John Metcalfe

b. 1964



John Metcalfe is a British-based composer and violist, and a former member of the band the Durutti Column.

John Metcalfe’s unique style is a result of his extensive experience in classical, pop and electronica. Early musical influences include opera (his father is a singer), the post-punk group Joy Division, and the avant-garde electronic band Kraftwerk.

As violist in the renowned Duke Quartet, Metcalfe has toured worldwide, made numerous CDs and worked with a huge range of world-leading artists from pop, dance, film, tv and theatre; all highly acclaimed by audiences and press. In addition he is one of the major curators at Kings Place with outstanding sell-out events throughout 2010. 'Beyond the Loop' featured some of the most influential and innovative classical and electronic artists from the last 30 years such as Plaid, The Duke Quartet and the Durutti Column. The event concluded with the astounding Bays/Heritge Orchestra collaboration featuring live composing from Metcalfe himself and Tony-award-winner Simon Hale.

Metcalfe has collaborated with and arranged for some of the world's leading artists, including: Blur, The Corrs, The Pretenders, Morrissey, George Michael, Tom Jones, Peter Gabriel, The Cranberries, Peter Doherty and John Cale.


From his early days in New Zealand listening to his father sing opera, John Metcalfe has become one the most exciting and versatile musicians working in the UK today. From writing his own genre-defying music for CD, TV and radio, to giving string quartet recitals in prestigious venues world-wide and penning strings for no.1 pop hits, Metcalfe has gained wide recognition for his unique brand of music-making.

Moving to England, he took up the viola aged 10, and formed his first band at school playing drums. He later joined cult group 'Durutti Column' on Manchester’s legendary Factory label, adding his own unique sound and flavour to the enigmatic style of guitarist Vini Reilly.

Intense classical study at the Royal Northern College continued along with hard dancing at the 'Hacienda', and scholarships took him to London and Berlin to finish his training. His distaste for classical recording industry practices led him to persuade Factory label boss Tony Wilson to launch the ground-breaking Factory Classical label, aimed at bringing young British artists to a truly new audience. Metcalfe’s talents at A+R led to debuts for now major artists such as Rolf Hind, Steve Martland and his own Duke Quartet, one of the leading chamber music groups in the country.

In the meantime Metcalfe’s strength as a string composer for bands came to the fore. Since his work on Morrissey's no.1 solo album 'Viva Hate' he has become one of the UK's top arrangers working for artists such as Simple Minds, The Corrs, Blur, Catatonia, George Michael, Johnny Marr, Tom Jones and The Pretenders.

Metcalfe's debut cd 'The Inner Line' received glowing reviews. Billboard magazine described it as "a solo debut that crosses all manner of boundaries. Melding avant-pop and electronica, film music and contemporary classical, The Inner Line puts forth a set of highly melodic, sonically compelling songs without words". Regularly played on BBC Radio 3's hugely influential cult show 'Late Junction', tracks have also been used for BBC radio and TV programmes, whilst also making their way onto radio shows from Alick Sethi to Russ Allen and Morpheus.

His new album 'Scorching Bay', a mix of live strings and beats combined with ultra-chilled electronica, was released in May 2004 on Sanctuary Classics . The album features members of the Duke Quartet alongside Ralph Salmins on drums. In addition to composing the material Metcalfe also produced, arranged and engineered the album himself.

Current projects include a new cello concerto for Matthew Barley, to be premiered at the 2005 Flanders festival.


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