James Garner

Composer • Educator • Musical Director

James Garner is a composer whose music has been described as “utterly accomplished in all respects” (Judith Weir DBE, Master of the King’s Music) and praised for its “warmth, sincerity and tension” (Bachtrack). His works have been performed in the UK and internationally.

James has a deep affinity for vocal and theatrical music, having written seven stage works to date. He has been commissioned by English Touring Opera, for whom he wrote his second opera, Dust Child. In 2017, his first opera, East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon, received its North American premiere in Montréal. His next major work, Much Ado, is based on Shakespeare’s original play and was previewed for the Association for Opera in Canada. Written for a large cast of soloists, chorus and orchestra, this first full-length opera is commissioned by Opera McGill, who will give its world premiere in the 2025/26 season at Montréal’s historic Monument-National.

James’s music has been performed at festivals and series, including the Kings Place Festival, Richmond Concert Series, and Borough New Music. Much of his recent output has consisted of solo and chamber works. In 2023, he was commissioned to write Calder for an ensemble drawn from the Orchestra of Opera North, as part of their Learning and Engagement programme. He recently completed a new chamber piece, Banefyre, for close collaborator and guitarist George Tarlton, as well as a violin-cello duo for Jonathan Ayling and Rose Hinton. Future collaborations include new works for the soprano Elisabeth Boudreault and pianist Joseph Havlat.

James is in regular demand as a facilitator and has mentored students as part of opera-making and outreach projects with the Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and Oxford University. He has also worked as a conductor and music assistant for the Barbican Centre, Royal Opera House, Royal Festival Hall and BBC Four.

2024 will see premieres of (just) the ideas that you caught (CHROMA ensemble) and Scotch Mist (Riot Ensemble) as part of masters projects at the Royal Academy of Music, as well as performances of Sigh No More in Canada and the US.

James studied at the Guildhall School, winning the Mary Ryan/Muriel Dawson Award for Composition. He is now completing a masters with David Sawer at the Royal Academy of Music, sponsored by the Munster Trust and Maria Björnson Memorial Fund. Previously, James was co-founder and music director of workshOPERA, who were nominated for a 2016 New British Music Theatre Award. In 2020, he collaborated with David Parry on The Opera Story’s digital series Episodes, which was recognised with an RPS Inspiration Award.

James Garner performing at the piano

© Natalia Malysheva