James Whitbourn

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James Whitbourn (1963-2024)

Director of Music

Dr James Whitbourn was Director of Music at Harris Manchester College.

James graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford, before beginning his career in the BBC, for whom he worked as composer, conductor, producer and presenter. Between 2001 and 2019, he was an exclusive composer with Chester Music, publisher of more than seventy of his compositions. Among these, Annelies (his setting of the Diary of Anne Frank) has become one of the most-performed large-scale choral works of the twenty-first century. Other notable publications include Luminosity, The Seven Heavens and the Son of God Mass. In 2020, he became an exclusive composer for Oxford University Press with whom he has published choral and organ works including SolitudeChristmas Welcome, O magnum mysterium and Apollo.

A member of the Faculty of Music, James lead the ongoing ‘Music Egypt’ research project, supported by TORCH, with whom he was a Knowledge Exchange Fellow from 2019-2021 and is an Innovation Fund recipient for 2022-2023. His new work for the Egyptian soprano Fatma Said, Zahr Al-Khayal, was premiered in Berlin in 2023. His large-scale orchestrations and re-workings of the music of Abdel Wahab have been performed in Egypt (Cairo, Luxor), UK (London, Birmingham), Switzerland and Dubai.

As a performing musician, he is especially well known for his work with choirs and has conducted major performances in many significant venues including the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, Westminster Abbey and Washington National Cathedral DC. He was well known as a choral advisor and clinician on both sides of the Atlantic.

He was the recipient of four Grammy nominations among many other international awards, and there are six complete discs of his choral music, alongside representation on many compilation albums.

James Whitbourn was also Fellow and Director of Music at St Edmund Hall and Senior Research Fellow at St Stephen’s House.