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Switzerland-based Australian musician James Morley works largely as a soloist and chamber musician, and frequently extends into experimental improvisation, electronics, orchestral work, and post-instrumental performance. He is from Adelaide/Tandanya where he studied cello with Hilary Kleinig, Janis Laurs, and Rachel Johnston. After completing his Bachelor of Music (Performance) at the Sydney Conservatorium on scholarship with Julian Smiles in 2018, he studied under the tutelage of Howard Penny at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) in Melbourne. Now completing a Masters of Contemporary Music Performance at the Musik-Akademie Basel, he is mentored in contemporary music by Marcus Weiss, Yaron Deutsch, Sarah Maria Sun, and Mike Svoboda, and in cello by Thomas Demenga.
2024 will see James perform solo at Phoenix Central Park, and with APEX4 at Sydney Festival. Highlights of 2023 include a solo recital at Sydney Opera House Utzon Room with guests Erin Helyard and Jane Sheldon, and touring nationally with Jean-Guihen Queyras and Satsuki Odamura for Musica Viva; both events received critical acclaim. In 2022 James gave his UKARIA solo recital debut at Adelaide Festival to critical acclaim, alongside a series of solo recitals at Tempo Rubato. In 2020 James was a finalist of the prestigious Freedman Fellowship, and hopes to use the experience to inform the creation of future multi-disciplinary collaborative works.
James is a specialist in contemporary music performance, and has had the pleasure of closely collaborating with many composers and performers. He has premiered solo works by Liza Lim, Josephine Macken, Johannes MacDonald, ensemble works by Bernhard Lang, Stefan Prins, Elnaz Seyedi, Lucia Kilger, Clemens Thomas, Bree van Reyk, Michael Wertmüller, and orchestral works by Thomas Adès. He has performed at Frau Musica Nova Köln, Spreehalle Berlin, Tzlil Meudcan Tel Aviv, Festival Musica Strasbourg, and has collaborated with the likes of Simon Steen-Andersen, Sylvain Cambreling, Stefan Prins and Håkon Stene. Endlessly fascinated in experimental improvisation, James collaborates with fellow Melbourne cellist Ceridwen McCooey, and with bassist/vocalist Helen Svoboda. James is grateful to be recently mentored in contemporary cello, composition/improvisation, and project management by Séverine Ballon, Lucas Fels, Pierre Morlet, Genevieve Lacey, and Jasmine Wing Yin Leung.
Chamber music is a core focus in James’ work. In Europe he performs with a diverse array of new music ensembles, including ensemble S C O P E, Ensemble of Nomads, Ministry of Bad Decisions, Ensemble Aventure, and zone expérimentale. In 2019 James co founded Rathdowne Quartet who were engaged by Melbourne Recital Centre, Utzon Room SOH, Bendigo Chamber Music Festival, Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, Tempo Rubato, Peninsula Summer Music Festival, and fortyfivedownstairs. Regular projects in Melbourne include collaborations with Wilma & Friends, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, members of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and both Penny and Partridge Quartets.
James co founded Butcherbird Quartet in Sydney where they presented several unique performances, including engagements with Opus Now, and travelled internationally to participate in schools and festivals in Salzburg, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, and in Paris at the 2022 International String Quartet Academy. James was a founding member of Continuo Continuum, an Adelaide-based early music ensemble comprised of only continuo instruments specialising in discovering, adapting and performing early music works by composers from a wide range of cultures.
In 2019 James won the Audience Choice award in the ANAM Concerto Competition final, for which he performed Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and continued to win several prizes including 2020 Most Outstanding Recital Prize, and the 2021 best performance of a work by an Australian composer, premiering Liza Lim’s ‘Cello Playing ~ as Meteorology. James has also previously performed concertos with Adelaide Youth Orchestra, Sydney Youth Orchestra Wind Orchestra, and was a featured soloist in the 2018/19 seasons of Ensemble Apex. He has won multiple competitions and prizes across Australia and New Zealand. Other solo engagements include the Adelaide International Cello Festival, recitals for the National Youth Concerto Competition, Play On, and St Silas series.
James has extensive orchestral experience; he has toured with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, has played casually with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and West Australian Symphony Orchestra, as principal cello of Ensemble Apex, and as principal cello under Thomas Adès of Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra. James was the Emerging Artist for cello with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in 2019, and in 2022-23 was Akademist for cello with Kammerorchester Basel (mentored by Christoph Dangel), touring extensively with both orchestras. James has toured internationally and as principal cello with Australian Youth Orchestra and its Momentum Ensemble.
James plays the 'Ex-Robert Barrett' cello made in 2004 by Rainer Beilharz, kindly on loan from Professor Mitra Guha, in memory of her late husband.