'… complex, darkly humorous and full of ear-catching quirkiness. You're bowled over by the variety, energy and sheer size of his music.'  The Washington Sunday Times

John Harle is an Ivor Novello Award-winning composer, saxophonist, conductor and record producer. 

John has emerged as one of the UK's most gifted thematic composers with more than 100 major credits to his name, ranging from Silent Witness (BBC)  and Lucian Freud - Painted Life (BBC) to the epic score to A History of Britain (BBC), Simon Schama's multi-award winning series.

He is the recipient of an Ivor Novello Award and two Royal Television Society wards for ‘Best Soundtrack’.

John was artistic advisor and producer to Sir Paul McCartney for six years, and other major artistic collaborations have included Herbie Hancock, Elvis Costello, Michael Nyman and Marc Almond. A prominent media figure, he is a regular contributor to Radio 4 'Front Row', and has been a castaway on Desert Island Discs.

In 2019 he was producer, composer and arranger on Jess Gillam’s debut album, 'Rise' for Decca Classics, which rose to be number one in the UK classical album chart, and numbers one, two and three in the classical singles chart. The album included his own composition, RANT! (Number One Classic FM Listeners Chart) and arrangements of  David Bowie’s Where Are We Now, and Dark Eyes.

John’s new 22-minute concerto for Jess Gillam, Briggflatts was first performed by her and the BBC Concert Orchestra at The Queen Elizabeth Hall in May 2019 to a standing ovation.

John has composed over 30 concert works and has been awarded four commissions from the BBC Proms, including his first opera, Angel Magick

Two further full-scale music theatre works followed in recent years, The Ballad of Jamie Allan, with Omar Ebrahim and Sarah-Jane Morris (The Communards) and The Tyburn Tree with Marc Almond. (Soft Cell.)

His ballet Arcadia was commissioned by Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2016 as part of their Ballet Now series, and toured the UK.

Johns' album 'Terror and Magnificence' with vocalist Elvis Costello was Grammy-nominated and reached No.1 in the US Billboard charts, culminating in sell-out concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London.

In recent years, he has composed a rich stream of works, including his saxophone concerto The Little Death Machine (BBC Proms), City Solstice (for Kings College Cambridge Choir) and Earthlight (for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra). He is currently writing The Keys of Canterbury, a Canterbury Festival commission for performance in Canterbury Cathedral in Autumn 2019.

He has been musical director and producer for Moondog, Herbie Hancock, Elmer Bernstein, Ute Lemper, Lesley Garrett, Kathryn Tickell, Michael Nyman, Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine.

John has worked as conductor with the LSO, BBCSO, LPO, BBC Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, Norkopping, New Zealand Chamber and the Northern Sinfonia amongst others.

He has performed as solo saxophonist with countless orchestras worldwide.

He has contributed 25 works for saxophone, and has had over 90 works dedicated to him, including concertos by Beamish, Bennett, Birtwistle, Bryars, Myers, Nyman, Tavener, Torke and Turnage. His premiere of Birtwistle’s Panic! at the Last Night of the BBC Proms in 1995 was ‘the most controversial premiere of new music since The Rite of Spring’ (The Guardian).

He is Professor of Performance at The Guildhall School, teaching performance in music and theatre, composition and saxophone, and is a senior staff member. His students have included Jess Gillam, Simon Haram, Tim Garland, Rob Buckland and YolanDa Brown.

John is author of The Saxophone (Faber Music) an in-depth study of playing and performing. 


RANT! (pno)

Chester Music Society Saxophone version of Temporal Variations

St Mary's Centre (Chester, United Kingdom)

Jess Gillam/Zeynep Özsuca

RANT! (pno)

saxophone version of Temporal Variations

Saffron Hall (Saffron Walden, Essex, United Kingdom)

Jess Gillam/Zeynep Özsuca

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RANT! (pno)

Steyning Music Society Saxophone version of Temporal Variations

The Steyning Centre (Steyning, West Sussex, United Kingdom)

Jess Gillam/Zeynep Özsuca

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RANT! (string orchestra)

Manchester Cathedral (Manchester, United Kingdom)

Jess Gillam/Manchester Camerata/Caroline Pether

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RANT! (pno)

Saxophone version of Temporal Variations

Turner Sims Concert Hall, University of Southampton (Southampton, United Kingdom)

Jess Gillam/Zeynep Özsuca

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