James Harpham, Jazz pianist, Piano teacher, based in Wiltshire Send email
Send email

Silent Films

James's latest passion is accompanying silent films, for which he provides a whole concert on the piano, using material from the time of the film's production or before. Each score uses about 80 different slices of musical culture and takes about a month to assemble.

So far he has 7 feature films up and running, including 4 of Buster Keaton's : Steamboat Bill Jnr, The General, Sherlock Junior and Our Hospitality as well as Harold Lloyd's Safety Last, plus a number of short films including Mack Sennett's Lizzies of the Field. These have played to full houses at local festivals in Wiltshire and across England. His first two scores were A Girl in Every Port and Murnau's Sunrise.

James gave a highly acclaimed, sell-out performance of Buster Keaton's The General at the Calne Music and Arts Festival in October 2005 and in January 2006 he performed to similar acclaim in Hungerford. He has recently performed Buster Keaton's Sherlock Junior along with a couple of shorts for the Global Village Film Festival in Corsham in March. In June 2006 he was invited to take The General on tour to Alnwick, Durham and King's Lynn, with great success. And in 2007 he performed The General at the Guernsey Festival of Comedy and was asked back in 2008 to perform Harold Lloyd's famous Safety Last. Last year, at the Corsham festival, he performed a fuller version of his score for Safety Last with the addition of Christopher Gradwell on clarinet. In January 2009 he performed Steamboat Bill Jnr at the Dorchester Film Club to great acclaim.

Commissions gladly accepted from film societies and festivals.


Organising events for you

  James composes and plays the music to accompany silent films.

  He performs jazz piano concerts and accompanies in a wide range of styles.

  James can also provide music and musicians for all kinds of events and recordings.

Weddings Charity events Festival events

James can organise everything musical from the music in church (organist plus others), to the chilled-out reception and the trad band or modern combo in the evening - and none of it too loud.

Please accept that you can raise more money for the charity if the event is constructed professionally. People do find it attractive to attend charity events with party and social overtones but often feel let down by amateurish entertainment - all provided for the best reasons but sometimes even making a loss for the charity.
Give a good show, get a good audience, and make lots of money.
James's Buster Keaton film show did just that for Marlborough's Riverbank project.

If the occasion is part of a festival then the Harpham touch will not go amiss, James having put on at least 20 events for local Wiltshire festivals as well as numerous events in London over the years (see Biography).

Jazz Club

James organizes the CALNE JAZZ CLUB which usually meets on the last Tuesday of the month at MARDEN HOUSE in CALNE, Wiltshire, starting at 7.30pm.

We have an enthusiastic membership (over 100) and are lucky enough to have Viscount Sidmouth as our President. We aim to present top class acts in a delightful riverside setting. For most performances admission is now £10. There is no bar so please bring your own refreshments. Please phone us on 01249 812300 or 07976 426457, or email, to reserve seats.

For the current programme please go to the Calne Jazz Club website ( www.calne-jazz-club.uk )

To find out more and receive regular mail-outs please send your e-mail address to James at: harphammusic@hotmail.com or phone him on 07976 945055


James has appeared at several Marlborough Jazz Festivals, where his trio have performed music from Gershwin to Van Morrison. His performances range from free jazz at the Klinker Club in Islington to conducting the first classical symphony orchestra concert at the Glastonbury Festival.

James has written and conducted scores for film, TV, concert and disc, with 7 TV series to his name, including Tenko.

He can create individual scores for singers and groups, both pop and orchestral, providing scores and parts ready transposed and printed.

Please phone or contact to discuss any of the above.

Too loud ?

Being an experienced film music writer, James is used to having the music sound under the conversation, whereas many bands playing at weddings or other local events seem to want to ruin the hearing of those present. So if you are after some cool jazz or a tasteful classical group, give James a ring.


James gives lessons in many aspects of music, especially the new ABRSM grade exams in Jazz Piano.

He accompanies students in their exams for non-keyboard instruments, and also gives guidance to classical piano teachers who wish to take on the ABRSM course.

James's studio is in a converted farm building in a village just outside Calne in the beautiful Wiltshire Downs.

Lessons at a very reasonable rate. Please phone or email to discuss.

Books and Publications

Teaching Rhythm, Melody and Harmony by James Harpham
ISBN 1 86083 6038
published by First and Best in Education Ltd
website : www.firstandbest.co.uk
email :    info@firstandbest.co.uk
tel :        01536 399005

An invaluable source of materials and methods for the Music teacher. The book fits easily into classes at Key Stage 3, but is also ideal for any group wishing to make a little music together.

The book includes a CD with at least one CD track for each of the 34 lesson plans. Simple parts and scores are printed with each lesson plan.

Each essential aspect of Rhythm, Melody and Harmony is covered by the book. Each lesson plan sets out the purpose of the lesson, the materials employed and the tasks to be done. All of these things can and should be adapted to the teacher's particular needs and supplies - from a class of loud voices and a rolled-up newspaper to the more sophisticated gear of a student recording studio.

Teaching Rhythm, Harmony and Melody has grown from lessons that have proved successful with an amazingly wide range of students.

His second teaching book, Those Jazz Chords, is now being tried out by students eager to learn those interesting jazz chords and how to play them.

Biographical Details

James Harpham has been composing and playing for films, concerts and other media ever since his first commission for the film The Saturday Men. This followed an OUDS production in collaboration with Dudley Moore. Jack Brymer played James' Clarinet Concerto in the Queen Elizabeth Hall; the RPO, choir and soloists presented his Fantasia on British Folk-songs in the Albert Hall.

For TV James scored 3 episodes of Chronicle, seven series including Tenko, The Ratties (with Spike Milligan) and The National Gallery. He provided a score for MOMI (the Museum of the Moving Image) and was twice on a BAFTA jury. Among his film scores were two for The Children's Film Foundation and a massive arts documentary for A&E with Kathleen Turner called Love in the Ancient World.

John McCabe premiered James' First Piano Sonata, and recently Gabriel Keen performed the Jazz Piano Sonata for the BMIC. Bill Russo, having left the Kenton band, christened Harpham's 29 Steps with his own band in London.

James has conducted the Midland Philharmonic, Syntharmonic, the LSO and other orchestras at various concerts and recordings. He also conducted the first symphony concert at the Glastonbury Festival 25th anniversary in 1995. His group, The Wooden O, appeared on TV, toured Europe, published an LP and performed fund-raising concerts for Sam Wanamaker's Globe Theatre.

James is now passionately involved in accompanying silent films, for which he provides a complete concert on the piano, using material from the time of the film's production or before. Each score uses about 80 different slices of musical culture and takes about a month to assemble. So far he has 7 feature films up and running, including 4 of Buster Keaton's.

Music Samples :

High-speed (broadband) users :

Club Trio
Jazz in Concert
Bach plays Jazz

Low-speed (modem) users :

Club Trio
Jazz in Concert
Bach plays Jazz

These tracks and others available from Studio G
(ref : SG-CD-35 Jazz) www.studiog.co.uk
email : library@studiog.co.uk

I'm sorry but the music samples are not available, either because they haven't loaded yet, or because your computer does not allow streamed audio.

However tracks and CDs are available from Studio G
(ref : SG-CD-35 Jazz) www.studiog.co.uk
email : library@studiog.co.uk

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