Skip to content

Music/history combination proves winning formula

James Beddoe
James Beddoe
For James Beddoe (22) York proved the perfect place to follow his two passions – music and history. While he will graduate with a degree in History, he has also been a member of numerous York ensembles and music societies.

In September, he will join the Worcester Cathedral Choir as a song man, a paid position which involves taking part in weekly services and the busy Easter and Christmas programmes. He is also one of six York students selected to join Genesis Sixteen, a well-respected national ensemble which has helped launch the careers of many young singers.

James, from Southwell, Nottinghamshire, says: “York’s Departments of History and Music are both excellent, and the pliancy of their courses enable students to have a unique experience. In my case I was able to look at musical history – for example the music of the Anglo-Saxon church - as part of my course. I don’t think I would have been able to follow my interests in quite the same way anywhere else.”

The flexibility in York’s degree structure meant James was also able to take an elective module in Early Renaissance vocal music with the Department of Music in his second year. He also took the opportunity to combine history and music for his dissertation, which was on the symbolism, ceremony and vitality of sacred music in the reign of Mary I. 

“The musical evidence we have from the period complements recent historical studies in this field,” he says. “The Catholic restoration movement, which included the compositional powers of some of England’s finest musicians, was able to cultivate an extraordinary outpouring of devotional works that redefine our understanding of Mary’s short but controversial reign.”

At eight years old, James became a chorister for Southwell Minster and while at York, has deputised with the York Minster choir. He has also been a member of the University Choir and Chamber Choir, Yorkshire Bach Choir, The 24 and the University of York Symphony Orchestra – among many others.

He was a key figure in the University’s Opera Society, with lead roles in Weber’s Der Freischütz and Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. As Treasurer of the Opera Society, he has helped the student society become more financially viable and to stage a performance at York’s Grand Opera House.

Being part of the York progressive ensemble The 24, which is conducted by Robert Hollingworth, the founder and director of professional ensemble I Fagiolini, is one of the highlights of James’ time at York.

He says: “The 24 was a big commitment, but it has offered some fantastic experiences such as trips to China and Germany and performing on BBC Radio 3. The China trip was absolutely spectacular; I had studied modern Chinese history within my History degree, enhancing what was already an amazing cultural experience, but it also gave me an opportunity to work with some great conductors and fantastic singers.”

James graduated with a 2:1 degree in History on 16 July.