“The Warner Bros Story”: John Wilson and The John Wilson Orchestra Play the Royal Albert Hall One Last(?) Time, BBC Proms 9 August 2019

The entire program is available to listen to online on BBC Radio Streaming On Demand until 8 September 2019. Program:

  • The Sea Hawk (overture; from the 1940 film) / Erich Korngold
  • “We’re In the Money” (from Gold Diggers of 1933 / Harry Warren, Al Dubin
  • “The Desert Song” (from the 1953 film) / Sigmund Romberg, Oscar Hammerstein II
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (suite; from the 1948 film) / Max Steiner
  • The Old Man and the Sea (suite, 1st movement; from the 1958 film) / Dmitri Tiomkin
  • “Seventy-Six Trombones” (from The Music Man, 1962)  / Meredith Willson
  • “Blues in the Night” (from Blues In the Night, 1941) / Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer
  • Auntie Mame (main title; from the 1958 film) / Bronislav Kaper
  • “Gotta Have Me Go with You” (from A Star is Born, 1954) / Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin
  • “The Man That Got Away” (from A Star is Born, 1954) / Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin [in a nod to the movie’s latest remake]
  • “Get Me to the Church On Time” (from My Fair Lady, 1962) / Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner
  • 25-MINUTE INTERVAL Proms Plus Talk: a discussion of some of the great film scores being played tonight [Hah! In a pig’s eye] with Matthew Sweet, David Benedict and Pamela Hutchinson
  • Gypsy (overture; from the 1962 film) / Jule Styne, arr Ramin and Ginzler
  • Now, Voyager (suite; from the 1942 film) / Max Steiner
  • “The Deadwood Stage” (from Calamity Jane, 1953) / Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster [a Doris Day tribute]
  • It’s Magic” (from Romance On the High Seas [correction, BBC: “On”, not “In”], 1948) / Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn [again, a Doris Day tribute]
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (main title; from the 1951 film) / Alex North
  • “If Ever I Would Leave You” (from Camelot, 1967) / Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner
  • “The Days of Wine and Roses” (from the 1962 film) Henry Mancini arr Nelson Riddle, Johnny Mercer
  • “Tomorrow” (from The Constant Nymph) / Erich Wolfgang Korngold
  • ENCORE: “I Could Have Danced All Night” (from My Fair Lady, 1962) / Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner
  • ENCORE: “Harry’s Wondrous World” from the Harry Potter film series (2001-2011) / John Williams

Mikaela Bennett, Louise Dearman, Kate Lindsey, Matt Ford, singers. Maida Vale Singers, chorus. Christopher Dee, choral director. Petroc Trelawny, presenter.

[Only if you’re interested in how the program changed, click here to get to my old posting.]

JW-Prom-29 (1).jpg
Well John, this isn’t a Joan Crawford movie so there’s no gold cigarette case but as I’m still in love with you and want to give you nice things, I’ll give you my informed and reasoned observations, which is something I’ve been doing all along anyway, I hope you’ll agree, and not throwing myself into the Atlantic Ocean. So let’s do this organized, going down the numbers in the program one by one because, as you recall, I used to work at ASCAP:

