This page contains my up to date bio. If you need something substantially shorter, please get in touch via the contact page.
“Risdon communicates the solo recorder’s sonority, versatility and virtuosity brilliantly.”
The Recorder Magazine, Autumn 2016.
James has had an almost lifelong fascination with the recorder. His formal studies were with the late Alan Davis and subsequently with Rebecca Miles. He gained his LRSM with distinction in 2011 and in the same year was placed runner-up in the international competition for blind musicians at the Jan Dale Conservatoire in Prague.
His repertoire and work span the Middle Ages to ‘wet on the page’ with several dedications, commissions and compositions to his name. His solo album Echoes of Arcadia is typical of his eclectic tastes, plotting the recorder’s history from the pleasure garden to the mountain valley, ethereal to electronic.
A highlight of 2023 is the recording of the exquisite concerto written for him by Andrew Downes with the Central England Camerata under Anthony Bradbury. The recording is now available on YouTube.
James is a founder member of the British Paraorchestra, directed by Charles Hazlewood with whom he performed at the closing of the 2012 Paralympic Games with Coldplay. More recently, James features in the Paraorchestra’s debut album ‘The Unfolding’ by Hannah Peel. Released on Real World Records, it topped the classical charts in April 2022. Other highlights have included appearances at the Wales Millennium Centre, London’s Barbican and Birmingham’s Town Hall and Symphony Halls in projects with Brett Anderson of Suede, Extraordinary Bodies and the CBSO.
James is also recorder player with RNS Moves, an ensemble of musicians from the Royal Northern Sinfonia and musicians with disabilities. Their work includes arrangements of Bach, Vivaldi, Shostakovich and Bartok as well as contemporary works by Joe Cuttler, Sally Beamish and Kate Whitley among others.
James has a passion for creating recital programmes to introduce the recorder to new audiences. He has performed at King’s Place and St. Martin-in-the-Fields and The Handel House Museum in London, as well as countless festivals, churches and other venues across the UK and beyond. In 2015 he made his debut appearance at the Wigmore Hall with theorbo player Matthew Wadsworth in a concert celebrating the Elizabeth Eagle-Bott memorial fund which supported James’s studies.
He has appeared as soloist with the Czech virtuosi, London Musici alongside Piers Adams and Devon Baroque under violinist Margaret Faultless. More unusual engagements have included the Bath & West showground for a staging of Britten’s Noyes Fludde, a pod on the London Eye and a performance for the Japanese government in Soporo.
James has a particular interest in memorising music. He has devised workshops on the topic for the Woodhouse Recorder Course, Birmingham Conservatoire, The Eton Parry society and the Easter Recorder Course.
Away from the recorder, James spent nearly a decade as the Music Officer at RNIB where he supported blind musicians through education, employment and leisure. In 2017, he joined ABRSM where he is now the Access Lead, responsible for ensuring fair access to ABRSM exams and is an active voice in ABRSM’s broader work on diversity and inclusion.
He represented Great Britain in the 1996 Paralympic Games in the team sport of goalball, and he is a seven times national champion.
James also enjoys cricket, stand-up comedy, reading, coffee and railway travel. He lives in London with his wife and daughters.