James McVinnie pursues a diverse career as an organist and keyboardist. He was Assistant Organist of Westminster Abbey between 2008 and 2011 where he played for regular services and directed the Abbey's world-famous choir. He also played at many state occasions and special services of national importance which were broadcast live on television, including the state visit of HH Pope Benedict XVI, the Passing of the World War I Generation, the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the recent Royal Wedding. He previously held Organ Scholarships at St Albans Cathedral, and at Clare College, Cambridge, where he studied music. Upon graduating in 2006 he became Organ Scholar and subsequently Sub-Organist of St Paul's Cathedral. His teachers were Sarah Baldock, Thomas Trotter and Hans Fagius.
McVinnie is a prolific recording artist, appearing on numerous discs with The King's Consort, The Cardinall's Musick, The Choir of Clare College Cambridge, The National Youth Choir of Great Britain and the St Albans Abbey Girls Choir. In October 2006 he recorded his first solo disc of S. S. Wesley's organ music on the 1873 Fr Willis organ of St Michael's, Tenbury.
Recent solo engagements have taken him to Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Denmark, and notably to the US festival MusicNOW, curated by Bryce Dessner of the indie-rock band The National. In summer 2009 McVinnie made his solo debut in the Salzburg Festival with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra conducted by Ivor Bolton, performing Handel's Op 7 no 5 organ concerto during an acclaimed production of Handel's Theodora, staged by Christof Loy. As a continuo player with leading ensembles and musicians he has appeared at virtually every major European early music festival.
McVinnie is becoming increasingly well known for his collaborations with musicians in new music in the UK, Iceland and New York City with composer Nico Muhly, violist Nadia Sirota, recording specialist and composer Valgeir Sigurðsson, singer-songwriters Sufjan Stevens, Sam Amidon and Beth Orton. In March 2014 he will give one of the opening recitals on the restored organ of the Royal Festival Hall, performing a programme of works by J. S. Bach and a newly commissioned work by Martin Creed, artist and composer. New music plays a central part of his repertoire; Nico Muhly, Graham Ross, Robert Walker, Richard Reed Parry (of Arcade Fire), Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond), and David Lang (winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in music) have written works for him.
McVinnie's Bedroom Community debut – Cycles – comprises pieces written by Nico Muhly and also features Nadia Sirota, Chris Thompson and Simon Wall.
"Taking the composer’s schitzophrenic and haunting amalgamation of layered notes and texture, McVinnie breathes life into Cycles with dark intensity. The turbulence of Muhly’s compositions feels slightly more delicate and sparkling pouring out of the pipe organ, building and growing to a powerful and stimulating abrupt end. And as is usually the case with Muhly’s music, leaves you craving the next note."
Hillary Weston — BlackBook Magazine (July 2nd 2013)