  • The Sea Hawk – No surprises there. It’s good to be associated with Korngold these days, his star is certainly rising on the Continent.
  • “We’re In the Money” – Count on you to include the lyrics in pig Latin.
  • “The Desert Song” – Meh. I think the only reason you worked this in is because Kim Criswell’s singing a Romberg song in your 5 January concert in Stockholm, “Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise”, which is a hot, HOT number. In fact I can’t believe you’re going to stand on the same stage when she sings this song and not get incinerated. But that’s just you I guess.
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – God, I forgot how repetitive Max Steiner can be when he’s not cribbing from Herman Hupfeld.
  • The Old Man and the Sea – One movement, mercifully short.
  • “Seventy-Six Trombones” – You shmendrick! I lost a bet to Mister Grumble that you would never, never, EVER do this number, ever. But…yeah, it was okay. You’re no Andre Rieu though.
  • “Blues in the Night” – A low-voiced woman should sing this. Preferably a woman who’s been there.
  • Auntie Mame – You know, I’d forgotten how much I like this sweet waltz.
  • “Gotta Have Me Go with You” – See below.
  • “The Man That Got Away” – Of all your singers, Louise Dearman is the only one who could’ve carried these two numbers in this room particularly, and whatever luck or good judgment (and I’m nuts about you dear, but I’m never completely confident about your judgment in these matters) brought her there I’m glad.
  • “Get Me to the Church On Time” – A little harkening back to your 2012 Proms triumph, eh? Plus you still had the scores in your closet.
  • INTERVAL – Not your fault.
  • Gypsy – Oh baby oh baby, seconds. I still have the clip of you conducting this at the 2012 Proms. Bet you didn’t shimmy like you did last time. Instead at the end I heard you toying with your audience the way the Grateful Dead used to do at Winterland. Mama approves.
  • Now, Voyager – Again, Steiner does not translate well to the concert stage. Not great for you John, since you’ll be doing him several times next year.
  • “The Deadwood Stage” – O-kay! A FULL number from a musical, complete with chorus—this is the very thing that made your name. All is forgiven, dear.
  • “It’s Magic” – What in the name of heaven possessed whoever decided to include the worst song Jule Styne ever wrote? Redeemable only—only—if Bugs Bunny sings it.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire – Oh, you’re going to have fun with this one when you have to give sexy program notes to the audience from the podium, like you did in Brighton.
  • “If Ever I Would Leave You” – Sure. Okay. Ladies need swoony time.
  • “The Days of Wine and Roses” – Nelson Riddle!? You used the freakin Nelson Riddle arrangement?? What are you trying to do, send love signals across the airwaves to Seth MacFarlane?
  • “Tomorrow” – You had this and your Prince Charming, Kate Lindsey, up your sleeve! What a nice surprise.
  • ENCORE “I Could Have Danced All Night” – Every soprano in the world wants to hear this song done right. She passes.
  • ENCORE “Harry’s Wondrous World” – It’s unavoidable, you’re going to do John Williams somewhere. And I know the BBCCO had the scores in their basement because you conducted this with them back in 2007.

By the way, John, glad you shaved this time. Will catch up with you in Nottingham with Vaughan Williams

 

My Bonny John Wilson and His Orchestra To Appear at the 2019 BBC Proms IN A NO-TOUR YEAR

From The JWO website: “John Wilson and The John Wilson Orchestra present The Warner Bros Story, an evening of sumptuous Technicoloured scores from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema. Friday 9 August 2019 3.00pm & 7.30pm at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Tickets go on sale at 9am for Prom 29 and 30 on Saturday 11 May. Royal Albert Hall Box Office: 020 7589 8212. The evening show will be live on BBC Radio 3 and recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 2.”

Also, from what I understand on the JWO website:

THERE WILL BE ABSOLUTELY NO TOUR THIS YEAR!

Update 10 August 2019: My posting of the actual 9 August 2019 concert, with full and accurate list of numbers, is available here.

Bugs as Leopold.jpgLeopold! Leopold!

But “Technicolored”—sheesh. (Do you write your own copy, John my love? I truly hope you don’t.) At any rate, here are the numbers culled from the BBC site and John’s management’s website [updated 16 June 2019]:

  • The Sea Hawk (suite?; from the 1940 film) / Erich Korngold
  • “We’re In the Money” (from Gold Diggers of 1933 / Harry Warren, Al Dubin
  • “The Desert Song” (from the 1953 film) / Sigmund Romberg, Oscar Hammerstein II
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (excerpts; from the 1948 film) / Max Steiner
  • “The Old Man and the Sea” (suite?; from the 1958 film) / Dmitri Tiomkin
  • “Seventy-Six Trombones” (from The Music Man (1962)  / Meredith Willson
  • “Blues in the Night” (from Blues In the Night, 1941) / Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer
  • My Fair Lady (songs from the 1964 film) / Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner
  • Now, Voyager(!!!) (suite?; from the 1942 film) / Max Steiner
  • The Deadwood Stage(!!)” (from Calamity Jane, 1953) / Sammy Fain, Paul Webster [as a tribute to Doris Day]
  • “It’s Magic” (from Romance On the High Seas, 1948) / Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn* [the BBC doesn’t say so, but probably ditto for this tune as well, since Doris did sing this in the picture, to a goofy grinning Jack Carson as I remember]
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (excerpts; 1951) / Alex North
  • Camelot (songs from the 1967 film) / Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner
  • “Days of Wine and Roses” (from Days of Wine and Roses, 1962) / Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer
  • The Constant Nymph (excerpts [says the BBC, but I bet it’s a suite]; from the 1943 film) / Erich Korngold

