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James Burton was appointed Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and to the newly created position of BSO Choral Director, in February 2017. He made his BSO subscription-series conducting debut in October 2018, leading the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in Maija Einfelde’s Lux aeterna. In August 2019 he led the Boston Symphony Children’s Choir and Boston Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of his The Lost Words, a BSO co-commission, as part of the summer’s gala Tanglewood on Parade concert. In April 2020 he will conduct the Tanglewood Festival Concert in a post-concert Casual Friday performance of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil to celebrate the TFC’s fiftieth anniversary. Mr. Burton made his debut with the Boston Pops in December 2017, returned to the Pops podium last December—as he will again for Holiday Pops concerts in December 2019—and led the Pops this past June at Tanglewood in a program celebrating Queen with Marc Martel.
Born in London, James Burton holds a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the Peabody Conservatory, where he studied with Frederik Prausnitz and Gustav Meier. He began his training at the Choir of Westminster Abbey, where he became head chorister, and was a choral scholar at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He has conducted concerts with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Hallé Orchestra, the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, the Royal Northern Sinfonia, BBC Concert Orchestra, and Manchester Camerata. Opera credits include performances at English National Opera, English Touring Opera, Garsington Opera, and the Prague Summer Nights Festival, and he has served on the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera and Opera de Paris. Mr. Burton’s extensive choral conducting has included guest invitations with professional choirs including the Gabrieli Consort, the Choir of the Enlightenment, Wrocław Philharmonic, and the BBC Singers, with whom he performed in the inaugural season of Dubai’s Opera House in 2017. From 2002 to 2009 he served as choral director at the Hallé Orchestra, where he was music director of the Hallé Choir and founding conductor of the Hallé Youth Choir, winning the Gramophone Choral Award in 2009. From 2002 to 2017 he was music director of the Schola Cantorum of Oxford. Well known for his inspirational work with young musicians, he was director of the National Youth Choir of Japan in 2017 and founded the Boston Symphony Children’s Choir in 2018. Mr. Burton has given conducting master classes at the Royal Academy of Music in London and at the Tanglewood Music Center, and founded a scholarship for young conductors at Oxford. His growing composition portfolio includes works for commissioners including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the 2010 World Equestrian Games, the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and the Exon Festival, where he was composer-in-residence in 2015. His works are published by Edition Peters. As BSO Choral Director and Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, James Burton occupies the Alan J. and Suzanne W. Dworsky Chair, endowed in perpetuity.
James Burton, conductor
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Long before his YouTube videos went viral, spawning an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and a performance with the surviving members of Queen on “American Idol,” Marc Martel spent 13 years recording and touring the globe with Canadian rockers Downhere. Not only did the rock band visit all 50 American States, but also toured throughout Europe and even Northern Africa, collecting worldwide acclaim and four Juno Awards in their native land.
After paying their dues for more than a decade in a fifteen passenger van and finally graduating to a full-fledged bus, the group wrote what they believed was the very peak of its artistry and expression, but despite the private support of radio programmers, the public never latched onto to what turned out to be Downhere’s swansong effort. Yet right around the time when that writing popped up on the wall, Martel received an email from an industry pal with a link to a contest spearheaded by the actual members of Queen.
At first, the front man almost passed on the opportunity, but with some prodding from his wife and additional friends, he casually cut a version of “Somebody To Love” in 2011, and now 30 million cumulative YouTube and Facebook views later, bolstered by the aforementioned “Ellen” appearance, Martel was declared the victor. Even legendary Queen drummer Roger Taylor remarked to the Daily Record: “That voice. You listen, close your eyes and you think it’s Freddie. It’s really uncanny.” For the last 6 years and over 160+ shows Marc has fronted Queen’s official tribute show, The Queen Extravaganza.
Fast forward to 2017, and Martel has forged for himself a unique and diverse career. He started his own Queen tribute show called The Ultimate Queen Celebration, which tours all over the world, including an upcoming Australia/New Zealand run in 2018. But Marc does not only lend his voice to rock and roll crowds, but also recently to symphony halls as he fronts Symphonic Queen with the Philharmonic Orchestra of México (OFUNAM) in Mexico City.
