James Burton


At a glance

James Burton


James Burton inspires Oxford’s classy intercollegiate choir to realise a masterpiece in Randall Thompson’s The Peaceable Kingdom … the bright, lithe sopranos are absolutely together … the stimulating rhythms, exquisite tuning, rich word painting and constant attention to imaginative dynamics make this an outstanding performance.The Times
The Times (London)


James Burton is conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the choral director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Biography —

Born in London, James Burton began his training at the Choir of Westminster Abbey, where he became head chorister. He was a choral scholar at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and holds a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the Peabody Conservatory, where he studied with Frederik Prausnitz and Gustav Meier. Since 2002 he has been music director of the chamber choir Schola Cantorum of Oxford.

From 2002-09 he served as choral director at the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, England, where he was music director of the Hallé Choir and founding conductor of the Hallé Youth Choir, winning the Gramophone Choral Award in 2009. He returned to Manchester in 2014, preparing the choirs for what would become another Gramophone-nominated recording-Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony-under the direction of Hallé Orchestra Music Director Sir Mark Elder. Mr. Burton’s extensive choral conducting has included guest invitations with many highly regarded professional choirs including the Gabrieli Consort, Choir of the Enlightenment, the choir of Poland’s acclaimed Wrocław Philharmonic, and the BBC Singers in London, with whom he appears later this season when the BBC Proms are touring to the new opera house in Dubai. In 2017 he will appear as guest director of the National Youth Choir of Japan and the Princeton University Glee Club.

Mr. Burton’s work for the BSO includes preparing the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for this season’s performances under BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons in February of J.S. Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor. During the 2016 Tanglewood season, he led the TFC’s annual Friday Prelude Concert in Ozawa Hall and was guest chorus conductor for the BSO’s season-ending performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, under the direction of Mr. Nelsons, who stepped in for the ailing Christoph von Dohnányi. Mr. Burton also prepared the TFC last summer for an Andris Nelsons-led performance of Acts I and II from Verdi’s Aida. In February 2016 at Symphony Hall Mr. Burton was guest chorus conductor for the TFC’s performances under Charles Dutoit of Berlioz’s Resurrexit and Te Deum; he also worked with Mr. Dutoit in preparing the chorus for performances of Rossini’s Stabat Mater during the 2016 Tanglewood season.

Mr. Burton has conducted orchestra concerts with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Hallé, the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, Royal Northern Sinfonia, BBC Concert Orchestra, and Manchester Camerata; in early 2016 he made his conducting debut with the Orquestra Sinfónica Nacional of Mexico with concerts in the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and he returns there later this season for performances of orchestral and choral music by Brahms. His opera conducting credits include Don Giovanni and La bohème at English National Opera, Così fan tutte at English Touring Opera, The Magic Flute at Garsington Opera, and Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica at the Prague Summer Nights Festival. He has served on the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera, Opéra de Paris, English National Opera, Opera Rara, and Garsington Opera, where he was honored with the Leonard Ingrams Award in 2008. He has also conducted in London’s West End and led a UK tour of Bernstein’s Wonderful Town in 2012.

James’ compositions and arrangements have been performed internationally. His orchestral arrangements for American folk legend Arlo Guthrie have been performed by the Boston Pops, many other leading US orchestras, and at the Kennedy Centre and Carnegie Hall. James’ commissions have included the music for the 2010 World Equestrian Games opening ceremony, and a choral/orchestral setting of Thomas Hardy’s The Convergence of the Twain commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. Recent performances have been given by the Hallé, CBSO, and many of the UK’s leading choirs. Recent commissioners have included the National Portrait Gallery, the Exon Festival and the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge. His choral works are published by Edition Peters.

Born in London, James Burton began his training at the Choir of Westminster Abbey where he became Head Chorister. He was a Choral Scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge and holds an orchestral conducting Masters from the Peabody Conservatory where he studied with Frederik Prausnitz and the late Gustav Meier.

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