Happy 2021, my darling Local Low Fell Lad Made Good. I just tried getting on your management’s website for you (johnwilsonconductordotcom) to check for your January gigs when I was sent to the sinister Your connection is not private page, which perturbs me a bit as it sounds like the server might’ve been hacked.
[Sorry, have to go be with Mister Grumble for a while. More later, promise.]
[2 Jan 2021 14:20] Later. I’m back, dear. Glad to see that fixed, for now. Mister Grumble and I had a date to listen to what I just found on YT: the 1978 NYE Grateful Dead concert from The Closing of Winterland—you know, the one where [legendary band manager] Bill Graham glides down to the stage on a giant lit joint (as I described it to my blind angel which he recognized at once)—and really, it was a great night, or so the Mister tells me. The Mister is the one who turned me on to The Dead, back at our old commune in San Francisco.
But here I go rambling on about American things when I’m sure what you really want to hear is how you made out in 2020. Well honey, as you know, you did fine with your recordings on the Chandos label: Your 2 Korngolds, the symphony and the violin concerto, your Respighi, and the French dudes. I’m sorry you couldn’t conduct Tchaikovsky in Chile (sharing the same time zone with you would have been pretty cosmic), but you did “save” The Turn of the Screw at Wilton’s Music Hall, and that’s très chic.
Here is what I took away from you in 2020 (besides that perfect screenshot and your gracing me with your attention on St Crispin’s Day and the aforementioned recordings):
- The concert at the Royal Academy of Music of Brett Dean, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky (Allegro below). Since the evening I stumbled onto your YT clip from the 2009 BBC Proms (“The Trolley Song”)* I’d been longing to see (and HEAR!!!) you in a setting that was, let’s just say, less performative. (And darling, you know I know a little something about performance…) Not that I really minded any of the Proms but for two exceptions, West Side Story and the much-aforementioned Okla-freakin-homa!, which I swear I’ll finally resolve below, promise.
- Finding this video of the COMPLETE 2019 BBC Proms “The Warner Bros Story” in which I get to hear and see again (@67:30) you and the O in a rip-roaring Gypsy Overture that really appealed to the kids, you cocky bastard.
And speaking of the Proms, pardon me, my love, while I do some Fan Service for your fans :
- BBC Proms 2010 John Wilson and The John Wilson Orchestra “A Tribute to Rodgers & Hammerstein” COMPLETE downloadable audio of show here / complete video on YT here
- BBC Proms 2011 John Wilson and The John Wilson Orchestra “Hooray for Hollywood” COMPLETE downloadable audio of show here / complete video on YT here
- BBC Proms 2012 John Wilson and The John Wilson Orchestra “On Broadway” COMPLETE downloadable audio of show here / complete video on YT here
- BBC Proms 2017 John Wilson and The John Wilson Orchestra a semi-staged Oklahoma! COMPLETE downloadable audio of show here / complete video on YT here
[making dinner now, Bavarian-style pork chops with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes; I’ll come back to wrap this up as soon as I can, promise]
[6 Jan 2021 14:21] Okay, now that I’ve served all your wonderful fans around the world, let me have my say.
The BBC Proms 2017 semi-staged production of Oklahoma! pissed off 3 people I care about even though one of them is dead: Mister Grumble, a proud Oklahoman, who hated to see this nuanced Sooner tale turn into some weird English panto; original 1943 director Rouben Mamoulian, who even though dead howled in his grave at your dismissive use of his name in promos, oh, and for perpetuating a “mistruth” about him and his artistic relationship with Agnes de Mille; and me for two things: one, your use of the Robert Russell Bennett orchestration (which was never meant to play to a room the size of the Albert) instead of the film orchestration (by Bennett+Courage+Sendry+Deutsch) which, if I remember rightly, you actually used in your 2010 show for the last number, “Oklahoma!”, and it was gorgeous; and two—Marcus Brigstocke as Ali Hakim!!!??? Who the hell at the BBC was responsible for that whitewashing? And why didn’t the UK press call the Beeb on it? (I mean, if you’re all going to be hoity-toity over Maria in West Side Story…) Now, I can lay the former at your door but maybe not the latter, as the Beeb seems to have gone off its rocker on its own… But c’mon.
But let that pass. What really impresses me about my lust for you is that it started me on the road to thinking about The Old Man again. And actually, really, I should thank you for that. Mamoulian ought to be remembered—not for being a cranky old has-been, but for having directed some classic pictures and classic stage musicals like, you know, Oklahoma! I knew him. Our minds matched. That there was some weird man-woman friction going on between us toward the end makes no difference. It fries me how little regard he gets nowadays, even in the film buff world. So, ultimately, there’s no rancor on my part toward you re Mister M. (As a matter of fact, I think I’ll work out all my mental stuff about Mamoulian in a mystery one of these days.)
But now my love, here’s the last item and I hope I can finish it before I have to go in to make dinner.
Okay. Here’s the connection between you and Mamoulian, and it has nothing to do with you as a musician. It has to do with that damn full dress of yours.
[nope, stumbling around to finish this; maybe La Dietrich can help me out…]
Above John conducting the 2017 BBC Proms in sweat-soaked silk shirt: The Allegro from Tchaikovsky’s 6th played by the RAM student orchestra conducted by the man I’ve fallen in love with.
*Actually, 5 that evening, but this is the first one was the one that made me want to find more things that featured you. The others: a fragment of you doing “Laura” in Birmingham; then with the JWO the MGM Overture in Leeds; the third was of you doing a bit of Vaughan Williams’s 2nd, again with the CBSO. The 5th was Friday Night Is Music Night from 2005. When you played Captain Kangaroo you made me completely yours.
UPDATE 11 JAN 21: JOHN! JOHN! HERE’S MY ANSWER, VIA STEVIE NICKS…
- “The Story So Far, with Conductor John Wilson”
- “The Story So Far; Or, Conductor John Wilson—His Limits”
- Kindle ebook of my Hollywood comedy-mystery COLD OPEN here.
- Free pdf of my book JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here.
- Free pdf of my memoir re the Gyllenhaals A POET FROM HOLLYWOOD here.