James Whitbourn has conducted choirs and ensembles since he was a teenager. Early in his professional life, he became one of the regular conductors of the BBC's professional choir that broadcasts the Daily Service live to an audience of millions every day. He went on to form his own professional choir The Choir, specializing in music for film and television, with whom he recorded the Gramophone Award-nominated DVD of the music of his British compatriot John Tavener, Choral Ikons. The Choir has since broadcast on numerous programmes for the BBC.
For nine years, he was the Musical Director of the Sevenoaks-based Chantry Choir, for whom he wrote the Son of God Mass and Glory to Thee O Lord. During those years, the choir was known for its adventurous and innovative programming.
He has conducted the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra for many broadcasts and recordings, including several of his own scores for film and television. He has also conducted the orchestra on several recordings for radio and television. Other orchestras he has conducted include the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and numerous session ensembles for media recordings.
Whitbourn has been a guest conductor of many choirs and ensembles, including the BBC Singers, the Westminster Williamson Voices, the Kent Youth Choir, Kent Youth Singers, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Chorus, Rochester Cathedral Choir, Liverpool Cathedral Choir and the Bernadi Chamber Orchestra. He has directed numerous rehearsals and workshops for ensembles while working with them on his own scores, including the Band of the Blues and Royals, for whom he composed the Christmas Suite.
Whitbourn is co-Director of the Westminster Choir College Choral Institute at Oxford whose home is at his present college, St Stephen's House, Oxford.