Additionally, the Irish News announced the addition of

  • “Born In a Trunk” (from A Star is Born, 1954) / Roger Edens, Leonard Gershe [in a nod to the movie’s latest remake]

*Ah, Sammy Cahn, that altekocker. I rode up in an elevator with him and Warner Bros cartoonist Robert Clampett once and had nothing to say to him; at the time Cahn was siding with management against us ASCAP solfeggists when we tried to unionize. So I just stood there quietly, listening to the both of them natter on to each other about their respective accomplishments. “And I wrote that Jackie Gleason song!” exclaimed Cahn, while Clampett was adamantly proud of Tweety Bird, and rightly so.

On Conductor John Wilson’s Full Dress and the First Porn Movie I Ever Did, Part 1

Years ago there was a story in a Stephen King collection called “Full Dress“, which was about a formal tailcoat that turns its wearer into an insane monster. Eventually it gets worn by a struggling young conductor, and the usual King bloodletting evolves (“It’s not you, it’s the coat!!!” shrieks the pretty soprano, right before Tillotson plunges his baton into her neck).

For some reason that came into to my mind. But just so you don’t go on thinking this is some kind of fanblog (really, I’m not a fan*, just crazy in love with the bloke) I thought I’d spend a posting to tell you all how I got my first gig in pictures.

John Wilson.jpegImmaculate white full dress shirt with detachable wing collar, white dickey, white bow tie, white waistcoat, studs, cufflinks, striped trousers, and a spare tailcoat in the dressing room—my bonny lad is set

This happened in San Francisco—in the 70s a paradise for the sexually adventurous—and coming after the time I worked as Rouben Mamoulian‘s amanuensis, which was after the time I posed nude for a blind sculptor in St-Paul-de-Vence, which was after the time I danced topless in a mob-run bar in Red Hook, which was after the time I was the night solfeggist at ASCAP

So anyway. One lovely summer evening about six weeks after I hit the city I went with a (legit) actress friend to a house party up on Potrero Hill, mostly because she enticed me with the information that the party would be featuring a hot tub. (Am such a pushover for hot tubs.) Well, at the party there was this cute but obvious older guy from London (trimmed ginger beard, open shirt, bead bracelet—no one goes California like the English) named Peter, who owned the house and who invited me seulement for a session of coke+quaaludes and a nice soak later, after all the other guests have left. Then he gave me his card. (This was only the second time a man ever gave me his business card before we had sex, and it wouldn’t be the last)…

Part 2 here or below.

*No, really, I’m in love with John but he plows through Gershwin like a bull moose and treats Bernstein like Bernstein’s Saruman and he’s Frodo. How could any red-blooded American woman countenance such effrontery to her national pride?**

**He does, however, conduct Elgar and Vaughan Williams like an angel.

John Wilson Conducts The JWO in a Big Band Swingin’ Symphonic Medley, BBC2, Christmas Day 2010

Shimmy alert at 6:26. Whoever would stifle that shimmy in years to come, my bonny, would stifle your spirit.

John Wilson Big Band

Excerpts by composer and band: “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. Orchestral arrangement by composer Andrew Cottee.

Once again, my ASCAP training comes to the fore…

The MGM Jubilee Overture Arranged by Johnny Green, Reconstructed and Conducted by John Wilson, and Played by The John Wilson Orchestra

MGM’s best-known music director arranged this piece in 1954 in commemoration of the studio’s 30th birthday. And since 2004, when my beloved John Wilson and his eponymous orchestra first played this reconstituted medley at the 2,900-seat Royal Festival Hall, it has gone on to become sort of their signature piece, which they’ve played all over the world from Sydney to Berlin. I can’t imagine how John was able to reconstruct the score directly from hearing this lusterless film short, but my darling has the gift of patience and commitment.

John Wilson MGM Berlin
One of those rare moments when John conducted without his baton, which fell out of his grasp but was retrieved seconds later by an alert string player. Berlin, 2016.