But even with the overwhelming demand behind Martel’s Queen-themed projects, he’s cultivated an increasingly visible solo career defined by a relentless creativity, unpredictably and practically super human abilities to simultaneously craft his own identity while flawlessly stepping into the shoes of others. In terms of his individuality, the cheekily-titled “Impersonator” (released in 2014) is an under-the-radar modern rock masterpiece produced by John Fields (also known for his work with Pink, Goo Goo Dolls, Miley Cyrus, Backstreet Boys and Switchfoot on its blockbuster “The Beautiful Letdown”) that unexpectedly spawned “Dead Ringer” as the entrance song for veteran comedian Carrot Top in Las Vegas. In 2016, he continued a Downhere tradition by releasing the EP The Silent Night which brought him back onto the Christian radio charts with his Billboard AC Monitored Top 10 single, “What Child Is This?” featuring Ron Block of Alison Krauss and Union Station.
This Christmas Marc embarks on the 2017 K-Love Christmas Tour alongside Steven Curtis Chapman, Plumb, and We Are Messengers which covers 19 cities in 24 days. He has also gone back to Christian radio with his new version of “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” featuring Plumb, which is the debut single from his upcoming EP, The First Noel, releasing in late November.
Then there’s a forthcoming covers collection, My Way Vol. 1,(coming Spring 2018) that fans have been demanding, on which Martel plans to tackle classic songs that require a massive voice, all tied together by a theme of sharing personal significance to his musical upbringing. In the meantime, he’s made additional waves performing at the direct request of Céline Dion (who avidly follows his videos) on Radio-Canada TV's “En direct de l’Universe” in 2016, plus a jaw-dropping cover of George Michael and Wham!’s “Last Christmas” for the video game “Just Dance 2017” and Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” on “Just Dance 2018". Add in performances on People.com, ten nights at the Calgary Stampede, plus various San Francisco Giants, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Hornets games, and there’s truly no limit to Martel’s unreal reach.
“I grew up believing a lie that I had to have one sound as a singer, but after I put that false belief aside, I realized I can have as many sides as I want,” sums up Martel. “I’m having the best time of my life as a professional musician right now where I’m involved with so many different things it’s impossible to get bored. Between anything Queen-related, my own recordings and these fun little side projects, I’m more diverse and happier as an artist than I’ve ever been!”
- Was hand-selected by Brian May and Roger Taylor of the legendary rock band, Queen, to front their official tribute, The Queen Extravaganza, and has done so since 2012
- His videos have been seen by over 85 million people on Youtube and Facebook
- Has performed on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
- Has performed on PeopleNow for People.com
- Has performed on "American Idol" with the Queen Extravaganza
- 5-time Juno Award winner with the band Downhere
- Has performed for the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, and Charlotte Hornets
- Has performed for the San Francisco Giants
- Has performed for “Opening Night” at the Kentucky Derby
- Performed 10 nights at the Calgary Stampede in 2013
- Performed with the band, Downhere, from 1999-2013
- 3 Top 5 singles at Christian Radio with Downhere ("Here I Am," "My Last Amen," "How Many Kings")
- Covered Wham!’s, “Last Christmas” for the Ubisoft video game, Just Dance 2017
- In September 2016 Marc performed for Céline Dion on Radio-Canada TV's "En direct de l’Universe" at her request.
- In Spring 2017 recorded vocals for TBS/Pepsi/Conan television spot that aired nationally
- In 2017 Marc recorded at legendary Abbey Road Studios in London
- 4 Top 10 singles at Christian Radio at Christmas ("It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" featuring Plumb, "O Come All Ye Faithful" featuring Jason Gray, "What Child Is This?" featuring Ron Block of Alison Krauss and Union Station, and "The First Noel")
- In 2018 Marc was a vocalists for the 20th Century Fox Queen biopic, "Bohemian Rhapsody" along with Freddie Mercury and Rami Malek
Marc Martel, Lead Singer, Piano/Keyboard, Acoustic Guitar