James Anderson-Besant

James Anderson-Besant (c) Benjamin Ealovega
Assistant Organist
2020 to 2021
Organ Scholar
2017 to 2020

Born in 1998, James Anderson-Besant grew up in Oxfordshire. He started learning the keyboard at primary school with Judith Ward, who ran the choir at St Helen’s Church, Benson; James joined the choir and later became its organist. He learnt to play the organ with James Brown at Abingdon School, where he held academic and music scholarships.

After taking a gap year as Organ Scholar of Gloucester Cathedral, which included teaching the first girl choristers in the Cathedral’s history, James then spent four years as Organ Scholar, then Assistant Organist, of St John’s College Cambridge. With the College Choir, he accompanied services, broadcasts, recordings and tours under the direction of Andrew Nethsingha, and helped train the choristers. He has broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, and his playing for St John’s appears on many acclaimed CD releases, including Advent Live II, Ash Wednesday, and The Psalms. A student of Stephen Farr, James won second prize at the 2019 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition. He graduated in 2020 with a double starred first degree in music, and during the following year supervised Cambridge music students in harmony and keyboard skills.

From 2021-2023, James was Assistant Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral, where he played the organ for the Cathedral’s services, and assisted Timothy Noon in the training of the choristers and in the choir’s musical rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. He also directed the St Peter’s Singers, the cathedral’s auditioned voluntary choir. 

In 2023, at the age of twenty-four, James was appointed Director of Music and Organist of Truro Cathedral, becoming the youngest cathedral organist in the country. At Truro, James directs the Cathedral Choir in its daily rehearsals and sung services, and manages the Cathedral’s busy music department. He also conducts the Three Spires Singers. In his spare time he enjoys walking, exploring Cornwall, and reading about history and engineering.

Reviewed: 30/08/23


Latest webcast

Recorded on
9 March 2024


A Meditation on the Passion of Christ is a service of music and readings reflecting on the Passion of Christ. This year the service features music by Byrd, Purcell, Weelkes and MacMillan, as well as the final piece of a triptych of works written for the choir by Joanna Marsh.

Latest news

Magnificat 4 includes two commissions written specially for the Choir of St John's College; Jonathan Dove's 2022 canticle setting St John's Service, and Judith Weir's 2011 service of the same name.

Winner of the 2008 Ivor Novello Award for classical music, Jonathan Dove CBE has composed a broad range of works and is one of the most successful British composers today. 

Jonathan was kind enough to share insights into his St John's Service, the compositional process, and what we can look forward to in the future.

The commitment, projection and natural energy of this choir have never failed to inspire me

Organists’ Review