John Balka


The Great Organ at St. Mary's Cathedral | John Balka

The Great Organ at St. Mary’s Cathedral

Recipient of national critical acclaim and numerous academic and professional awards, John Balka maintained an active, wide ranging commitment to concerts, broadcasts, recording, teaching, lectures, and the music of the church. Since his introduction to the organ by Frank Asper at age five in John’s native Idaho, his life and career have been constantly linked to the organ. He held liturgical/musical posts in Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma, but his career achievements are highlighted by his tenure as Director of Music and Organist at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. At St. Mary’s, John welcomed a wide variety of guest musicians from around the world, and collaborated with musicians and liturgists for Divine Worship as well as for public concerts and civic observances. He was named Music Director for the visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to San Francisco, and conducted a Papal Mass with over 300 musicians and a singing congregation of more than 70,000. A strong supporter and tireless advocate for AIDS-related causes, he was instrumental in establishing awareness of St. Mary’s Cathedral as a center for nurturing and prayer, and was a key organizer for benefit concert performances there, most notably the popular Virtuoso Organist series. Upon leaving St. Mary’s, John was the recipient of the Cathedral’s prestigious Assumpta Award for his contribution to the “beauty and artistic excellence of the Cathedral’s life in San Francisco.” John Balka founded and conducted Pontifical Choirs in Oklahoma City, Toledo, and San Francisco; his organ recital tours took him to North and South America as well as to Europe. He was an active member of the American Guild of Organists and a founding member of the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians. John served as Director of Sacred Music and Organist at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Austin, Texas, where he led a music program that included five choirs singing in three languages. Under his direction, the Cathedral of Saint Mary maintained and restored the traditions of Gregorian Chant and of sung Masses using the choral settings of the great music masters. He also formed the Cathedral’s Schola Cantorum, a world-class choral ensemble that has been highly praised and revered throughout the Austin community.

John Balka Reviews:

“This release, with its slightly atypical cross section of organ repertorie, is both a celebration of the fine 1970 Ruffatti instrument that graces St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, and the digital skill and musical acumen of organist John Balka. The sound is up to RR’s best. Needless to say, highly recommended!” —William Zagorsi, FANFARE