The Story So Far, with Conductor John Wilson

From September, 2018. Cantara, former ASCAP solfeggist and 70s porn actress turned screenplay writer, has fallen hopelessly in love with a man at the other end of the world, an English, middle-ranking orchestra conductor—who plays, on the side, Golden Age of Hollywood music and The Great American Songbook—by the name of John Wilson.

John Wilson Proms.jpeg
The Queen of Heaven has her eye on you, John.


Not because he’s a fellow creator (he doesn’t create, but reconstructs, orchestrates and arranges the music of others)—not because of his looks (he’s peaky, scrawny, blinky; his gray-green eyes lack luster; he’s got a facial tic, pores like craters, lousy posture, enormous feet, the limbs of a stick insect and the hands of a hod carrier; his nose is an equilateral triangle; his famous cleft chin, supposedly his best feature, always looks slightly askew; his ultra-short mousy hair can’t conceal the fact he’s already going gray; he sweats like a stevedore on the podium; and for the past few years he’s taken to wearing geek glasses)—and certainly not for his intellect (his fatuous pronouncement about the needlessness of lyrics in The Great American Songbook makes me want to smack the back of his head like the whippersnapper he is and send him home with a note).

So what is it about him?* I’ve only been aware of his existence since 30 April and in love with him since 4 May, 2018; since then my feelings have been an insane mixture of tenderness, gratitude, annoyance, and lust. The tenderness I understand: I’ve spent enough time in Hollywood to understand the position he’s in… As far as gratitude, just listen to “The Trolley Song”. Even the raging lust I get.

But whenever John gets himself in the way of the music it drives me nuts. It’s crystal clear to me the times he does this because I’m in love with him, dammit, and because he’s a musician I pay attention to the music. Truth to tell, the only times John really gets himself in the way are when he’s conducting his own hand-picked group which is dedicated mostly to music from Golden Hollywood & The Great American Songbook, and cannily named The John Wilson Orchestra.

Whether he gets himself in the way indeliberately or on purpose I cannot entirely tell, but I’m starting to. With a little patience he isn’t that hard to read, my bonny John Wilson. After countless times listening to his recordings and broadcasts; pouring over his interviews; watching him conduct (in video clips, mainly from the annual BBC Proms); watching him conduct other orchestras besides his own (ditto); and, most important, learning to separate the showman from the musician, I’m starting to understand his type of intelligence and his musical capability, which is actually pretty sizeable. His ear (the way he hears things, not his purported perfect pitch) is intriguing and his industriousness is admirable. I am definitely not buying into the PR excess—he is not “a superstar”, “a guru”, “charismatic”, “legendary”, “a conducting icon” or, God help us, as proclaimed by the BBC, “the nation’s favorite” (!!!). But his musicianship at times is kiiind of brilliant.

Part 2 “His Limits” here or below.

* Update 10 August 2019: I’ve just read up on what it is about him, and now I’ve got science to back me up. It’s John’s fault.


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The Story So Far: Or, Conductor John Wilson—His Limits

Anyroad, like a good Dr Watson I have compiled a list:

JOHN WILSON – HIS LIMITS (Updated September 2021)

john-wilson-rosza-2-copy.jpeg

Knowledge of/affinity for/talent with:

All the rest is just Cantara trying to sort out where bonny John fits into her inner life. Which as it turns out is in every nook, every cranny

Part 1 “Dopamine” here or above.


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My 2012 Memoir, A Poet from Hollywood: Love, Insanity, Stephen Gyllenhaal, and the Creative Process

Reprint, originally published 2012. Available free, permanently, for download here or at PINY Press; and for online reading at Academia, Issuu, or Scribd.

A Poet from Hollywood small


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Give a Girl a Break (MGM, 1952): The Movie That Clinches My 3-Degrees Connection to English Conductor John Wilson

From Simona Wing to Gerard Damiano to Helen Wood to Andre Previn to John Wilson—Cantara’s three degrees from her beloved conductor.

