James Burton was appointed both as 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 composition The Lost Words, a BSO co-commission, as part of the summer’s gala Tanglewood on Parade concert. In April 2020 he conducted the Tanglewood Festival Concert in a post-concert Casual Friday performance of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil to celebrate the TFC’s fiftieth anniversary. Burton made his debut with the Boston Pops in December 2017, and since led the Pops in holiday concerts in December 2018 and 2019, and in June 2019 at Tanglewood in a program celebrating Queen with Marc Martel.
Born in London, 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, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Hallé Orchestra, Orchestra of Scottish Opera, Royal Northern Sinfonia, BBC Concert Orchestra, and Manchester Camerata. Opera credits include performances at English National Opera, English Touring Opera, Garsington Opera, and Prague Summer Nights Festival. He has also served on the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera and Opera de Paris. Burton’s extensive choral conducting has included guest invitations with professional choirs including the Gabrieli Consort, Choir of the Enlightenment, Wrocław Philharmonic, and 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 for the Hallé Orchestra, where he was music director of the Hallé Choir and founding conductor of the Hallé Youth Choir. His work in Hallé ultimately garnered a 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. Burton has given conducting master classes at Tanglewood Music Center and at the Royal Academy of Music in London, 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.