John Harle

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John Harle
John Harle colour portrait.jpg
Harle in 2001
Background information
Born (1956-09-20)20 September 1956
Origin Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Genres Classical, hybrid
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Saxophone
Years active 1973–present
Labels Universal, EMI Classics, Deca, Argo, Unicorn-Kanchana, Hannibal, Sospiro

John Harle (born 20 September 1956, Newcastle upon Tyne, England) is an English saxophonist, composer, conductor and record producer.[1] In 1988, he won the Cannes Film Festival award for "Best Achievement in a Feature Film" along with co-writer Stanley Myers for the score of Prick Up Your Ears.[2]


Initially a clarinetist, Harle switched to saxophone at 13 as a better mechanism for the expression he was trying to achieve.[2] Following his education at the Royal College of Music in London and the Paris Conservatoire, he started his career in 1982 in the band of composer Michael Nyman, expanding from there into scoring for film and television. In the 1990s, he began a career as solo saxophonist and also began composing, both artistically and commercially.

In addition to his own prolific recording, Harle has contributed directly or indirectly to a number of charting songs and albums by others.[2] A jingle he wrote for Nissan in 1993 became the basis of a charting pop single by Jazzie B. He contributed to the charting albums Terror and Magnificence (1996) by Elvis Costello and Sarah Leonard, and Standing Stone (1997) by Paul McCartney.

Harle has also been an educator, serving at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London in the late 1980s as a professor of Saxophone and Chamber Music.[2]

He composed the theme tune for the BBC TV series Silent Witness[3] and in May 1998 was the castaway on BBC Radio 4's long-running Desert Island Discs programme, with the BBC describing him as "the most-recorded saxophonist in the world".[4]

Harle's score for the BBC 2 television drama Summer in the Suburbs was nominated in the 'Music - Original Score' category for the Royal Television Society awards in 2000.[5]

In 2012 the Royal Television Society awarded Harle its 'Music: Original Score' award for his composition for BBC 2's programme Lucien Freud – Painted Life, describing it as "An excellent, challenging and original score that perfectly complements Freud's powerful imagery".[6] It also won the 2013 British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) Ivor Novello Award for 'Best Television Soundtrack'.[7]

In October 2013 Harle talked on BBC Radio 3's In Tune programme about his recently-released album Art Music, the composition of which was inspired by his favourite paintings.[8]

Harle appeared with Marc Almond on the BBC's Front Row radio programme in February 2014 to discuss their collaborative work about Gothic London, The Tyburn Tree (Dark London).[9] Harle was a guest on the same programme in November of that year, to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Adolphe Sax by assessing the contribution of Sax's invention, the saxophone.[10]

Harle has two sons named Matthew and Dan.[1]



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