Julie Andrews, Jon Cypher in Cinderella 1957Give a Girl a Break (trailer here) is a US 1953 musical comedy film starring Debbie Reynolds and the dance team of Marge and Gower Champion. Helen Wood, Richard Anderson, Kurt Kaszner and a young Bob Fosse have featured roles. At only 88 minutes, Give a Girl a Break shows residual elements of the big project it started out to be, with a passable score by Burton Lane and Ira Gershwin, direction by Stanley Donen, and musical direction by Andre Previn.


Degree rule: You have to’ve personally worked with the person in the next degree. I worked with Damiano in his 1981 porn classic Beyond Your Wildest Dreams as Simona Wing; Damiano wrote and directed 1972’s Deep Throat, which Helen Wood (as Dolly Sharp) was in; Helen Wood co-starred in the musical Give a Girl a Break, on which the musical director was Andre Previn; Previn worked on the 2012 Proms My Fair Lady with my beloved John Wilson.

Above Marge, Debbie and Helen: The overture to the 2012 Proms My Fair Lady, with John conducting The John Wilson Orchestra in his own arrangement of Andre Previn’s orchestration of the film score.


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Pinoy Alert: The Gold at Olympics 2021 + A Film Trailer You as a Filipino Have Got to See

The Philippines have never won the gold in 97 years until now—consequently, we get to hear The Philippine National Anthem (Julián Felipe-José Palma, 1899; lyrics below) played at the Olympics for the very first time. So I went over to YT to find a good version of the national anthem (which I once used to be able to sing not only in English but Tagalog learned phonetically) and I found THIS on YT and it’s—it’s—well, it’ll make you want to swell with pride if you’re a true Pinoy. Really. It’ll knock your socks off. For all you others: This is a very tuneful, very singable national anthem entitled “Lupang Hinirang” and it’s placed very dramatically and effectively in this short produced by the big broadcast company in the PI.

Lapu-Lapu Beheads MagellanYes, that’s Lapu-Lapu beheading Magellan. You have to understand, we are a romantic but fierce people. Seriously.
[Here’s the audio of the short above]

Bayang magiliw
Perlas ng silanganan
Alab ng puso
Sa dibdib mo’y buhay

Lupang Hinirang
Duyan ka nang magiting
Sa manlulupig
Di ka pasisiil

Sa Dagat at bundok sa simoy
At sa langit mo’y bughaw
May dilag ang tula
At awit sa paglayang minamahal
Ang kislap ng watawat mo’y tagumpay na nagniningning
Ang bituin at araw niya’y kailanpama’y di magdidilim

Lupa ng araw ng luwalhati’t pagsinta
Buhay ay langit sa piling mo
Aming ligaya nang pag
May mang-aapi

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Directed by My Old Boss, Rouben Mamoulian: The Room at the Inn Scene in Queen Christina (MGM, 1933) Just for the Man I Love, Conductor John Wilson

“I have been memorizing this room. In the future, in my memory, I shall live a great deal in this room.”

Garbo ChristinaFind this scene on my YT channel here and apologies for the quality of the vid but it was the best available. Underscoring is by the esteemed 1st music director at MGM, Herbert Stothart. Stothart’s adorable “Donkey Serenade” is featured in The MGM Jubilee Overture, written in 1954 by 2nd music director Johnny Green and restored to the repertoire by my bonny. I’m moving to your rhythm, John.



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Five Great American Songbooks: Gershwin & Gershwin; Jerome Kern; Jimmy McHugh; Cole Porter; and Rodgers & Hart

All available for download here. Will add to this list as other collections become available in shareable PDF.


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Of Leonor Rivera, Novelist and Martyr of My People Jose Rizal’s Long-Distance Love; My Own Long-Distance Love, English Conductor John Wilson; Eric Coates; and A Song by Rodgers and Hammerstein

How’s this for a coincidence? The man who gave my bonny—then a struggling young conductor of 24—a wristwatch that belonged to his father was the same man who authored Rizal: Philippine Nationalist and Martyr, a well-researched, well-regarded Oxford Press bio of the legendary hero of the Filipinos, Dr Jose Rizal (1861-1896).* Something about you obviously touches the hearts of old men, John. The man’s name was Austin Coates (1922-1997), son of the English light music composer, Eric Coates (1886-1957). (Download his “Dancing Nights” conducted by my beloved John Wilson with the BBC Concert Orchestra here.)

