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THE SCOOP | The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra Announces Appointment Of James S. Kahane As Next Music Director

By Anya Wassenberg on May 16, 2024

Conductor James S. Kahane (Photo: © Heikki Tuuli)
Conductor James S. Kahane (Photo: © Heikki Tuuli)

The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra has tapped 28 year-old James S. Kahane as the next Music Director of the 140-year old organization. Born in France, Kahane was accepted into Sakari Oramo’s prestigious conducting class at the Sibelius Academy at the age of 19.

“With his extraordinary musical talent, profound commitment to artistic excellence, keen interest in music education and the vital role that the HPO has played for 140 years in shaping our region’s cultural landscape, James Kahane embodies the vision and values of the HPO. In him, we have found a wonderful conductor, musician and collaborative leader who can inspire our musicians and delight our audiences,” said Heather Beale, Chair, HPO Board of Directors in a statement.

James S. Kahane

“I am honoured to be entrusted with the musical leadership of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. The growth of an orchestra is a continuous and exciting process and I’m privileged to succeed a long line of esteemed and talented colleagues that have brought the Hamilton Philharmonic to new heights. I’m looking forward to what the future holds, but more than anything, I can’t wait to make music together with the HPO again,” Kahane comments.

At 21, James was appointed as assistant conductor to Susanna Mälkki at the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he held until 2018.

Kahane is both founding member and Principal Conductor of the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra, and serves as Principal Conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de la Drôme, and Conductor of the Polytech Orchestra in Finland.

He is also the conductor of a multidisciplinary ensemble called Far(away) Ensemble. With them, he recorded the music of Jacopo Aliboni for the short films Du Temps Perdu and Le Temps Prend Feu. He conducts the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra in an upcoming release with flutist Sami Junnonen (May 24 on Resonus Classics).

His experience extends to conducting some of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Finnish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, the Jyväskylä Sinfonia, the St. Michel Strings and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, among others.

James is a regular guest conductor at the Helsinki Contemporary Opera Festival, with a repertoire that includes The Tragedy of Carmen by Bizet, The Rape of Lucretia by Britten and Years of Silence by Tuurna.

He has appeared at music festivals around the world, and recently in spring 2024, Kahane stepped in as assistant conductor to Hannu Lintu at the prestigious Bayerische Staatsoper.

The HPO Looks Ahead

A committee made up of HPO musicians, audience members, the Executive Director and members of the Board sifted through 115 applicants over an 18-month selection period. Kahane led the HPO as a guest conductor on October 21, 2023 as part of a series of tryouts for the role.

As Music Director, Kahane will guide the artistic vision of the Orchestra, and work with musicians and staff on both main stage and community programming. He will also be the orchestra’s public face.

The HPO has a track record of choosing dynamic up and coming conductors to lead the orchestra. Recently former Music Director Gemma New’s profile grew in stature over her nine year term, and took the HPO’s along with her. They approached the search with a list of qualities that includes a commitment to innovative programming along with artistic excellent, and an engagement with community and education — all goals of the HPO.

“James is an exceptional artist with great talent and energy. His enthusiasm for music and its ability to connect us really shone through in meeting him,” said Kim Varian, HPO Executive Director. “His approach to programming is innovative and his commitment to community engagement and music education speaks directly to our mission.”

Kahane makes his debut as new Music Director at the 2024/25 season opener on September 21, 2024.

Congratulations to Kahane and the HPO; we’ll be looking forward to the next season.

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