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John Potter
Reader Emeritus



John Potter joined the Music Department in 1998, and continues to combine his career as a singer with his teaching and research work. Although educated in the English choral tradition (chorister at King's College Cambridge, Music Scholar at King's School Canterbury and Choral Exhibitioner at Gonville & Caius Cambridge), he has always been fascinated by vocal activity of all sorts. His teachers included Lieder singer Walter Gruner, the accompanist Paul Hamburger, and the tenor Peter Pears. His early career included spells with the BBC Singers and Swingle II, and he was a founder member of the avant-garde ensemble Electric Phoenix. He was a member of the Hilliard Ensemble from 1984 to 2001 and has enjoyed a long association with ECM Records' Manfred Eicher. John also coaches ensembles on the European mainland and in the USA, and chairs the jury for the contest for ensembles at the Tampere International Choir Festival (Finland).

In 1989 he founded Red Byrd, together Richard Wistreich; their Hyperion CD of music by Leonin won a Diapason d'Or d'Année in 1998 and a second CD of music by Leonin (also featuring the York student ensemble Yorvox) released in November 2001 also won a Diapason d'Or and had excellent reviews (see the Yorvox link below). A third CD 'A Scottish Lady Mass' (also featuring York students) was released in April 2005. Red Byrd's recordings also include Roger Marsh's Pierrot Lunaire, Monteverdi's Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and the cult classic Songs of Love & Death featuring Monteverdi performed on electric instruments and specially-commissioned pieces by the former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. John is also the prime mover behind The Dowland Project, an improvising group of jazz and early music performers who have made three highly-acclaimed CDs for ECM. John's most recent ECM release is Being Dufay, a collaborative project with composer Ambrose Field. His complete discography numbers some 150 titles, including 5 gold discs.

John also sings with the Gavin Bryars Ensemble and the Anglo-German group The Sound and the Fury. The latter ensemble is supported by Austrian Radio (ORF) and the artists Muntean and Rosenblum, and is involved in a major recording project that will produce several CDs a year of Franco-Flemish polyphony. In addition to recording John has a very active career as a performer and vocal coach, both activities taking him all over the world. His extensive bibliography includes two books for Cambridge University Press and Tenor: History of a Voice for Yale University Press (2009). For more information about John Potter's concerts, recordings and publications see



  • Singing


Selected publications

  • Tenor: History of a Voice (Yale University Press, 2009)
  • 'Early Music Discoveries and Experiments' Horizons Touched: the Music of ECM ed. Steve Lake & Paul Griffiths (Granta Books, 2007)
  • 'Beggar at the Door: the Rise and Fall of Portamento' Music & Letters 87/4 (2006)
  • The Cambridge Companion to Singing (ed) (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
  • Vocal Authority: Singing Style and Ideology (Cambridge University Press, 1998)
  • Vocal Authority: Singing Style and Ideology, Cambridge University Press (1998 rpr. 2006)

Full publications list

  • Beggar at the Door: the rise and fall of portamento in singing Music & Letters (87/4, 2006)
  • Magister Leoninus: the first great polyphonist Goldberg (October, 2005)
  • Review of Mimi S. Daitz's Ancient Song Recovered: The Life and Music of Veljo Tormis in Classical Music, March 2005
  • Harmonious Meeting: Arvo Pärt and the Hilliard Ensemble Booklet on the occasion of the composer's award of an Honorary Doctorate, University of Durham, Oct 2003.
  • Review of vocal treatises by Garcia, Vaccaj & Hiller Music & Letters, May 2003
  • Past perfect and future fictions Basel Jahrbuch für historische Musikpraxis XXVI (2002)
  • Baroque Singing, in Burton, A (ed) Baroque Music: ABRSM Handbook, London, ABRSM (2002)
  • Review of James Stark's Bel Canto: a history of vocal pedagogy in Music & Letters 82/3, August 2001(ed)
  • The Cambridge Companion to Singing, Cambridge University Press (2000), (includes an Introduction and chapters on Ensemble Singing and Jazz Singing)
  • Review of Emmons & Thomas' Power Performance for Singers in Music & Letters 81/2, May 2000
  • Qawwali singing in Songlines (Gramophone Publications), summer 1999
  • Reconstructing Lost Voices in Knighton & Fallows, Companion to Medieval & Renaissance Music (Dent 1992, rpr OUP 1998)
  • The Singer, not the Song: Women Singers as Composer-poets Popular Music 12/2, Cambridge (1994)
  • Louis Armstrong: Swing and Subtext AOUG Journal, 1995/6
  • Speaking in Tongues Dance Theatre Journal 13/1, 1996
  • The Singer, not the Song: Women Singers as Composer-poets Popular Music 12/2, Cambridge (1994)


  • Being Dufay ECM New Series 2071 476 6948 (2009)
  • Romaria, The Dowland Project, ECM New Series 1970 476 5780 (2008)
  • Officium, The Hilliard Ensemble & Jan Garbarek (saxophone), ECM 1525 445369-2 (1994)
Dr John Potter

Contact details

Dr John Potter
Department of Music
University of York
YO10 5DD