James Ruff - Biography

James Ruff - Biography


Gaelic Music

Since 2005, tenor James Ruff has focused his energies on researching and performing both the Early Scottish Gaelic Song and the Early Gaelic Wire Harp repertoires.  He currently enjoys presenting concerts of this music at festivals and on music series such as the Scoil na gClairseach: Festival of the Early Irish Harp in Kilkenny, Ireland, Boston Early Music Festival Fringe, Gotham Early Music Scene Midtown Concerts in New York, Beacon Hill Concerts in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, Stone Church Arts Concert Series in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and the Vassar College Concert Series.  He has studied Scottish Gaelic Song with award winning Scottish singers Kenna Campbell, Mary Ann Kennedy and Christine Primrose, and early harp techniques with noted Irish harpist Siobhan Armstrong.  He has spent three summers studying at the Scoil na gClairseach - Festival of Early Irish Harp (Irishharp.com) in Kilkenny, Ireland - where he also taught from 2017-2019.  He enjoyed a month researching & studying early Gaelic Song in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2012, funded by a grant from Vassar College.  In both 2017 and 2016, he won First Place/Men’s Division and Highest Overall Score in Gaelic Song at both the ACGA North Carolina Gaelic Mòd and the U.S. National Gaelic Mòd.  He won Second Place in the Silver Pendant Gaelic Song Competition at the 2018 Royal National Mòd in Dunoon, Scotland, having been a finalist in the same competition in 2009.  His first CD, The Gaels' Honour: Early Music for Harp and Voice from Gaelic Scotland and Ireland, was released in December 2018.

Early Music

Mr. Ruff has received critical praise for his versatile singing on both the concert and operatic stage. He has sung as soloist with such Early Music groups as the Handel and Haydn Society, Newberry Consort, King's Noyse, Aradia Ensemble, New York Collegium, Early Music New York, Music of the Baroque, NYS Baroque, My Lord Chamberlain's Consort, Ensemble Abendmusik, La Fenice and Arcadia Players, and under such conductors as Christopher Hogwood, Andrew Parrott and Jane Glover. As a specialist in French Baroque repertoire, he sang Charpentier's Messe de Minuit and Te Deum over the CBC airwaves from Toronto.  He has made numerous tours singing the title role in The Play of Daniel, both with Gotham Early Music Scene and Early Music New York, at the Spoleto Festival in Italy as well as in Florida,Tennessee, Missouri and New York City.

Classical Concerts

On the concert stage, Ruff continues to sing the oratorios and concert works of Mozart, Bach, Haydn and Britten. He has made a specialty of the "Roasting Swan" in Orff's Carmina Burana,singing at numerous colleges in the Northeast. He has sung at various summer festivals including Tanglewood, Ravinia, Boston Early Music Festival, Connecticut Early Music Festival and the Spoleto Festival in Italy.


On the operatic stage, Ruff has performed leading roles such as Tamino in Mozart'sThe Magic Flute (Opera New England), Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni(Longwood Opera) and Ferrando in Così fan Tutte (Boston University), the title role in Debussy's Pélléas et Mélisande (Concord Symphony), Lindoro in Rossini's l'Italiana in Algeri(Harvard University), Don Narciso in il Turco in Italia (Boston Academy of Music) and the title role in Le Comte Ory (Boston University, Glimmerglass Opera, Canadian Opera Company). He also has sung leading roles in light opera, such as Pâris in Offenbach'sLa Belle Hélène (Boston Academy of Music) and the title role in Romberg's The Student Prince (Ohio Light Opera). His work in Baroque opera includes Pirithous in Conradi's Ariadne at the Boston Early Music Festival, various Jesuit operas at Boston College, the title role in Charpentier's Actéon at the Longy School and Holofernes in Scarlatti's Giuditta with the Newberry Consort. He has enjoyed singing many modern works, including the role of Dov in the U.S. East Coast premiere of Michael Tippett's The Knot Garden, and William of Malmesbury in Richard Wilson’s Aethelred the Unready.  He was featured in Benjamin Britten's Paul Bunyan at Glimmerglass Opera, which was reprised at New York City Opera and broadcast nationally on PBS, "Live from Lincoln Center."


Upon receiving degrees in voice performance from the University of Southern California (bachelor of music degree, with minor in French) and Boston University (master of music degree, Opera Institute Certificate), Ruff went on to participate in the young artist programs of Glimmerglass Opera and the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and studied art song repertoire at Tanglewood with Phyllis Curtin and at the Steans Institute/Ravinia Festival with Thomas Hampson and Peter Schreier. He attended the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, England, studying bel canto operatic repertoire with Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge. In addition, he has sung in master classes of such greats as Carlo Bergonzi and Régine Crespin. He studied French Baroque haute-contre repertoire and technique with Howard Crook.


Ruff has served on the music faculties of Smith College, Amherst College, MIT, the University of Connecticut, Emerson College, Longy School of Music, Deerfield Academy and the Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Mr. Ruff currently teaches voice at Vassar College since 2009,  and also maintains a private voice and harp studio.  He frequently teaches harp at the Scoil na gClairseach - Festival of Early Irish Harp (Irishharp.com) in Kilkenny, Ireland, recently from 2017-2019.  He served as Director of Music at Christ the King Episcopal Church in Stone Ridge, New York from 2004-2015.

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