Hugh McDowell

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For the rugby league footballer of the 1930s for England, and Widnes, see Hugh McDowell (rugby league).
Hugh Alexander McDowell
Birth name Hugh Alexander McDowell
Born (1953-07-31) 31 July 1953 (age 63)
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 (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 and by the age of 10 he won a scholarship to the Yehudi Menhuin School of Music. Only one year later he made his first professional appearance in Benjamin Britten's "Turn of the Screw," in which he sang. Later he attended Kingsway College of Further Education, the Royal College of Music and Guildhall School of Music. 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. His return was partly motivated by a desire to play more cello and less keyboards as he had done with Wizzard.[2] McDowell remained with the group until Jeff Lynne removed the string players from the line-up. He appeared in promotional videos for the Discovery album despite not playing on the record.[3] In 1991 he performed with Electric Light Orchestra Part II.

Post-ELO life[edit]

In 1980 he played on the album Gift Wrapped by former ELO cellist Melvyn Gale, who had founded the group Wilson Gale & Co.. In the autumn of 1980, 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, circa 1982, he was a member of Radio Stars and recorded the single, "My Mother Said" with the group.

He joined the 20th-century chamber groups George W. Welch, Harmonie Band and Quorum. In 1995 he joined the contemporary music group the Cornelius Cardew ensemble.

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 and appeared as a guest artist on the 2007 Port Mahadia album, Echoes in time.

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