vespers: the 1981 Laukhuff/Zuckerman and 1979 Führer. These two portable organs are also typically used in a Baroque continuo group for choral and orchestral repertoire of the 17th-19th centuries.
The Cathedral Chapel is home to an organ built by longtime parishioner Frank Robl. It was donated after his death to the Cathedral in 2013. The instrument continues to sound as a testament to his many years of dedication to the parish.
Together these instruments accompany hundreds of liturgies, concerts, and other events that take place in the life of the parish atop First Hill. Their beautiful tone attests to the beauty of God’s heavenly music and their sonorous power, a foretaste of His great glory.
St. James Cathedral Music
The Friends of Cathedral Music is a society of music lovers who support the Cathedral’s concert series by helping to make the series self-sustaining. Your annual gift will contribute to St. James Cathedral’s national reputation as a musical, cultural, and spiritual center. Donated $250 or more and receive a Cathedral Music membership card that offers free admission to every Cathedral concert during the season. Membership entitles you to reserved seating upon request for most events (except liturgies) and acknowledgement in concert programs throughout the year.
- To make your tax-deductible donation, visit the St. James Cathedral Music donation page.
Upcoming concerts at St. James Cathedral
Every Friday at 6:30 PM. Livestream Musical Prayer in the Cathedral.
For for information, visit: https://www.stjames-cathedral.org/music/concerts/default.aspx
For more live music events in all genres around the Puget Sound region, see the calendar list below.
But wait, there’s more!
- Our big list of live music venues (all genres).
- Our big list of music festivals in Washington State.
- Here’s a list of 101+ always free things to do for fun.
- More free and cheap things to do every day: Greater Seattle on the Cheap event calendar.
- Still more ideas for frugal fun: Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page.
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Calendar of live music events
The following calendar list includes upcoming live and live stream music events in all genres. We update music events on a rolling basis all year long. We also try to have several free and low cost live music events on the calendar every weekend.