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A self-taught conductor since 2010, James has conducted chamber, orchestral and choral ensembles, specialising in new music.

His recent work includes the UK premieres of Beat Furrer’s Aria, Henze’s Ode an eine Äolsharfe and Kaija Saariaho’s Tempest Songbook.

James directs the Late Music Ensemble, which he formed in 2014.

In 2014 James made his conducting debut at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. He directed world premieres by Ji Sun Yang (with Lore Lixenberg and Sounds of the Engine House Ensemble) and by Naomi Pinnock (with pianists Kate Halsall, Fumiko Miyachi, and The Chimera Ensemble).

For his undergraduate dissertation in 2011, James conducted a new work for chamber orchestra with combined school choirs totalling 70 children. In the same year, he gave the premiere of Hera’s List, a chamber opera by Eve Harrison, subsequently conducting it at the 2012 Tête à Tête Opera Festival, London.

In 2013 he premiered a new work by Emily Crossland with Castaway Goole Accessible Music Theatre, then collaborated with Emily and director Anna Webb on Castaway’s 2014 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. James has also premiered numerous student works with The Chimera Ensemble. During his BA he also founded and directed BarberSoc, a mixed voice Barbershop group.

“extraordinary music and visuals – all perfectly & expertly complemented”
audience member, Late Music Ensemble, 6 August 2016

“a tour de force of dazzling rhythms in Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union further proved how crisply LME responded to Whittle’s clear-cut direction”
Martin Dreyer, York Press, Late Music Ensemble, 9 July 2014

“Whittle… under whose excellent conducting the musicians of Hera’s List achieved a tight ensemble”
Rachel Coombes, British Theatre Guide, 3 August 2012

Films & Audio
(Browse the playlists for more of each.)



James Whittle & Dean Trust Ardwick pupils: proud to belong
(final song of Making Manchester)

• Kabantu, Vonnegut Collective, Dean Trust Ardwick pupils, the cast; NIAMOS Radical Arts & Cultural Centre; 27-28 July


Cast Theatre, Doncaster: Sing Out – new singing group for SEND teenagers
• April 2018–present

Radio recording: Wooden Overcoats Series 3 and Summer Special soundtracks
• 19 January


Late Music Ensemble
Philip Cashian: Mechanik
Omar Peracha: Vox I: Echo Chamber
Alex Nikiporenko: Self-Explanatory Music
Louis d’Heudieres: Vox Pop
Pauline Oliveros: Breaking Boundaries
Catherine Robson: Introspective Torment (world premiere of LM commission)
Rachael Gibson: Dethroning an Omnipotent God (world premiere of LM commission)
Kirsty Devaney: Root
Meredith Monk: Stringsongs

• Late Music Concert Series York, 7 July


Late Music Ensemble
Anna Clyne: Just As They Are
Peter Maxwell Davies: Canon in memoriam Igor Stravinsky
John White: Newspaper-Reading Machine
David Power: Bye Bye Spaceboy (world premiere of LM commission)
Jennifer Walshe: Zusammen i
Eva-Maria Houben: places to listen (2): spring
Mieko Shiomi: Boundary Music
Julius Eastman: Stay On It (arr. Paul Pinto)

• Late Music Concert Series York, 6 August


Radio recording: Wooden Overcoats Series 1 soundtrack
• 17 August

Late Music Ensemble: A Terry Riley Celebration
Terry Riley: In C
John Luther Adams: The Light Within
John Adams: John’s Book of Alleged Dances (a selection)
Pauline Oliveros: Sonic Meditation I “Teach Yourself to Fly”
Ben Gaunt: Carina’s Observatory (WP)
Emily Crossland: 1v4(v) (WP)
F. Rzewski arr. J. Whittle: Steptangle for stamping ensemble (WP)

• Late Music Concert Series York, 1 August

Kaija Saariaho: The Tempest Songbook (UK premiere)
Joel Järventausta: Microsleep (Chimera Undergraduate Commission)
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, 5 June

Hans Werner Henze: Ode an eine Äolsharfe (UK premiere)
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, 27 February

James Cave: God’s Keyboard (WP)
• 2014 Lyons Celebration Award commission
• The X24 choir, Zamar Gospel Choir, University of York players, York, 22 February