Leonor Rivera

Above the pencil portrait of Leonor Rivera (1867-1893) done by her sweetheart: “No Other Love”, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, from Me & Juliet (Broadway, 1953) sung by Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel with the Leeds-based Northern Philharmonia aka The Orchestra of Opera North [https://bit.ly/brynterfel1]

Novelist Rizal modeled the heroine of his first novel, Noli Me Tangere, after his distant but constant lover. Maria Clara represents the Ideal Filipina: beautiful, feminine, loving, faithful, pious and true; she also gives her name to our traditional dress.

Maria Clara is one of the most famous characters in Philippine literature and a perfect heroine for grand opera. (See my earlier posting “Antoni Mendezona Sings Awit ng Gabi ni Sisa from the Opera Noli Me Tangere”.)

It was Leonor’s letters, letters filled with love, sweet reminiscences, and encouragement, that kept Rizal going throughout his years in Europe, first as a lonely medical student, then as a crusading novelist. I can feel the exquisite pain of their long-distance romance when I hear the song above.

*Pinoy alert! The complete TV bio-series in Tagalog, Illustrado, is on the GMA channel on YouTube and can be accessed here.



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My Birthday Treat; Plus a Quick Note to My Beloved English Conductor, John Wilson Before His January 2022 Tour with the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

John, mi vida— It may be likely that we’ll actually meet up sometime or another, since I give not only to the Academy but to the College as well (although I’m thinking of becoming a Friend of the College this year because one, Dr Adlard at the main office has been very kind, and two, I’d like to visit the RCM’s brand-new museum), and so perhaps my few dollars might wangle me an invitation to one of those “Meet the Fellows” wine-and-cheese thingies you as a Fellow are encouraged to attend. If that happens, how about coming over and saying hi to me? I won’t bite. I forgave you for Oklahoma! a while ago.

My birthday treat: Knightsbridge March from London Everyday by Eric Coates and Conducted by My Excellent John Wilson with the BBC Philharmonic. Video clip of John conducting this piece with the BBCSO in 2010 on my YT channel here.

Everyone else, find John’s schedule for January and following, including his tour with the NYO Netherlands, at:

“Following My Beloved John Wilson’s Concertizing 5 November, 2021 Through 10 February, 2022”

and including his appearances at the Royal College and the Royal Academy:

“My Beloved John Wilson’s Concert Schedule March Through May, 2022”


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Christmas, 1958 with Cantara; Plus Johnny Mathis Sings “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish

Christmas, 1958Above: The full audio of Johnny Mathis’s 1958 hit*. And here’s Leroy Anderson’s original 1948 concert version, played by the Calgary Symphony and conducted by Karl Hirzer. Courtesy of adam28xx.

*And at 59:45 in “A Selection of Pop Christmas Classics”.

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My Beloved John Wilson Conducts The John Wilson Orchestra in a Swingin’ Christmas on BBC2, Christmas Day 2010

With singers Anna-Jane Casey, Seth MacFarlane, and Curtis Stigers. Mike Lovatt solos on the trumpet. Plus brazen hussy shimmy alert. Whoever would stifle that shimmy in years to come, my bonny, would stifle your spirit.

Swinging Christmas, 2010Above: The full audio of the BBC’s Swingin’ Christmas With the John Wilson Orchestra, 2010. Big Band medley selections are listed below. Find the complete show on YT here.

