Choir of Saint James
James Buonemani, Conductor
October 8, 2023 | 4:15 PM
The Choir of Saint James is made up of amateur and professional adult musicians from the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Under the direction of Organist and Choirmaster James Buonemani since 1995, it is the first American choir to have sung in performance with the Choir of Westminster Abbey. The Choir of Saint James has been honored to serve three times as Westminster Abbey’s choir-in-residence during the months of August, 1999, 2006 and 2010. Inviting the Choir to return in the future, the Abbey Precentor, Deiniol Morgan, wrote “the quality of singing was exceptionally high and our worship was much enriched by your contribution.”
As the core musical organization of Saint James Church, the Choir has played host to many of the world’s finest choirs during their international tours, including The Sixteen, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, the American Boychoir, the Gloriae Dei Cantores, the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, the Choir of the Royal Holloway and the Choir of Westminster Abbey. The Choir of Saint James performed the music for the official Los Angeles Memorial to Princess Diana in 1997. In July, 2004 the Choir was featured at the National Convention of the American Guild of Organists.
The Choir has completed four tours of the United Kingdom with performances in England at Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, Wells Cathedral, St. George’s Chapel Windsor, and in Ireland at Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral Cork, The Collegiate Church of Saint Nicholas Galway, Christ Church Cathedral Dublin and the Church of The Assumption, Tullamore.
The Choir has recorded numerous in-house CD recordings and one commercially available recording on the GOTHIC label entitled “O Beauty Ever Ancient Ever New.” The album’s title track is a premiere recording of a substantial work for chorus and orchestra written by Buonemani for the 100th anniversary of St. James Church. The CD has received critical praise by the American Record Guide, and the AAM Journal. Many of the Choir’s performances are available online at https://www.youtube.com/@GreatMusicLA
In addition to weekly services and monthly evensongs, the Choir of Saint James has presented concerts featuring many of the great choral masterpieces with full orchestra. Under James Buonemani’s direction since 1995, significant works have included the Requiems of Maurice Duruflé, Gabriel Fauré, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi, Mass in G Minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams, the Lord Nelson Mass by Haydn, the Funeral Ikos and Song for Athene by John Tavener, the 40-part motet “Spem in Alium” by Thomas Tallis, the Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein, Missa Miamiensis by Buonemani, Lux Aeterna of Los Angeles composer Morten Lauridsen and Benjamin Britten’s Cantata Misericordium with acclaimed guest conductor James Conlon.
James Buonemani began his musical career at age thirteen when he was appointed Assistant Organist to William Ferris, then Director of Music, at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Rochester, NY. An early interest in composition won him first prize at age 15 in Baylor University’s Young Composer Competition. Since then he has composed music primarily for the church. His setting of the “Preces and Responses”, published by Paraclete Music, has been performed throughout the US and in England and has become a staple of the Evensong repertoire. His “Vis Aeternitatis”, published by MusicaBellaLuna, has been released on the Raven Label, performed by the Choir of the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, DC, directed by Jeremy Filsell and broadcast nationwide on NPR. A review of this work appearing in the Sept/Oct 2015 issue of the “American Record Guide” remarked on “Buonemani’s beautifully evocative setting…a welcome discovery.” His “Missa Miamiensis” for choir, organ, piano, soprano saxophone and field drum was premiered at a Sesquicentennial Eucharist in 1994 at the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, DC, with Presiding Bishop Edmond Lee Browning, officiating, and has subsequently been performed multiple times in Chicago, New York City, Miami and Los Angeles. The Fantasy on Ave Regina Caelorum is his most recent composition written for the 25th Anniversary of the Murray M. Harris organ in St. James Church. Dedicated to organist Todd Wilson, the work has been recently released on a double CD album on the Gothic label by Mr. Wilson performing on St. James’ organ. Wilson premiered the work at the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, in the summer of 2021. Reviewed in the May 2021 issue of The American Organist, James Hildreth writes “It is a piece that deserves to find its way into the established repertoire.”
Mr. Buonemani graduated with highest distinction from both the Eastman School of Music and the Westminster Choir College and has also studied in England at the Royal School of Church Music. He was awarded the Performer’s Certificate from Eastman in 1978 as an organ student of David Craighead. He was elected to Pi Kappa Lambda, the American collegiate honor society for musicians, in 1977.
He has performed as solo organist and/or conductor in such notable venues as the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City, and Church of St. Paul the Apostle at Lincoln Center, Grace Cathedral (San Francisco), Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church (Chicago), Walt Disney Concert Hall and First Congregational Church (Los Angeles) and in many of the great Cathedrals and Chapels of the British Isles including Canterbury Cathedral, Wells Cathedral, St. George’s Chapel Windsor, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, and in Ireland at Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral, Galway’s St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, Cork’s St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral and Tullamore’s Church of the Assumption. He has also performed in Mexico City’s Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe and on Mexican National Television.
Mr. Buonemani collaborated with Los Angeles composer Morten Lauridsen in setting the organ version of Lux Aeterna and performed the world premiere with the Los Angeles Master Chorale in April, 1997 and jointly inaugurated the Walt Disney Concert Hall Organ with a performance of the work in 2004. He can also be heard in the premiere recording of this version of the work, among other works, in a 1998 CD release with the Donald Brinegar Singers.
Buonemani has appeared before regional and national conventions of the AGO, the American Choral Directors Association, the Association of Anglican Musicians, and the Organ Historical Society. He has guest conducted on several occasions the William Ferris Chorale of Chicago and the Chicago Choral Artists. His choir’s 2018 CD album on the Gothic label “O Beauty Ever Ancient Ever New” received critical praise with the Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians stating “this recording has been a musical highlight of my year . . . nothing short of genius in its conception and execution.” Jack Sullivan writes in the American Record Guide “This is a wonderful choral collection, full of variety and adventure, mostly radiant and serene but with moments of melancholy and subtle disturbance.”
Since 1995, James Buonemani has been Organist & Director of Music for St. James Church, Los Angeles, CA. Now in its third decade of concerts, the “International Laureates Organ Series” was founded by Buonemani with underwriting from the Ahmanson Foundation to provide the greater Los Angeles community the opportunity to hear world-class artists on the church’s historic pipe organ in free recitals annually. In addition to the organ recital series, Buonemani has secured the continuation of Los Angeles’ oldest continuous running chamber music series “Sundays Live,” now entitled “Classical Sundays at Six,” presenting solo, chamber and orchestral musicians from throughout the US and abroad.
Prior to his position at St. James Church, Buonemani was Organist & Director of Music for the Church of the Epiphany in Washington, DC, where he developed the church’s weekly Tuesday Afternoon Concert Series and launched the Epiphany Artists Series featuring full-length programs of drama, music and dance. In 1992, he founded and conducted “Musicians Against AIDS,” a fund-raising event which featured musicians from the National Symphony and musical luminaries baritone John Shirley-Quirk and the American Boychoir.
In June of 2015, Mr. Buonemani conducted a choir of over 200 voices in Walt Disney Concert Hall marking the 150th anniversary of Episcopal Ministry in Southern California, at which time the Rt. Rev. Jon J. Bruno, then Bishop Diocesan of Los Angeles, conferred on him the title Honorary Canon of the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, acknowledging his extraordinary contributions to the musical life of the Episcopal Church.