Now….right. Because this is turning out to be the second most clicked-on post on my blog (the first most clicked-on being the one about Noli Me Tangere, the Filipino opera based on Jose Rizal’s classic novel) I’ve decided finally to take a few minutes to come back to this posting and add the names of the composers and lyricists as I promised—and bear in mind, I’m doing this pretty much from memory. (I was the night solfeggist at ASCAP, remember?): “Singin’ In the Rain” / Nacio Herb Brown; “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” / Cole Porter; “Broadway Rhythm” / Nacio Herb Brown; “The Last Time I Saw Paris” / Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II; “Temptation” (shades of Tony Martin!) / Nacio Herb Brown, Arthur Freed; “Be My Love” (shades of Mario Lanza!) Nicholas Brodzsky / Sammy Cahn; “The Trolley Song” (with the Judy sound) / Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane; “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” (more Judy sound) / Harry Warren, Johnny Mercer; “Donkey Serenade” / Herbert Stothart, based on Rudolph Friml; and “Over the Rainbow” (the Judy sound of all Judy sounds) / Harold Arlen, EY Harburg.

The last two numbers, “Donkey” and “Rainbow” were obvious tributes to Green’s late predecessor as music director, Oscar winner (for The Wizard of Oz score, which John reconstructed by ear), Herbert Stothart.

Deleted: 2 bars plus “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” / Frank Loesser and John, I’d really enjoy a little chat with you regarding, among other things, your fellow musical reconstructor Philip Lane’s comments one of these days.

 

The Story So Far, with Conductor John Wilson

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 Goddess smiles 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, 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 compassion, gratitude, annoyance, and lust. The compassion I can understand: I’ve been in Hollywood long enough to understand the position he’s in… As far as gratitude, read my posts about “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 whenever I’m in love with a musician I pay attention to the music. (This has happened only once before in my life, actually.) 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 sizable. 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” or, God help us, as proclaimed by Brass Bands Monthly, a “conducting icon” (at 46!?). But his musicianship at times is kiiind of brilliant.

Part Two below or here.

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

“I Have Confidence”

And right around the time in history James “Smiling Cobra” Aubrey was turning MGM’s historical music scores into LA landfill and baby John was home in Gateshead falling out of his high chair in excitement over the brand-new BBC news theme, forty-five years ago today—even down to the day of the week—I fled Minneapolis for New York (on the pretense of auditioning at Juilliard) and took a shared room at Sage House, a genteel women-only boarding house on 49 West 9th Street in Greenwich Village.

With 2 meals a day included it came out to $33 a week. You read that right. A place in Greenwich Village, breakfast and dinner, for thirty-three dollars a week. Try to imagine the mischief I got into with all the money I had left over from my weekly paycheck from my first job as a solfeggist at ASCAP, that it’s summer in NYC, it’s 1973, I’m eighteen, cute as a button and old enough to drink, and gorgeous men are everywhere. And imagine too that I’m singing a song (in my heart and sometimes while bounding down the street) that every American girl of my generation inspired by Julie Andrews sang:

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have con-fi-dence in meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Sage House NYC

“With the Wind and the Rain in Your Hair” and “Long Ago and Far Away” Sung by Dennis Day on Two Wartime Jack Benny Programs

Benny Day Livingston Wilson
Announcer Don Wilson, Mary Livingston, Jack Benny, and Irish Tenor Dennis Day

Fellow Minnesotan Clara Edwards (1880-1974) began her career as a composer and songwriter in the 1920s, joining the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1925. Edwards composed over 100 works and published over 60 songs. Her songs were “quickly taken up by publishers” (her words), and many famous singers performed them, including soprano Lily Pons and baritone Ezio Pinza. Her most successful song was “With the Wind and the Rain In Your Hair”, with lyrics by Jack Lawrence.

With the Wind and the Rain In Your Hair” (05:08)
Dennis Day and the Phil Harris Orchestra
The Jack Benny Program 01 July 1940

“Long Ago and Far Away” is a popular song from the Columbia Pictures 1944 Technicolor film musical Cover Girl starring Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly. The music was written by Jerome Kern and the lyrics were written by Ira Gershwin. Along with the Blane/Martin Judy classic “The Trolley Song“, “Long Ago…” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1944 but both lost out to Bing Crosby’s hit “Swinging on a Star”. Sixty years later it finished #92 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

This is the song that clinched for me that solfeggist job at ASCAP.

Long Ago and Far Away” (07:00)
Dennis Day and the Phil Harris Orchestra
The Jack Benny Program 04 September 1944