James Boyd, a guitarist recognised for his lyrical and intensely moving performances, is an alumnus of the Royal Academy of Music in London. His playing style is strongly influenced by the vocal training he received from counter tenor Charles Brett and his performing experience with singers. In recent years he has worked in partnership with leading composers, theatre groups, poets and some of England’s finest performers. An experienced speaker and raconteur, poetry and literature are often woven into his instrumental performances. He is a passionate advocate of new music for the guitar and much of his time is dedicated to inspiring a new repertoire for the instrument.
In 2006 he released his first album Shapes of Sleep. Recorded at Snape Maltings it received international critical acclaim. Largely inspired by the landscape of East Anglia and particularly, the salt marshes of the Norfolk and Suffolk coast, it features music separated by 450 years, from fantasias by John Dowland to Michael Tippet’s sonata ‘The Blue Guitar’ and the epic ‘Nocturnal by Benjamin Britten.
In 2007 another passion began to play a large part in his life when he embarked on the restoration of Concord, a classic yacht from the 1930’s. Working during the day in a remote location on the Fowey River in Cornwall and working on new repertoire at night in an old sail loft above Concord’s sleeping hull, the maritime and the musical connected in his imagination. Sea Change was born, a unique idea that, after long years of development is now coming to fruition.
2009 saw the relaunch of Concord and the creation of Stolen Years, a one man show that brings to life Concord's extraordinary history. Boyd began playing concerts in beautiful waterside locations, often with the boat moored nearby, telling Concord's story through a mixture of poetry, prose and music. He noticed that when modern and contemporary repertoire was united with the art of storytelling it was possible to communicate this, for some ears, challenging sound world to a wide and varied audience.
In 2010 he developed Stolen Years in a new direction with the traditional singer and songwriter Lester Simpson. They gave their first performance together at the Thames Festival. Continuing his work with classical singers, in June of that year he gave a concert with tenor Robin Tritschler at the Aldeburgh Festival for the Peter Pears centenary and concerts with Michael Chance countertenor.
2011 was largely devoted to promoting and raising funds to launch Sea Change. He was awarded a National Lottery and Arts Council grant to further his idea. Fundraising concerts featured heavily in his schedule, including solo recitals at the Thames Festival, many private events and the creation of theatre productions.
2012 is a particularly exciting year, starting with the commission of three new works for guitar and voice. The world premieres will be given in the first half of the year. In March, Boyd will lead an Aldeburgh Residency, concluding with a concert at Snape. This is closely followed by a fundraising concert for Sea Change in London with countertenor Michael Chance.
April and May will be given over to learning new music from Jonathan Dove and Elspeth Brooke, preparing recital programmes for later in the year and making Concord ready for her summer voyage.
In June, Sea Change is to launch from the Aldeburgh Festival with a concert on the 9th and, after the concert, Boyd will sail Concord from the Alde to Scotland.
In August Boyd will be playing at the Delft festival in Holland alongside Robin Tritschler and as a soloist. In September he will give talks at the Royal Academy of Music on his work as an advocate of new music for the guitar.
The latter half of the year will be spent pursuing funding for more commissions and performance opportunities for Sea Change.
In 2013, during the late spring and early summer, Boyd is scheduled to visit the Orkney Islands, concluding his stay with performances at the St Magnus Festival. From there he will sail down the East Coast with his cargo of new music, returning to Aldeburgh for the Britten Centenary.