The English tenor, John Potter, was educated in the English choral tradition (chorister at King's College Cambridge, Music Scholar at King's School Canterbury and Choral Exhibitioner at Gonville & Caius Cambridge) he has always been fascinated by vocal activity of all sorts. His teachers included Lieder singer Walter Gruner, the accompanist Paul Hamburger, and the tenor Peter Pears.
John Potter’s early career included spells with the BBC Singers and Swingle II, and he was a founder member of the avant-garde ensemble Electric Phoenix. He was a member of the Hilliard Ensemble from 1984 to 2001 and has enjoyed a long association with ECM Records' Manfred Eicher. He also coaches ensembles on the European mainland, and chairs the jury for the contest for ensembles at the Tampere International Choir Festival (Finland).
In 1989 John Potter founded Red Byrd, together with his bass colleague Richard Wistreich. Their Hyperion CD of music by Leonin won a Diapason d’Or d’Année in 1998 and a second CD of music by Leonin (also featuring the York student ensemble Yorvox) released in November 2001 has also won a Diapason d'Or and had excellent reviews. Red Byrd's recordings also include Monteverdi's Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and the cult classic Songs of Love & Death featuring Monteverdi performed on electric instruments and specially-commissioned pieces by the former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. Current commissions include works from Nigel Osborne, Ivan Moody and John Surman, and works by post-graduate student composers at York. Red Byrd will be a featured group at this year's Summer School for Ensemble Singers (see link below), when Anna Friman, John Potter and Richard Wistreich will perform new works by Gavin Bryars together with Italian renaissance madrigals.
John Potter is involved with two vocal ensembles in the Music Department: Yorvox, a small vocal chamber group and York Vocal Index, a larger, 16 voice 'soloists choir' which which he co-directs with Bill Brooks. He also coaches an MA vocal ensemble and vocal groups on the Ensemble Performance Project.
John Potter's complete discography runs to some 140 titles. His recent releases have included a re-interpretation of songs by John Dowland with jazz musicians John Surman and Barry Guy on ECM. This was a Sunday Times record of the year and was No 5 in the New York Times list of the best records of 2000. It was also one of the 5 ECM CDs cited in Manfred Eicher's 2001 Grammy nomination. He made further recordings with the same band in the summer of 2001 and the first of two two new albums with this ensemble (now known as The Dowland Project) is expected in September. The CD, entitled 'Care-charming sleep', will include Monteverdi's 'Lamento della ninfa' and other English and Italian 17th century works.
Also released in 2001 was the first album produced by John Potter, the trio mediaeval's recording of the 14th century 'Messe de Tournai' and Ivan Moody's 'Words of the Angel', which is also the title of the CD (ECM New Series). This has been a spectacular success worldwide, reaching No 1 in the Amazon chart. He has just produced the second album by the Trio, which will appear in January 2004. He has four current releases of his own: Monteverdi's Vespers directed by Stephen Stubbs, the Yorvox CD of 4 voice canons by Larry Polanski, the Grammy nominated Cancionero with the Dufay Collective and his one remaining CD with the Hilliard Ensemble (Gavin Bryars' Lockerbie Memorial Concert).
In addition to recording John Potter has a very active career as a performer, especially of contemporary music. Engagements this year haven icluded a residency at Pomona College in California, premieres of new works by Gavin Bryars in the Valencia Biennale, and premieres by Bill Brooks, Neil Sorrell and Roger Marsh in Chicago and Urbana, as well as live and broadcast events closer to home in the UK with The Dowland Project. Next year he will give the USA premiere of Joanne Metcalf's Doom Begotten Music, and will present a further volume of the York Songbook with Nicky Losseff (prepared piano) in the Spring Festival.
John Potter joined the Music Department at the University of York in 1998, and continues to combine his career as a singer with his teaching and research work.