Hugh McDowell

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Hugh McDowell
Birth name Hugh Alexander McDowell
Born (1953-07-31) 31 July 1953 (age 65)
Origin Hampstead, London, England
Genres Rock music
Progressive rock
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Cello, Keyboards
Labels Jet Records
Associated acts Wizzard
Electric Light Orchestra
Radio Stars
Cornelius Cardew Ensemble

Hugh Alexander McDowell (born 31 July 1953,[1] Hampstead, London) is an English cellist best known for his membership in Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and related acts.


McDowell started playing the cello at the age of four-and-a-half; by the age of 10, he had won a scholarship to the Yehudi Menuhin School. Only one year later he made his first professional appearance in Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw, in which he sang. Later he attended Kingsway College of Further Education, the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He played with the London Youth Symphony Orchestra, the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra and London Youth Chamber Orchestra, until he was persuaded by Wilf Gibson to join The Electric Light Orchestra.

Electric Light Orchestra career[edit]

McDowell performed with the first live line-up of ELO in 1972 while only 19 years old, but left with founding member Roy Wood and horn player/keyboardist Bill Hunt to perform with the group Wizzard. During his time in Wizzard, he played both cello and Moog synthesizer, but returned to ELO in 1973 to replace Colin Walker. McDowell's return was partly motivated by a desire to play more cello and less keyboards as he had done with Wizzard.[2] He remained with the group until Jeff Lynne removed the string players from the line-up. McDowell appeared in promotional videos for the Discovery album, despite not having playing on the record.[3] He performed with Electric Light Orchestra Part II in 1991.

Post-ELO life[edit]

In 1980, McDowell played on the album Gift Wrapped by former ELO cellist Melvyn Gale, who had founded the group Wilson Gale & Co.. That autumn he began teaching part-time at the musical instrument technology department of a London higher educational college, the London College of Furniture, now part of the Guildhall University. He conducted a children's orchestra and other orchestras at several London schools.

For a short time, around 1982, he was a member of Radio Stars and recorded the single "My Mother Said" with the group.

McDowell has been a member of the 20th-century chamber groups George W. Welch, Harmonie Band and Quorum. He joined the Cornelius Cardew Ensemble, a contemporary music group, in 1995.

More recently he has worked on the 2004 Simon Apple album River to the Sea, on the 2005 Saint Etienne album Tales from Turnpike House, the 2005 Wetton Downes album Icon and appeared as a guest artist on the 2007 Port Mahadia album, Echoes in time. He also played cello on Asia's 2008 album Phoenix, on "An Extraordinary Life" and "I Will Remember You".

McDowell has also arranged and recorded for numerous pop, rock and jazz-fusion albums, as well as collaborating in dance, film, and theatre projects.[4]

He is involved with computer programming, and published a music composition program called Fractal Music Composer in 1992. He developed a suite of four programs: Mandelbrot Set Composer, Julia Set Composer, Mandelbrot Zoom and Play Midi.