BOSTON — The Boston Symphony Orchestra has reached across the Atlantic to find a successor to Tanglewood Festival Chorus founder John Oliver.
London-born James Burton has been named BSO Choral Director, a newly established title, and conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, succeeding Conductor Laureate Oliver, who retired in 2015 after having served as its first and only director for 45 years.
According to a news release from the BSO, Burton's contract runs through the 2021-22 season.
He and his family are expected to be moving from their home in Oxford, England to the Boston area in the near future.
While he doesn't begin his full time schedule with the BSO and the TFC until the start of the 2017 Tanglewood season, Burton's appointment begins immediately with Symphony Hall performances Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Tuesday evening at 8 of Bach's Mass in B Minor, conducted by BSO music director Andris Nelsons, for which Burton prepared the singers.
His primary duties will include:
- auditioning, selecting, and preparing the chorus for performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops at Symphony Hall, on tour, and at Tanglewood;
- serving as an understudy for Nelsons and guest conductors, filling in when needed to lead the orchestra and chorus in performances featuring major choral works;
- consulting with and advising Nelsons and other BSO staff during the program planning process and around the performance activities of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus;
- conducting the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in concerts featuring the ensemble in its own choral programs in Boston and at Tanglewood.
As BSO Choral Director, Burton will, the news release says, "consider and suggest new opportunities that would benefit the overall institution by encouraging a broader engagement with choral singing."
"We are excited to have found such an inspiring and unique person to lead the BSO's special chorus," Nelsons says in the news release. "James has an extraordinary ear for vocal balance and blend. He has greatly impressed us all with his ability to inspire the chorus and communicate his ideas so effectively regarding both technique and music interpretation."
"I am delighted to have been appointed to this prestigious post, and am greatly looking forward to leading the incredibly dedicated members of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, working closely with Andris Nelsons, and to becoming a member of the BSO family of musicians," Burton says in the news release. "To be given the role of bringing great choral music to Boston Symphony audiences at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood is a wonderful privilege, and I am very much looking forward to starting work."
Burton is no stranger to either the chorus or Tanglewood. In the 2016 season, he led the TFC's annual Friday Prelude Concert in Ozawa Hall and was guest chorus conductor for the BSO's season-ending performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, under the direction of Nelsons. Burton also prepared the chorus last summer for the Nelsons-led performance of Acts I and II from Verdi's "Aida."
Burton began his training at the Choir of Westminster Abbey. Since 2002 he has been music director of the chamber choir Schola Cantorum of Oxford. From 2002-09 he served as choral director at the Hall Orchestra in Manchester, England, where he was music director of the Hall Choir and founding conductor of the Hall Youth Choir, winning the Gramophone Choral Award in 2009.
He has conducted orchestra concerts with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Hall , the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, Royal Northern Sinfonia, BBC Concert Orchestra, and Manchester Camerata. In early 2016 he made his conducting debut with the Orquestra Sinf nica Nacional of Mexico.
He has extensive opera conducting credits and has served on the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera, Op ra de Paris, and English National Opera, among others. He also has conducted in London's West End and led a UK tour of Leonard Bernstein's "Wonderful Town" in 2012.