James MacDonald – Organist and Director of Music
James MacDonald began playing the organ at the age of ten at Saint Mary’s Church, Masham, where he was also head chorister. During his secondary education at Saint Aidan’s CE High School, Harrogate he continued to learn piano, percussion and clarinet, in addition to singing in the Chamber Choir. James read Music at the University of Huddersfield where he majored in performance, studying piano with Sally Ann Bottomley, organ with Keith Jarvis and conducting with John Longstaff.
After graduation James worked in the catering and hospitality trade and ended up as General Manager of the Langham Hotel which overlooked Harrogate’s Valley Gardens. During this time he joined the choir of Saint Wilfrid’s church, Harrogate where he was also a member of the bell-ringing team.
In 1996 James joined the residential staff of Ashville College, Harrogate where he taught music and was a boarding tutor. It was at this time he became Chorus master of Harrogate Gilbert and Sullivan Society and Musical Director of Knaresborough Choral Society. He continued his education as a postgraduate of the University of Leeds and moved to Crofton High School (now Crofton Academy) in 1998. In the same year he became choirmaster of Saint Wilfrid’s, Harrogate, where he directed music in the parish for over fifteen years. In 1999 he was appointed Head of Music at Crofton.
Following a period as Education and Training Officer for the Royal School of Church Music, he was appointed Chairman of the Area Committee in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds. Following sixteen years running the music department at Crofton Academy, where he still teaches Music and French, James is currently Head of Year 8; he is also a senior examiner for GCSE Music. James is the musical director of Castleford Choral Society. He lives in Castleford with his wife, Karen, and their two young children: Amelia, aged four; Ewan aged six. He is delighted to be working at Saint Giles’ and is hugely grateful for the welcome he and the family have received from all at church.