From National Cathedral to Savannah, Christ Church's new organist comes with presidential experience

Imagine you are in your late 20s and being assigned the task of playing the organ for the funeral of a former president of the United States.

That is exactly what happened to George Fergus in 2018 when he was the organist at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. He was the only organist on staff and played for the funeral of President George H.W. Bush.

“It was one of the biggest highlights (thus far) of my career,” said George Fergus, 31, who recently was named director of music at Christ Church Episcopal in Savannah. In addition to Bush’s funeral, he also played for services for Sens. Bob Dole and John McCain, and U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell.

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The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is carried by a military honor guard during a State Funeral at the National Cathedral, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Washington. George Fergus was the organist for the ceremony.
The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is carried by a military honor guard during a State Funeral at the National Cathedral, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Washington. George Fergus was the organist for the ceremony.

While Fergus enjoyed his time in Washington, he and his wife, Kerry Auer, (along with their 2-year-old son, Teddy) were delighted to move to Savannah to be closer to family. Fergus’ in-laws live in Savannah (Kerry’s dad is a professor at SCAD) and the couple has been visiting the city off and on for nine years.

“Savannah and Christ Church are a good fit for us,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to building the music program at Christ Church.

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“In my new role as director of music, already I have grown the size of the parish choir and revitalized congregational singing in the context of the liturgy, which had been a sorely-missed aspect of communal worship over the last two and a half years,” he said.

“We have launched a concert series of a half-dozen concerts for this coming year,” he added. “The season also brings about the return of the beloved Christ Church tradition, ‘The Joy of Christmas,’ a community Christmas concert featuring hymns, brass and choirs.”

George Fergus is the new organist at Christ Church Episcopal. He comes to Savannah after spending 6 years as organist for the Washington Cathedral.
George Fergus is the new organist at Christ Church Episcopal. He comes to Savannah after spending 6 years as organist for the Washington Cathedral.

Fergus grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and earned a bachelor’s degree in music from St. Olaf College and a master of music degree in organ and certificate in church music studies from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. In 2016, Fergus was awarded the Gerre Hancock Fellowship in Church Music by the Association of Anglican Musicians. He served the fellowship at the National Cathedral before being appointed to the full-time music staff.

Prior to his appointment in Washington, Fergus was an organ scholar at Grace Church in New York, and choirmaster and organist of Berkely Divinity School at Yale.

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Living in Washington was a wonderful experience for Fergus and his wife, he said. Initially, they leased an apartment with a fabulous view of the Cathedral and later moved to McLean, Va., which was a challenging commute, especially during snow days, he said.

Fergus has been impressed with Savannah’s fellow classical musicians, which he describes at a “supportive group.”

George Fergus sits at the organ at Christ Church Episcopal. He comes to Savannah after spending 6 years as organist for the Washington Cathedral.
George Fergus sits at the organ at Christ Church Episcopal. He comes to Savannah after spending 6 years as organist for the Washington Cathedral.

He already has connected with other local organists and musicians, which has been a great entry to the city, he said. He and his wife, who studied vocal performance, also are enjoying the various music festivals that the city holds each year.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Christ Church Episcopal Savannah adds National Cathedral organist