James Bowman has been one of the world’s leading Counter tenors for over forty years; his career spanning Opera, Oratorio, Contemporary music and solo recitals. He began singing as a Chorister at Ely Cathedral and later entered New College, Oxford with a Choral scholarship. After leaving Oxford, he joined the choir of Westminster Abbey. He was invited by Benjamin Britten to sing at the opening concert of the new Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in March 1967, and this marked his London debut.
His career since then has included opera engagements both in the UK and abroad. Locations range from Paris, La Scala in Milan and Venice to further afield in Sydney and Melbourne Opera houses and the USA, including the Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Centre in Washington.
He has made over 150 recordings with all the major record labels, under such directors as Britten, Harnoncourt, Mackerras, Leppard, Hogwood, Bruggen and Pinnock. He has recorded ‘Messiah’ four times, under Willcocks, Koopman, Dorati and Parrott. Many of his recordings have been for Hyperion, recording all the Purcell Odes, Church music and Solo songs, as well as various solo discs of music by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Hasse, Domenico Scarlatti and Dowland.
He has given the world premiere of many important contemporary compositions, including works by Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett, Peter Maxwell Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett, Robin Holloway, Geoffrey Burgon, Michael Nyman, Alan Ridout and Tariq O’Regan.
In May 1996 he received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and was made CBE in the 1997 Queen’s Birthday Honours. He is also an Honorary Fellow of New College, Oxford and in October 2000 became a Gentleman of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace. In 2010 he was presented with ‘A Lifetime Award for Services to Early Music’ by the York Early Music Festival.
In May 2011 he made his farewell to the London concert platform with a sold-out recital at London’s Wigmore Hall, singing Purcell and Handel. However, he still appears occasionally at smaller venues away from the capital and has performed several times with Cantemus.