James Kallembach’s chamber music and choral works have been performed throughout the United States and Canada, from San Diego to Chicago to New York. He has received honors from ASCAP, ACDA, American Composers’ Forum, Pacific Chorale, ALEA III in Boston, and VocalEssence, whose Welcome Christmas concert featured his carol, That Yönge Child in a nationally syndicated radio broadcast. His Anne Bradstreet Songs for soprano and cello have been widely performed since their premiere in 2011. James has written extensively for the voice, including a catalogue of dozens of individual choral works, several song cycles, and his St. John Passion for strings, soloists, and choir. While permeated by a deeper layer of symbolic meaning and musical structure, his music is immediately accessible to audiences and performers alike, often being described as lyrical, beautiful, and moving; challenging, yet well suited to the voice or instrument.
As conductor, James has performed a vast amount of the canonic literature of all periods, including all of the major oratorios of J.S. Bach. His music is in perpetual dialogue with great music of the past, and often centers on the quest for spiritual meaning, such as his large choral works Ave Maria and The Quest of the Holy Grail. Many of his recent projects also explore the emotional content and meaning found in American history, such as his Songs on Letters of John and Abigail Adams, Anne Bradstreet Songs, choral and solo vocal works based on texts in George Halpert’s 1938 New England folksong archive, and his opera-in-progress based on the trial of the Puritan Anne Hutchinson.
A tireless advocate of new choral works, James has conducted the premiere of works by William Bolcom, Marta Ptaszynska, Sven-David Sandström, Robert Moran, Shulamit Ran, Robert Kyr, and James MacMillan among many others, including emerging composers. His interpretation of new music has been heralded as “rich and polished” (Chicago Classical Review). Highlights in addition to his conducting activities include serving as artistic director for the Sounds of Faith documentary concert aired on Chicago PBS, lecturing at the Oregon Bach Festival and conducting new works at the Oregon Bach Festival Composers’ Symposium, and articles for Opera News and Choral Journal. James serves as director of choral activities and senior lecturer in music at the University of Chicago, where he conducts three choirs and programs and conducts the Quire and Place concert series at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.