John Metcalf (composer)

John Metcalf MBE (born 1946) is a Welsh-Canadian composer. He has worked in many forms, including large-scale operas, choral and orchestral works, and chamber music, both instrumental and vocal. His music is tonal, and is often rhythmically complex, with much use of polyrhythms.


John Metcalf was born in Swansea in 1946, and spent his childhood on the Gower Peninsula, at Reynoldston and Penmaen. When he was six, the family moved to Cardiff, where his father had taken a new job.[1] He was educated at Dean Close School, Cheltenham. He intended to read classics at university, but he sent a composition to the composer, Alun Hoddinott, who encouraged him to instead study music at Cardiff University.

In 1969 he founded the Vale of Glamorgan Festival, and remained its director until 1985. During this period he also composed his first opera, The Journey (1979).

In 1986 he moved to Canada, to teach on the Music Theatre course at the Banff Centre in Alberta. He was afterwards appointed Artistic Director of the programme and Composer-in-residence. At Banff he composed his second opera, Tornrak, with a libretto by Michael Wilcox, which draws on Inuit musical traditions; and this and other operas were workshopped there.

In 1991 he returned to Britain and settled at Llanfair Clydogau, near Lampeter, Ceredigion. There he built an energy-saving house from reclaimed materials. He resumed direction of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival, which he made a festival presenting the work of living composers only.

Alongside his composing work, he was Artistic Director of the Banff Centre for ten years, and Director of the Swansea Festival until 2007.

He is Artistic Director of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival, and also teaches at the annual MusicFest Aberystwyth.

In 2012 he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the New Year honours, for services to music.[2]

His seventh opera, Under Milk Wood: An Opera, with a text adapted from the play for voices by Dylan Thomas, was premiered at Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea in April 2014.[3]


Several of Metcalf's works are available on the album "In Time of Daffodils". This includes "Paradise Haunts", "Three Mobiles" and "In Time of Daffodils". These pieces are performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. (Excerpts from "Paradise Haunts" were used as part of the Queensland Ballet Company production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.) A complete discography is given on the composer's website.

A recording of Under Milk Wood: An Opera featuring the original cast is due for release by Ty Cerdd records on 27 October 2014.[4]


  1. 'Interview' in Review Wales, 2013 January 16.
  2. "No. 60009". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2011. p. 19.
  3. "Under Milk Wood: an opera."
  4. Price, Karen (5 June 2014). "New record label to take music of Wales to the world". Western Mail.
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