60 seconds with ... James Sherlock

James is a Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, a Samling Artist and Director of Music at Hampstead Parish Church. He will make two appearances at HAF 2016, conducting both the English Chamber Orchestra and, in Bach's Christmas Oratorio, the Parish Church Choir and Ensemble Passio.

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
My parents are both very musical, and my mother is a professional flautist. My father seems to have music in his head all the time, and played me Beethoven symphonies as a child, as well as loud organ music in order to train me to sleep through anything (in which he succeeded, as well as turning me into an organist). I improvised on the piano at home from an early age.

Which do you prefer, performing as a classical pianist or conducting an orchestra?
Different challenges. I have always played and of course one has total physical contact with the sound, whereas conducting has come much later and requires a more objective, indirect way of 'playing', cultivating the strengths of ensembles and the musicians. I wouldn't want to live without either, although over the past year I've had an injury that has temporarily stopped me from playing, and conducting has been both a joy and a lifeline.

As a conductor, what are the most important skills that you use on a daily basis?
On a daily basis - working with people and keeping on top of things, alongside a simple industriousness in preparing scores. Such a small percentage of one's work is spent actually conducting!

How exactly do you see your role as a conductor?  Inspiring the players or singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?Both of these things - great composers give you everything you need, and so I hope that if I really know and love the score then that will be imparted naturally.

What advice would you offer to young conductors and musicians about to embark on professional careers? 
I'm a young conductor myself, and I am always seeking guidance from senior colleagues. I can only reinforce the old adage, don't become a professional musician unless you cannot see yourself doing anything else! And if that's the case, love it even when the going is tough.

What has been your favourite venue to have performed in, in your career to date?
Musicians talk about the Wigmore Hall as being one of the most special places in the world for chamber music. In fact, the closest acoustic I know to it is in our very own Hampstead Parish Church. There's also something amazing about the energy of Proms season at the Albert Hall, for all the problems of performing music in such a huge space. Aren't we lucky to have both in London.

Is classical music here to stay?
60 million piano students under the age of 25 in China would suggest yes! Performers and audiences: we're all custodians. As with any great art form the more one puts in, the more one gets out, so it is our duty to continue to introduce this treasure to each successive generation.

Who were your musical heroes growing up?
Martha Argerich and Murray Perahia at the piano. They still are. And what rare and priceless footage we have of Carlos Kleiber conducting, and Bernard Haitink - the most balletic of conductors.

Tell us one fun fact about yourself which other people would find surprising?
Daily yoga, huge tennis and (as of this year) Leicester City fan. And one day, perhaps, I'll own a vineyard.

If you were to have a dinner party, which 3 people would you invite (dead or alive) and why?  Also, what would you feed them?
How about J.S. Bach, Roger Federer and the Buddha. I guess it would probably have to be vegan, and would definitely involve rhubarb, so it would need to be in late-spring. Roger could translate for us all.