Charles Ives: Orchestral Set No. 2 [2nd conductor]
• University of York Chamber Orchestra, York, 11 February


Philip Venables: ANIMA
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, 21 November

Philip Cashian: Furor
Naomi Pinnock: Always again (WP)
• Kate Halsall, Fumiko Miyachi (solo pianos),
Peiman Khosravi (electronics), The Chimera Ensemble
Miniaturised Concertos, HCMF 2014, 24 November

Ji Sun Yang: KAIROI (WP of new version)
• Lore Lixenberg, Sound of the Engine House Ensemble
Next Wave Concert 2, HCMF 2014, 27 November

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with Castaway Music Theatre
• Music by Emily Crossland
Junction Goole, 16-19 July

Late Music Ensemble: Remembering Steve Martland
Steve Martland: Kick, Reveille, Remembering Lennon
Roger Marsh: Running Jumping and Standing Still (WP)
James Whittle: Rat Race (WP)
Louis Andriessen: Workers Union

• Late Music Concert Series York, 5 July

Leo Birtwhistle: A Red Glow in the Sky (WP)
• for oboe, Northumbrian smallpipes, 2 clarinets/bass clarinets, piano, harpsichord, harp and 2 koto
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, June

Beat Furrer: Aria (UK premiere)
• for soprano and 6 instruments
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, 23 May


Leo Birtwhistle: The Grand Tradition Breaks Down But Slowly (WP)
• for 10 players and electronics
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, December

Emily Crossland: Fairies Sing (WP)
(BBC Performing Arts Fund commission)
Castaway Goole Music Theatre, Choir & Band,
East Riding of Yorkshire Federation of Women’s Institutes Sing for Pleasure choir
WP: Beverley Toll Gavel church, 15 June
2nd performance: Goole Parish church, 29 June

Castaway Goole Choir and Band, WI choir

Castaway Goole Choir and Band, WI choir


Rehearsing Earle Brown's 'Available Forms I'

Rehearsing Earle Brown’s ‘Available Forms I’

Apostolos Charisis: Diodos (WP)
• for 8 players
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, December

Azlee Babar: Shimmer, Flux, Shine, Fly (WP)
• for amplified sinfonietta
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, December

Earle Brown: Available Forms I
Getting Nowhere John Cage Festival-Conference
• University of York, 15 November

Conducting 'Hera's List' at Tete a Tete 2012

Conducting ‘Hera’s List’ at Tete a Tete 2012

Eve Harrison: Hera’s List
(WP & London premiere)

• chamber opera for 6 voices & 6 instruments
• RNCM (ensemble) & University of York students/alumni (singers)
• IABF Manchester, 25 November
Tête à Tête: the Opera Festival, 2-3 August

Samuel Thompson: Fruits of the Spirit (WP)
• for soprano, flute, percussion, piano, celesta and cello
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, June

Nektarios Rodosthenous: 4 3
• for 3 cellists and tape
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, June 2011. Film recorded in 2012.


Benjamin Gait: Twilight Songs: 2 settings for bass-baritone & alto (WP)
• for bass-baritone, alto, and 10 players
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, 9 December 2011

Rehearsing ‘The Darkening Green’

James Whittle: The Darkening Green (WP)
• Collaborative music education project for children’s choirs, children’s ensembles and chamber orchestra, featuring compositions by schoolchildren from 4 local schools
• University of York, 17 February 2011

York Spring Festival of New Music 2010-11
• Premieres of works by university/conservatoire students
• Conference Weekend (May 2010), New Music Exchange (May 2011)

BarberSoc, 2010-12
• Co-director of a mixed voice a cappellachoir
• Arranged, rehearsed, accompanied and conducted concerts of Barbershop, jazz and swing standards, carols and pop songs.

Charles Kwong: With How Sad Steps, O Moon… (UK premiere)
• for flute, oboe, horn, viola, cello and piano
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, December 2010

John Goldie-Scot: C Hear? (WP)
• for sinfonietta
• The Chimera Ensemble, York, June 2010

Cover photo © Cast Theatre Doncaster 2018