John Potter sings with The Dowland Project, Red Byrd and the Gavin Bryars Ensemble. A writer and academic as well as a singer, he has published three books on singing and two more are in the pipeline; he is Reader in Music at the University of York. His most recent recording and performing project is Being Dufay, in which his singing of music by the fifteenth century Guillaume Dufay is reinterpreted by composer Ambrose Field.
John's performing career began in the seventies, when he found himself singing with Ward Swingle's English group known as Swingle II. In rapid succession he co-founded and then left the avant-garde group Electric Phoenix, and briefly joined the New London Consort. He then persuaded the Arts Council to fund the first ever vocal synthesizer, a terrifying machine constructed by Ian Macintosh, but then had second thoughts about being his own sound engineer and started a voice & electronics duo with John Whiting (known as Electronic Vocal theatre).
After an excursion into backing vocals for Manfred Mann, the Who and Mike Oldfield (among others) and deputising in sundry early music groups, John joined the Hilliard Ensemble in 1984 and stayed there for 17 years. The Hilliard experience was often exhilarating and it was an opportunity to work closely with such figures as Arvo Pärt, Manfred Eicher, Jan Garbarek and Peter Erskine. In 1989 he started Red Byrd with the bass Richard Wistreich as a way of exploring other performance possibilities. During this time he completed a PhD at the Open University with Richard Middleton, the fruits of which became his first book Vocal Authority (Cambridge University Press) in 1998. He joined the Music Department at the University of York the same year and was able to accept Manfred Eicher's offer to make records of his own for ECM . This resulted in the Dowland Project, which has now made three albums (one of which was a Sunday Times record of the year) with another still to come. Red Byrd continues to flourish, with ground-breaking recordings of 12th century music for Hyperion. John's current projects include two new ventures: Being Dufay (with electro-acoustic composer Ambrose Field) and the Ciconia Ensemble (with Anna Maria Friman, Susanna Pell and Jacob Heringman), as well as his ongoing work with the Gavin Bryars Ensemble.
At the moment John Potter divides his work into a number of overlapping areas. His teaching at York has included the music of Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis as well as 19th century opera, progressive rock, a history of recording from cylinders to the iPod, and a history of singing teaching. He runs the MA in Vocal Studies, in which students specialise in an enormous range of vocal activities, and has a number of PhD students researching music and plague, medieval drama and contemporary musical theatre (among other exotic topics). John also coaches ensembles both in Europe and in the USA and continues to have a busy concert schedule. He is artistic director of the Tampere International Vocal Festival (Finland).
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