Remembering Dr James Whitbourn

13 Mar 2024

Dr James Whitbourn

St Edmund Hall is extremely sad to announce the passing of Dr James Whitbourn, Director of Music and Fellow by Special Election in Music, on Tuesday 12 March. James joined the Hall in March 2020 and brilliantly directed all the musical activities of the College and the choral student programme. He was also a British composer and conductor, Senior Research Fellow at St Stephen’s House and a member of Oxford University’s Faculty of Music.

James was a force for good in the College. He took up his role at the beginning of the first Covid lockdown but very quickly managed to get music online – from solo recitals and group jazz to Evensong sung by the Choir of St Edmund Hall from their homes across the country. When normality returned, James quickly brought live music back into the Hall and introduced a number of new events including small recitals during Formal Halls, an annual Holocaust Day memorial event and many other wonderful initiatives. He really brought music alive at the Hall.

His work has received four Grammy nominations, a Royal Television Society Award as well as many other international accolades. He also produced the BBC’s Carols from Kings, and BBC Radio 3’s Choral Evensong for a number of years and was responsible for the global music coverage by the BBC of many royal events, including the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and The Duke of Edinburgh.

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. In 2020, he became an exclusive composer for Oxford University Press with whom he has published choral and organ works including Solitude, Christmas Welcome and Apollo.

On Thursday 14 March, BBC Radio 3 paid a lovely tribute to James - listen from 1:22:07.

James will be sorely missed at the Hall by all who knew him.

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