James O'Donnell is among the leading British organists of his generation. While some might further define him as a church organist and choir director -- roles he has fulfilled with the utmost commitment -- he has been active on the concert stage both as an organist and conductor. His choice of repertory has been broad, taking in the music of Renaissance-era icons like Palestrina, Josquin Desprez, Victoria, Lassus, and Guerrero, as well as that ofRead more twentieth century masters like Stravinsky, Poulenc, Janácek, and Kodály. As a conductor he has often worked with period-instrument ensembles such as the Hanover Band and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; as a keyboard soloist or continuo player he has frequently appeared with the Gabrieli Consort and the King's Consort. O'Donnell has made more than 30 recordings for the British label Hyperion.
James O'Donnell was born in Scotland in 1961. While in his teens he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. Later he was chosen organ scholar at Cambridge University (Jesus College), where he would go on to win several prizes and honors for organ performance. His teachers there were Nicholas Kynaston, Peter Hurford, and David Sanger.
Shortly after his 1982 graduation O'Donnell began his long relationship with Westminster Cathedral, serving there initially as assistant master of music. His first recordings as organist (with the choir) soon appeared, as Hyperion issued Victoria's Missa Vidi Speciosam (1984) and a disc of works by Guerrero and other Spanish composers entitled Treasures of the Spanish Renaissance (1985).
In 1988 O'Donnell assumed the post of master of music at Westminster Cathedral, thus taking control of the renowned choir. He frequently led them in concerts and concert broadcasts over both television and radio. He also made numerous acclaimed recordings with the Choir, including discs of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms (1990) and Duruflè's Requiem (1994).
In 1997 O'Donnell accepted the appointment as professor of organ at the Royal Academy of Music and in 2000 accepted a post at Westminster Abbey as director of daily choral services and of music at state occasions. The post also included leadership of the Abbey Choir in its concerts and recordings. With this group he has toured France, Germany, Japan, and the United States.
Among O'Donnell's most recent recordings with the Westminster Abbey Choir is the 2006 Hyperion release of Elgar works entitled Great Is the Lord. Read less