For the Big Band medley: “Skyliner” – Barnet / Charlie Barnet; “Take the A Train” – Billy Strayhorn and vocalist Joya Sherrill / Duke Ellington; “Let’s Dance” – Gregory Stone (based on von Weber’s “Invitation to the Dance”, orchestrated by Hector Berlioz) / Benny Goodman; “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” – Irving Berlin / Ray Noble; “Begin the Beguine” – Cole Porter / Artie Shaw; “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” – Ned Washington and George Bassman / Tommy Dorsey; “Midnight Sun” – Hampton and Sonny Burke / Lionel Hampton; “You Made Me Love You” – Monaco and McCarthy / Harry James; “Moonlight Serenade” – Miller / Glenn Miller; “Peanut Vendor” – Moisés Simons / Stan Kenton; “Woodchoppers Ball” – Joe Bishop / Woody Herman; “One O’Clock Jump” – Count Basie / Count Basie.

This is the kind of music ID-ing I used to do when I was 18 and a night solfeggist at ASCAP, John.

Composer Andrew Cottee is the show’s orchestrator-arranger.


The entire 2010 BBC Swingin’ Christmas With the John Wilson Orchestra is available to view on YT here.



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To Beloved Conductor John Wilson: Eugene O’Neill and My Old Boss, Classic Film/Stage Director Rouben Mamoulian

From December, 2018. John Wilson: You are a true musician, you command the finest magical mechanism Western Civilization has ever invented: the symphony orchestra, and you do this for a living. All life is asking you to do is be cool with it, and the fact that I’ll be continuing to make love to you long distance indefinitely.

Now, there are far more interesting exercises in the world of Schenkerian analysis than one huffy American ex-porn actress taking the piss out of a popular middle-ranking, BBC-scripted, English conductor… If it weren’t for the fact that ex-porn actress happens to have fallen in love with aforementioned Conductor and lusts after him regularly*. Therefore she takes Conductor’s pronouncements a little more seriously, a little more discerningly than she would, say, the pronouncements of her own musical compatriots—Alsop, Tilson Thomas, Mauceri etc… Additionally, Conductor reveals in his public statements more about himself than I think he’d prefer, John.

So as much as I’d enjoy ragging you for the impudent (and ultimately self-revealing) remarks you made about Mrs Bernstein and Mrs Coates, I really should finally get down to the one single thing (aside, of course, from your tearass tempi, your overuse of percussion, your rushing of singers, your astonishing lack of color in certain critical pieces) that has bugged me since the day I first encountered it: your juvenile dismissal of my old boss, film/stage director Rouben Mamoulian, and his creative contribution to the original 1943 production of Oklahoma! Now, I know you were only riffing off info you got from some book or Andre Previn, who likely socialized with The Old Man when they were both at MGM. But, as I mentioned in an old posting, of all his stage and screen work The Old Man liked to talk about, the one he liked to talk about the most was Oklahoma! And I turned out to be his perfect audience, because early on I’d confessed to him that I was a big Rodgers & Hammerstein fan. (Filipinos are big Rodgers & Hammerstein fans, for obvious reasons.)

But before I get to the point about Oklahoma! I have to tell you a side—though relevant—story about Mamoulian and Eugene O’Neill.

John and Mamoulian 2Rouben Mamoulian and John Wilson at around the same age (40), 80 years apart.

*6pm PDT=2am UK time=3am Netherlands time till the end of January.

MAMOULIAN’S AND MY EUGENE O’NEILL STORY

This is the second story Mamoulian ever told me back in 1978 when he was 81 and I was 23, which he told me in a way that was flattering as hell, which was he didn’t ask if I knew who Eugene O’Neill was, although I did say “Wow” at the mention of the name, so he might have sized up my interest that way, and just went right into the story.

Seems that when he was living an emigre’s life in New York, trying to make a go of it in stage work, he scored his greatest career triumph to date: The Theater Guild wanted him to direct a play by Eugene O’Neill. Now, O’Neill had already won the Pulitzer and he’d already had several successes, not to mention his other new play, Strange Interlude, was already generating a lot of pre-opening night buzz, so we’re talking King of 1928 Broadway here. O’Neill agrees to meet Mamoulian in his hotel room (that is to say, O’Neill’s hotel room. It seems like the best stories about O’Neill take place in hotel rooms) to talk over any directorial concerns O’Neill, the playwright, might have, and if he has any advice to give this youngster concerning his play.

