Close this search box.

Assistant Director of Music Appointed

Exeter Cathedral appoints an Assistant Director of Music in succession to Timothy Parsons


Exeter Cathedral is delighted to announce the appointment of Mr James Anderson-Besant as Assistant Director of Music from September 2021, subject to legal formalities.

James has spent the last four years as Organ Scholar, then Assistant Organist, at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 2020 with a starred first degree in Music. In his role with St John’s Choir he has accompanied the daily round of services, regular broadcasts, recordings, and tours under the direction of Andrew Nethsingha (former chorister of Exeter Cathedral), and also assists in the training of the choristers. This year he is also supervising Cambridge music students in counterpoint and keyboard skills.

James also enjoys conducting, and has organised and directed performances of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and St John Passion. He has also directed the St John’s Sinfonia in a Bach Cantata evensong. James recently gave organ recitals at King’s, Queens’ and St John’s Colleges, as well as Truro and St Albans Cathedrals, and looks forward to upcoming engagements at Stockholm Cathedral and Trinity College, Cambridge. He won second prize at the 2019 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition, and was also Organ Scholar for the Charles Wood Summer School and Festival in Armagh, giving him the opportunity to work under David Hill and Philip Scriven. James has also held Organ Scholarship positions with the Cathedral Singers of Christ Church, Oxford, and at Gloucester Cathedral, where he helped train the first ever set of girl choristers in the cathedral’s history.

On being appointed to the role at Exeter Cathedral, James said:

“I am absolutely delighted to have been appointed Assistant Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral. It will be a privilege to work within the renowned music department and have the opportunity to contribute to the Cathedral’s rich and varied musical tradition. Everyone I met at the interview was very friendly and welcoming, and I can’t wait to immerse myself in the life of the building and its music-making.”

It is an enthusiasm shared by Exeter Cathedral’s Director of Music, Timothy Noon:

“We were blessed with an extremely strong shortlist, but James’s talent and personality shone through with the iridescence of a thousand suns. We are thrilled to have appointed James and he will be a worthy successor to Timothy Parsons, who leaves – metaphorically speaking – big shoes to fill.”

Timothy Parsons takes up his new position as Director of Music at St Edmundsbury Cathedral next term, and a presentation will be made to him, on behalf of all of the Cathedral community, at Choral Evensong on Easter Day.

Assisting Timothy Noon in the music department between May and August will be the eminent London-based freelance organist, Mr James McVinnie. Mr McVinnie brings a wealth of experience to the role, having been Organ Scholar at St Paul’s Cathedral, and Assistant Organist at Westminster Abbey. Mr Noon said, “We are immensely grateful to James McVinnie for being willing to help us out in the gap before James Anderson-Besant joins the team. With Covid restrictions gradually easing, these continue to be exciting times for music at Exeter Cathedral.”