was born in Scotland and began playing guitar at the age of ten, later studying with Robert Mackillop at Napier University, Edinburgh. Whilst at Napier he turned his attentions to playing the lute, progressing to the Royal College of Music and study with Jakob Lindberg. Adding theorbo to his expanding instrument collection, James continued his studies at Trinity College of Music with Jacob Heringman and David Miller with additional lessons and advice from Paul O’Dette and Elizabeth Kenny. Having settled on the period instrument path James continued accumulating instruments and exploring the music of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.
Following a Junior Fellowship at Trinity College of Music James began pursuing a varied professional career. As a soloist he has performed mostly in the UK and Scandinavia giving recitals for The Yorke Music Trust, Ullapool Guitar Festival, Classical Guitar Retreat, Exeter Guitar Festival and the Copenhagen Renaissance Music Festival.
He has accompanied leading singers including Dame Emma Kirkby, James Bowman, Michael Chance, Miriam Allan, and Sam Bowden and with ensembles such as I Fagiolini, Ex Cathedra, Fretwork, The Parley of Instruments, The Hanover Band, Sounds Baroque and the Dunedin Consort.
As a continuo player James has worked for major opera companies, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Opera North and Innsbruck Festival Opera and orchestras and chamber groups including The Scottish, Irish and English Chamber Orchestras, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, The Scottish Ensemble, and ventured into other styles with Damon Albarn.
James has performed on numerous recordings – his debut solo recording Thesaurus Harmonicus was released in 2012; a few film soundtracks; several theatrical stages, including Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Barbican, and broadcast for the BBC, France Musique and RTE Lyric, Ireland.
Although mostly concentrating on performing and teaching, James has occasionally indulged in research, exploring the domestic music making of Samuel Pepys and his ‘musical secretary’ Cesare Morelli, the polyphony of Scottish Renaissance composer David Peebles and, most recently, how Scottish melodies were used by European guitarist composers at the beginning of the nineteenth century. James is a lecturer in early plucked strings at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.