“Actually, Mr O’Neill,” says Mamoulian, trying to sound like himself at thirty, you know, the brash but confident whiz-kid, “I know exactly how to fix your play.”

“You will change not a word. Not a word!” says O’Neill. And here The Old Man doesn’t bother to actually imitate O’Neill, although in time I heard him do some good impressions of other people, mostly actors.

“Look here, Mr O’Neill,” says young Mamoulian, opening the bound script of Marco Millions that he brought with him. “I can show you exactly where the speeches slow the play down, and where we can achieve the same ends using action. Here—” And here The Old Man imitates taking a blue pencil and gleefully slashing a diagonal line across a rejected page like editors do— “—and here—” He goes on to recreate his turning the pages of the script one at a time— “and here—here—here—” with a slash! slash! slash! And all the time I’m thinking with a kind of growing horror: You CUT Eugene O’Neill!!!?

“But in the end,” Mamoulian assures me, “he saw that I was right, and we got along splendidly.”

But that’s not the end of the story. About a year after Mamoulian and I go our separate ways, I get a chance to attend opening night of Marco Millions at Berkeley Stage Company up in the Bay Area, as the plus-one of some guy I was seeing. This was around the time BSC was on its “classics” kick, making it clear in news and ads and publicity sheets that this wasn’t just any old O’Neill revival, this was an extra-special homage to the master playwright of our great theatrical heritage. Scenes cut from the 1928 production had been restored in order that this fruit of O’Neill’s genius be presented intact and full; Mamoulian’s name was hardly mentioned.

Well, I watch this big lumbering thing, right through the parts that dragged on and on with their interminable speeches about the redistribution of wealth and so on, and I’m thinking, this must be where he cut, here— Then here— And here  And almost like he’s whispering in my ear “See? See?” I realize that The Old Man was right to make the cuts, and that Marco Millions probably could have been a fine piece of theater if they’d stuck to the original opening night version.

But I swear, it was not on my mind to argue this during lobby talk after the curtain. The big thing on my mind was that I had the perfect story to share at this particular time, in this particular space, and yeah, I wanted to share it. I was with the guy who brought me, a cokehead freelance lighting designer who was always hitting up people for jobs. Together we went up to the artistic directors, a married couple, my date immediately starting in with the whole buttering up thing, you know, You look fabulous what have you been doing to yourself, etc etc etc.

I break in with something like, “You know, I have a great story about this play I got straight from (and here I made sure to stress the second syllable like he preferred) Rouben Mamoulian and how he worked with—”

And here the guy, my date, takes me aside and mutters as urgently but tenderly as is possible for him, “Sweetheart, would you please shut up while I’m talking business.”

Reader, I did.

So everyone, this is the first time—the very first time—in thirty-eight years I’m telling this story.

And you, Tom Stocker. Just for that, I regret having given you the most explosive blowjob of your life, the one that made you howl like a wolf.

Conclusion to come…


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My Beloved John Wilson’s Concert Schedule March Through May 2022, Plus an Update on That E-album About an English Conductor

To those of you patiently awaiting the release of my text+audiolinks album JOHN WILSON AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR: Sorry, you’ll have to wait a little while longer—my pdf software, which I’ve had no problems using when converting shorter works, is giving me grief because the collection of John’s work has grown sooo voluminous I’m going to have to make cuts. But where??? Now aiming for it to come out in time, in some shape or form, for my bonny lad’s fiftieth birthday. On va voir.

However, it also gives me time to refine my observations about John’s artistic path. Anyone who knows me from A POET FROM HOLLYWOOD: LOVE, INSANITY, STEPHEN GYLLENHAAL, AND THE CREATIVE PROCESS knows this is my real bag.

Ah, there’s the man whose every gesture makes my heart beat faster.

Meanwhile, here’s his concert schedule—including his appearance with the Royal College—for the next few months (with links to music):

John’s schedule for 5 November 2021 to 18 February 2022 can be found on my posting here.

