The English composer and musicologist James Chater studied music at the University of Oxford. After a six-year stint of research in Italy he obtained a doctorate for a thesis on the Italian madrigal composer Marenzio (1980). For the next few years the "scholar gipsy" routine took him to Wales, the USA and Canada, where he taught and studied music at universities. After that he edited booklets for the Philips recording label in the Netherlands (1986-97), then worked as an editor for Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians in London (1997-2000). From 2000-2008 he worked for KCI Publishing in the Netherlands. In August 2008 he moved to France, where he freelances as a composer, musicologist and industrial journalist.
His current musical activities are mostly focussed on composing and arranging music for liturgical use in the Russian Orthodox Church, of which he has been a member since 1995. His music has been performed on the Dutch radio channel De Concertzender, in Finland and in Russia.