Dr James Whitbourn

The Faculty of Music was sorry to learn of the death of Dr James Whitbourn on 12 March 2024 and offers condolences to all who knew and loved him.

James Whitbourn graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford, before becoming a practitioner and researcher in the fields of composition, conducting and music production. He directed the university’s summer schools in choral singing and choral composition, offered through the Department for Continuing Education, since their inception.

A house composer with Oxford University Press since 2019, he produced a substantial catalogue of works, almost seventy of which are published by Chester Music, to whom he was exclusively signed between 2001 and 2018. His catalogue has a focus on choral writing, often in combination with instrumental or orchestral forces. On the concert stage, his works are frequently performed in North America and mainland Europe, especially his concert-length portrait of Anne Frank, Annelies (which also earned one of his four GRAMMY nominations), Luminosity and the early Son of God Mass, a work for saxophone and choir based on his original BBC orchestral scores.

He had an ongoing research interest in the music of Egypt, having scored and recorded several Egyptian songs for orchestra and voice, including one commissioned for performance at the Luxor Temple in a concert with his regular collaborator, Egyptian soprano Fatma Said. He was the recipient of a TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellowship (2019-2021) in furtherance of this work.

From 1990 to 2001 he served as Editor of BBC Radio 3’s weekly Choral Evensong series before beginning an association with the Royal Opera House for whom he produced scores of recordings for television, DVD and cinema, alongside many audio discs. These roles, together with involvement in similar audio and audio-visual recording projects based within other European opera houses and at other significant venues, formed the basis of much of his teaching on performance in the context of recording.

Composition; Conducting; Performance in the context of recording and broadcast.