Sun 6 March 2022 20:00
Berliner Philharmonie
Berlin, Germany
DSO Berlin

Thu 17 March 2022 19:30
Royal College of Music
London, UK
Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra

Fri 8 April 2022 19:00
Sheffield City Hall
Sheffield, United Kingdom
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Louis Lortie (piano)

___

Sat 9 April 2022 19:30
The Bridgewater Hall
Manchester, United Kingdom
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

___

Thu 21 April 2022
The Bridgewater Hall
Manchester, United Kingdom
Halle Orchestra

___

Fri 20 May 2022 19:30
Usher Hall
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Louis Schwizgebel (piano)

___

Sat 21 May 2022 19:30
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Glasgow, United Kingdom
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Louis Schwizgebel (piano)



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Safewords in Sex Bondage Games; Plus My Beloved John Wilson Conducts the CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 1 December 2021 in a Matinee of Rachmaninoff and Glazunov

Birmingham is lucky to have you, dear, even though this is the place where you made that cheerfully meathead remark about Leonard Bernstein‘s excellent wife Felicia (which bordered on anti-female and anti-semitic but hey, you got away with it with the Brummies)…

Anyroad. Here’s the current program for this 2:15pm concert, including that change from Korngold to Glazunov:

The Rachmaninoff is the one that gets my attention. My bonny claims a special affinity with this mighty Russian, as is noted somewhere in that red link above.

John ExposedI’ve decided that our safeword, John, should be Ant-n-Dec. And don’t worry, because of/despite your movingly odd remarks about women (see my posting “Maria Ewing gives Richard Strauss’s Salome the Full Monty and Sings Bali Ha’i Exotically with the JWO, Just for My Beloved Conductor, John Wilson”) I still love you. Above John’s exposed braces(!!!): The “official” government (USSR) version, and a very good one, of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No 3 (1936).


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Cantara Christopher as Simona Wing in the Porn Classic, Beyond Your Wildest Dreams (1981, Gerard Damiano director), Just for the Man I Love, BBC Conductor John Wilson

From 2020. Yesterday, Thanksgiving, a fan (thanks, Brian!) sent me a screenshot from one of my later movies, Beyond Your Wildest Dreams.

I’m looking at you, John Wilson.

Simona Wing in In Your Wildest DreamsAbove Dream Girl #1: Carlos Santana’s hit “Oye como va” which I danced topless to in the 70s. I have no idea who painted that fakey arm on my left, or why.


Lead in this feature was a fascinating woman named Juliet Anderson, a classroom teacher who, in early middle age (39), started in porn and quickly became a star due to her talent in enthusiastic penilingism, plus she photographed well doing it. I was a little more delicate going about it but I think no less effective as a wiggly little lovedoll. Fan Brian likens this pose to the one in “Cantara, 1973” except in 1973 I was 18 and this flick was shot 8 years later on a proper set.


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Following My Beloved John Wilson’s Concertizing 5 November, 2021 Through 18 February, 2022

Including his appearance at the Royal Academy and his January tour with the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands:

Fri 5 November 2021 19:30
National Concert Hall
Dublin, Ireland
RTE National Symphony Orchestra
Peter Moore, trombone

[full audio of this concert here and below—click any title]

[full video on my YT channel here / program notes here]

Sat 20 November 2021 19:30
Snape Maltings, United Kingdom
Sinfonia of London
Pavel Kolesnikov, piano

The Arts Desk in their review of this concert described the Sinfonia as “bold John Wilson’s latest super-orchestra, an army of technicolor generals”.

