The English harpsichordist, organist, and clavicembalist, Joseph Payne, was born to English missionaries near the border between Mongolia and mainland China. He received his earliest musical training as a cathedral chorister in England, and in Switzerland where he lived for several years before emigrating to the USA. He studied at Trinity College and Hartt College of Music and was a pupil of Noretta Conci, Fernando Valenti, Clarence Watters, and Wanda Landowska.
Joseph Payne re-settled in the Boston area in 1965, and for the next two decades concentrated on teaching and scholarship at several major American universities, much of it based at Yale University. As a performing artist, he maintains a busy annual concert schedule of about 60 dates a year, appearing in concert venues worldwide on both harpsichord and organ. He is also a frequent contributor to scholarly journals dealing with musicology and the disposition of historical keyboard instruments. He is a scholarly, intelligent, and gifted artist who has amassed an impressively voluminous output of recordings on period keyboard instruments. While many players of pre-piano keyboards are happy to limit themselves to exploring a single composer or two's work in depth, Payne has recorded entire manuscript collections and has delved very deeply into the available repertoire that predates the Romantic era.
In 1985 Joseph Payne enjoyed the privilege of being the first organist to record the thirty-three Neumeister Chorale Preludes attributed to J.S. Bach and re-discovered at Yale University in 1984. Since then he has recorded complete editions of the keyboard works of Johann Pachelbel, many more collections of Bach, and substantive collections such as the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, the Andreas Bach Manuscript, the Dublin Virginal Manuscript, and the Buxheimer Orgelbuch. He has recorded the works of composers both famous and obscure, such as François Couperin le Grand, Dulphy, Sebastiàn de Albero, Muffat, John Bull, William Byrd, and many others. Payne has recorded for Bis, Naxos, Centaur, Harmonia Mundi, Discover, Vox, Haenssler Classics, and more.
Joseph Payne has received grants and awards from the Lowell Institute at Harvard University and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has produced The Bach Connection, and other syndicated series for radio which have been heard coast-to-coast throughout North America.