Thinking Globally, Acting Vocally

Original songs and some gathered from numerous cultures (in some 2 dozen languages) reflect James’ global perspective, gleaned from 5 decades of international touring. Upbeat, lighthearted, poignant, hopeful and often humorous.

Songs that encourage individual empowerment & responsibility, environmental sustainability, diversity and peace and remind us of our interconnectedness with one another and all of Life — bringing us closer to our world and to each other.

“Superb. An excellent international repertoire of songs and a wonderful stage presence. The audience, ranging from school children to emeriti professors, was enthralled. (He) truly convey(s) the richness of diverse cultures, and of humanity around the world.”
— Martha Hamilton-Phillips, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg VA

“A talented entertainer of no little range and versatility. His sometimes funny, more often poignant songs of other lands were always fascinating. Their ultimate message of peace and understanding left a warm impression of this delightful artist.”
— Don Anderson, Winnipeg Free Press

“We hope you’ll be back at World Fellowship next summer.  Your concert was one of the best we’ve seen there in many years!”  — Steve & Luci Stroiman, Philadelphia PA


En Choeur‘, or
A Choired Taste

In advance of James’ arrival, your choir will rehearse selections from among his growing repertoire of original choral arrangements, to be joined by James for joint rehearsal prior to their shared concert event. In addition to SATB & SSA possibilities, James has duet and other ensemble options for distinguished soloists, both vocal and instrumental. A school residency can also include classroom visits in support of curricular explorations of language, poetry, creative writing, etc.

An example of this program option was wonderfully exemplified in the spring of 2007 when singers in Maine came together to form a 100-voice community chorale to raise awareness and funding for regional hunger relief. With James as guest artist, along with several local musicians in support, the amalgam raised $24,000 for their cause with concerts in two cities. Among the works performed were James’ I Am a Seed of Peace, Cycle Song of Life (The River Song), Starlight Star Bright, I Wish You Good Evening, and his 8-song medley, A Weavers Choral Tapestry, which he had arranged just for the occasion.

“Our recent weekend with James included having the choir prepare and perform some of his original pieces, as well as having James sing many of his songs as a soloist. We performed for both a very well-attended (and received) Saturday night concert and for Sunday morning worship. The choir had a great time preparing, rehearsing and performing, the respective audiences/congregation received the music with open hearts and gratitude, and, as always for me, collaborating with a friend and colleague was a treat.”
— Mimi Bornstein, First Universalist Church, Rockland ME

Other choral arrangements available include A Whaling Trilogy (with or without symphony), a 12-minute epic piece sympathetic to the plight of our magnificent mammalian cousins that views whaling through the eyes of the whaler (Whaling is My Trade), the whaler’s wife (Thoughts of a Whaler’s Wife) and ultimately, the whale itself (Whale Soliloquy); Lost in the Kuda Shuda Woods and Mystery Loves Company from James’ musical, ‘Hue Manatee’s Quest,’ An Old Man’s Lullaby and James’ arrangement of Bill Staines’ wonderful All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir.

“There’s nothing like singing together to unify people in a group. I love how singing lightens the load, shortens the journey, strengthens resolve, lifts the heart and buoys the spirit.” –James Durst

Performing with the Colegio Maya High School choir,
Guatemala City, Guatemala 2000
(PHOTO Jennie de Beausset)
Click on thumbnail above for larger photo

‘Starlight, Star Bright,’ Christmas Eve, 1999, Church of Religious Science, Huntington Beach, CA, Dr. Lee Kreter conducting (PHOTO Debi Wheeler) Click on thumbnail above for larger photo


Songs For A Small Planet‘, or

Never Adult Moment‘ or
Another Great Day For Singing!

Original and collected songs distilled from James’ travels selected with the intention to help us to feel more positive and hopeful about ourselves and our place on the planet; multi-cultural, interactive, singalong. Songs that underscore children’s innate tendencies to nurture and care for each other and their environment.

‘Life!’  Singing together at the Korean British School, Seoul, 2002
Click on thumbnail above for larger photo

Colegio Maya Elementary School, Guatemala City, Guatemala, 2000
(PHOTO Jennie de Beausset)
Click on thumbnail above for larger photo

“Regardless of the level of the audience, from elementary to adult, James manages to engage his listeners, and invite their participation in the experience. And through it all, his global perspective underscores the highest human aspirations and makes us glad to be alive on the planet at this time.” — Stuart J. Young, Ph.D., Headmaster, Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan

“James faced a daunting schedule. He played and sang in 17 performances over the course of three days, ranging from a middle school assembly of 650 to a double class of 40 students. He better than weathered the storm. He ‘rode it’ with a smile and a grace that was an inspiration to some of the best professional critics in the business (educators!).