Sat 21 November 2021 19:30
Snape Maltings, United Kingdom
Sinfonia of London

Wed 1 December 2021 14:15
Birmingham, United Kingdom
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Nina Feng, violin

Sat 22 January 2022 20:15
De Doelen
Rotterdam, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Sun 23 January 2022 15:00
Concertgebouw De Vereeniging
Nijmegen, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Tue 25 January 2022 21:00
Muziekgebouw Frits Philips Eindhoven
Eindhoven, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Wed 26 January 2022 20:00
Theater & Congres Orpheus
Apeldoorn, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Thu 27 January 2022 21:00
TivoliVrendenburg
Utrecht, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Fri 28 January 2022 20:15
TivoliVredenburg
Utrecht, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Sat 29 January 2022 20:00
Theater Kerkrade
Kerkrade, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Sun 30 January 2022 14:15
Amare
Den Haag, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Wed 9 February 2022 19:30
St David’s Hall
Cardiff, United Kingdom
Philharmonia Orchestra
James Ehnes, violin

Wed 10 February 2022 19:30
Royal Festival Hall
London, United Kingdom
Philharmonia Orchestra
James Ehnes, violin

Fri 18 February 2022 19:30
Royal Academy of Music
London, United Kingdom
Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra



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Claptrap, a volume of poetry by Stephen Gyllenhaal (Cantarabooks, 2006)

Lest we forget the source of our lately grief, this is Steve’s one and only book, which my small press published in 2006. The poems were good. The poet was a shmuck. And I say that in deference to his lovely (ex-)wife, Naomi, to whom he dedicated this slim volume of confessional free verse. I wrote about this in my nutty memoir A Poet from Hollywood, available for free pdf download here: [https://bit.ly/jakegyllenhaalsdad].

Claptrap by Stephen GyllenhaalNaomi, why do you purposely fail to believe me??? I turned the meathead down! Twice!! Above Stephen and Peter Sarsgaard (yes, that’s the back of Peter‘s head): Hugo Alfven’s “Swedish Rhapsody” arranged-conducted by Michel Legrand and played by his orchestra.

The dedication by Jamie Lee Curtis (she’s Jake‘s godmother so she did Naomi a favor by writing this for Steve, who was in a jam—well, just read about it here) is pretty adorable and for that sake I might try to hunt up the pdf galley and upload it here.

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A Great American Songbook Song for My Beloved John Wilson, Conductor: Rodgers+Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific, Sung by Jane Olivor

I like to post short little items like this when I’m in the middle of big writing, which is where you find me now (Mamoulian in Mind and Runes of Minneapolis). This was tremendously popular in the jukeboxes of the Castro, circa late 1970s, before and after AIDS first hit. So ubiquitous was Jane Olivor’s rendition novelist Armistead Maupin couldn’t ignore it—this was the song that brought Michael “The Mouse” Tolliver to tears in the first volume of Tales of the City. Put this on and there isn’t a dry eye in the room, whether you’re thinking of a dead lover or a living one. I think of both.

Jane Olivor First NightAbove: “Some Enchanted Evening” written for the 1947 stage musical South Pacific, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. A song has lyrics, John my love. This is how I speak to you.

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Jake Gyllenhaal Sings “Finishing a Hat” by Stephen Sondheim from Sunday In the Park with George, Hudson Theatre NYC, 2017

That however you live
There’s a part of you always standing by
Mapping out the sky
Finishing a hat
Starting on a hat
Finishing a hat
Look, I made a hat
Where there never was a hat

Jake and StephenTaken by Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit (Waterland, Paris Trout) one Sunday afternoon May 2006. Steve gave me this pic the following month and he’s not getting it back. He just doesn’t understand what a good shot this is.


I know, Steve and I are still on the outs but his son sings this song so beautifully (no Mandy Patinkin like above though) I have to share it with you.


EXTRA! In 1997 Sondheim sat down for a series of interviews conducted by Mark Eden Horowitz of the Library of Congress focusing on the composition of his music; here’s the full 6-hour audio.   


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John Wilson Conducts the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra in a Concert of American Classic Film Scores, 18 September 2021

If you can get over to Belgium, this’ll be almost as good as the The John Wilson Orchestra at the BBC Proms. Performing at the 5 year-old, acoustically perfect, 2000-seat Queen Elisabeth Hall in Antwerp, the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra under John’s baton will be offering a Saturday evening filled with old favorites:

Kim Criswell, vocalist

How about making a little party out of it? And if you get over there, tell John I said hello.



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