James Bowman (4 December)
After an early background in Anglican church music, the countertenor James Bowman was educated at King’s School in Ely, singing as a chorister in Ely Cathedral before going on to be part of the choirs of Oxford’s New College and Christchurch. While Bowman was still a student, Benjamin Britten invited him to sing at the opening of London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1967; he went on to sing the part of Oberon in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This was the beginning of a career-long association with the part, and he recorded it in 1992 with the conductor Richard Hickox. He was the first countertenor to sing at Glyndebourne (in Cavalli’s La Calisto), and he sang in Handel’s Semele at English National Opera and in Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s Taverner at Covent Garden. Britten created the role of the Voice of Apollo in Death in Venice with James Bowman in mind. Among other composers who have written for his unique voice are Alan Ridout, Geoffrey Burgon, Richard Rodney Bennett and Michael Nyman. After retirement from opera, he continued a career on the concert stage until retiring from the London recital platform in 2011.
As well as being a longstanding member in the 1960s of the early music choral group, Pro Cantione Antiqua, he was a key figure of David Munrow’s ground-breaking ensemble, the Early Music Consort of London for ten years until 1976, the year of Munrow’s death and the group’s disbandment. Subsequently, James Bowman began working with former EMCL musicians: the harpsichordist and conductor Christopher Hogwood and the lutenist Robert Spencer. In his spare time he continues his fascination with model railways.