Virtuoso Musician and Actor


John A Sampson

Virtuoso Musician, Composer, and Actor

Photo by Marius Alexander

John A Sampson is an Edinburgh-based professional musician, composer and actor. A well known and loved performer on the UK music scene for over forty years and a respected actor for almost as long, he has also appeared extensively on the continent, particularly in Germany where his accomplished brand of musical comedy and cabaret is held in great affection, and his classical and jazz performance skills are highly regarded.

He is also well-known for his collaborations with poets - particularly a wonderfully successful 20-year association with poet-laureate Carol Ann Duffy during which their interplay of words and music has received rave reviews all over the UK.

John is a member of The Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain.

John's forthcoming shows in 2024


Stockbridge Music Centre
Stockbridge Church
7b Saxe Coburg Street, Edinburgh EH3 5BN
5th April 2024, 1pm
Admission free

BrassTracks at Stockbridge music hub



Highlights of 2024

Blowing Through the Ages

A demonstration and talk on a some of the many Baroque instruments that John is famous for playing. Accompanied by Gina Baker on piano.

Gatehouse Parish Church, Gatehouse of Fleet, Kirkcudbrightshire

14th Jan at 3pm

Blowing Through the Ages flyer


Highlights of 2023


Marmions Place at The Wynd
7 Wynde, Melrose, TD6 9LD

25th Nov, 7pm Tickets £10



Ceilidh Cabaret

Frances and John will be taking part along with a host of other performers

South Side Community Centre, 117 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh

Friday 8th Dec, doors open 7pm - finish 10pm

Tickets £10   (Fundraiser for music equipment for the Totally Sound Youth Music Programme)

Ceilidh Cabaret


Brass Tracks

Morningside United Church, Edinburgh

Sunday 10th December, 11am

Brass Tracks


Mrs Weatherby's Concert Party

St Marks Unitarian Church, 7 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh, EH1 2DP

17th December 2023 from 6pm to 7.10pm

Tickets £10 at the door

Christmas Capers poster


Words and Music Festival - Nantwich

Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson

Civic Hall, Nantwich, 15th October

Ceilidh Cabaret poster


Bruntsfield Baroque

A selection of musical reflections on emigration and immigration in 18th centry Scotland

Columcille Centre, 19th November 2023

Bruntsfield Baroque poster


Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Brass Tracks

St Marks Unitarian Church, August 2023

Brass Tracks poster


Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Thomas the Rhymer

Artspace St Marks, 14th - 19th August

Ceilidh Cabaret poster


Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Mrs Weatherby's Concert Party

St Marks Unitarian Church, August 2023

Ceilidh Cabaret poster


Newcastle Poetry Festival - May 2023

Ceilidh Cabaret poster


Hay Festival - Hay-on-Wye

Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson - Words and Music - May 2023

Ceilidh Cabaret poster


There are two new album releases which feature John's playing - Andy Chung's new album, and The Irresistible Urges album 20;20 vision.

Blowing Through the ages!

Festival gig with Gina Baker

Full list of all forthcoming shows on the News page


Recent Reviews

for Brass Tracks

Brass Tracks delight.... five very talented professional musicians who, apart from excelling in their own instruments, play as one when they are together...handled .... with sensitivity, ....more than equal to the task, long, flowing melodic lines with beauty, .... wonderfully clear, rhythmic articulations and assured ensemble playing.... sense of fun showed through....
Extract from a review of their Isle of Arran Music Society concert


for John's collaborations with poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy

Duffy’s poetry and Sampson’s music come together brilliantly.
Holly Woolnoughreviews Nous magazine,York

Three quotes from students after a performance at Highsted Grammar School in Kent

"The thing I most enjoyed about the presentation was the spectacular poems and how Carol Ann Duffy read them and how John Sampson's music represented her poems. It made the poems feel alive. When Carol Ann signed our books and had a chat with us it made the whole experience more memorable."
Megan (Year 7)

"I thought the evening was incredible - throughout the presentation I found myself becoming completely enthralled by the words and music, and truly enchanted by the emotional effect they had."
Lara (Year 13)

"The overall event was sensational. I like how John Sampson's music complements Carol Ann Duffy's poems. It was a pleasure to watch the presentation."
Ayoyinka (Year 7)

From a TVBomb review of their 2015 Edinburgh Festival show at the Assembly Rooms:

With a diverse plethora of wind instruments, and a collection of mellifluous readings, musical virtuoso John Sampson, and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, take you on a beautiful journey of counties, bees, and the reincarnation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The amiable bearded Sampson provides the sound, and the vivacious Duffy the poetry, but what makes this performance so watchable, is how the two qualities compliment each other, then swap hands - the music becoming poetic, the readings forming a mild muttering, swaying the audience back and forth like a metronome while the crescendo builds.

Full review at TVBomb

Review from the The Dartington Ways With Words festival

"The festival reached its climax on Sunday night with Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson reading and playing to a packed Great Hall. Sampson began proceedings, playing the first of a number of early music instruments which ranged from tiny sopranino recorders, through crumhorns and baroque fanfare trumpets to a Chinese wind instrument which produced delicate and sinuous lines echoing the intonations of the language.

An amiable, bearded Scotsman, he imbued everything with an affable humour, making light of his offhand virtuosity. Elizabethan songs were followed by baroque outbursts, which led on to Scottish folk tunes and comically absurd compressions of Mozart symphonies. For the latter, he donned an appropriate period wig, the more fully to channel the spirit of Wolfgang Amadeus. At one point, he played harmonised lines on two recorders at once, a little like a Renaissance version of Roland Kirk's similar feats on his saxophones. Sampson's delightfully playful selections acted as interludes between Duffy's readings. 'The Queen gave him to me', she remarked after his opening salvo. 'She didn't want him any more'."

"... the ebullient John Sampson provided musical arsenal of exotic wind instruments, from the honk and squeak of the crumhorn, which looked like the bent end of a walking stick, to the smooth and mellifluous hilusi, a Chinese flute, melodies were masterfully wrought and performed with a charming jauntiness. On two or three occasions the words and music combined, pipe tunes weaving through densely alliterative verses, building a crescendo of word and sound then falling to silence. The effect was mesmerising."

from a review of the Sevenoaks Literary Celebration

"Poems from Duffy's recent compendium The Bees have some thought-provoking things to say about humanity's future, in sober contrast to all the fun repartee. And that's Sampson and Duffy in miniature: he the jocular foil for her archness and intensity; as a pair, unforgettably good value for a wet Tuesday night."