Three of his many contributions to that spirited week stand out in my mind. One, is his ability to shift gears quickly, wowing a kindergarten audience one minute, and fully engaging 11th graders the next. A second is the breadth of his repertoire. He was even able to muster a song in Chinese. At one point, two hundred 7th and 8th graders encircled him with a wild array of excellent questions. Through song, stories and reflection he kept them on the edge of their seats. A third striking attribute is the global and environmental focus of his work. I would use the word ‘performances’ but his message is just as clear in dialogue with students or in conversation over dinner.

Without hesitation, I am happy to recommend James Durst to your school. Whether your need is for a single, stirring performance or a combination of ‘shows’ and workshops, he has the spark to connect with students where they are, and a message that indeed leaves them thinking about what matters most: community, care for each other and the environment, and good fun.” — C. Cabell Tennis, Middle School Associate Principal, Taipei American School, Taiwan


Programs can be focalized for specific occasions throughout the year, e.g.,

Earth Day Every Day:
‘Songs For A Small Planet’
‘The Future Begins Now–Let’s Planet Together!’

Valentine’s Day:
‘Amour The Merrier’

Christmas/Chanukah/Winter Solstice:
‘Wintermezzo: Songs of Seasonal Celebration’

…also for life’s milestones, celebrations and passages, e.g., weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and memorials.


James’ Eco-Peace Musical for Planetary Citizens of All Ages
A. One-Man Show

B. Concert Version: Narrator (James) & singers (choir & soloists)
C. Stage Musical (8-15 players)

For more about Hue Manatee’s Quest click here.

MSC: Master of Song and Ceremonies

James’ relaxed and engaging personality, together with lighthearted & gentle humor make for an ideal host to MC your event; weaving the occasional song between speakers/presenters to assist the absorption of linear offerings, aiding with continuity and content.


Consider the community-building potential in celebrating your town with its own song.

On May 15, 1999, residents of Amherst, New Hampshire gathered on the Town Green to hear the world premiere performance of ‘Amherst Is My Home‘, 4 verses and a chorus composed by James Durst. The composition was sponsored by the Amherst Town Library and funded by a Community Grant from the NH Council on the Arts & NEA.

“…a beautiful song, full of details, impressions, metaphors and meaning distilled in elegant language and, when James sings it, lyrical expression.”
— Erna Johnson, Childrens’s Librarian, Amherst Town Library

Some months prior to its unveiling, James spent several days communing with town historians, interested citizens and 3rd & 4th-graders who are studying their town’s history, to explore the song’s possible content. An arrangement for town chorus premiered on July 4th.

Erna Johnson,

‘WHERE I’M BOUND’: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Folksong Innovator BOB GIBSON

BOB GIBSON (1931-1996), inspired by meeting Pete Seeger in 1953, went on to influence countless other folk artists, not the least of which included Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, the Kingston Trio, the Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, the Smothers Brothers, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Paxton, Roger McGuinn and the Byrds, Josh White, Jr., and so many more. He introduced Joan Baez to the world at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, Judy Collins in 1960, then in 1961 he was joined by Bob Camp (later Hamid Hamilton Camp) for the seminal live recording, Gibson & Camp at the Gate of Horn. His collaborations with Shel Silverstein were truly synergistic amalgams of the unique qualities of both artists. He co-wrote with others as well, such as Paxton and Phil Ochs. “He should have been folk music’s biggest star, yet his name and story are sadly unknown by most,” writes Gibson’s biographer Carole Bender. Says James, “Not long after the 1964 release of his solo album, Where I’m Bound, I met him for the first time at the Golden Bear Coffeehouse in Huntington Beach CA, near where I lived. When I asked him between sets to show me his 12-string guitar technique, he stepped outside with me to the alley behind the club and spent 15 minutes demonstrating his singular style of down-with-the-thumb, up-with-the-forefinger ‘scratch’ stroke, which has informed my playing ever since. This project is something I’ve wanted to do for years. It’s my small way of honoring his memory and paying tribute to one who gave me — and us — so much.” The WHERE I’M BOUND tour coincides with the projected release of Bob Is My Co-Pilot, James’ tribute CD.

James uses LaBella strings exclusively on his 6-string and 12-string guitars.

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