Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Greensleeves” Conducted by Sir John Barbirolli and Some Natter Between My Beloved John Wilson and Edward Seckerson; Plus Monty Python, Round the Horne and Polari

Sorry for my shaky handwriting but while listening to this I had a fantasy that gave me the giggles: John being interviewed by my favorite ohne palones—prime purveyors of the gay-gypsy-theatrical patois called polariJulian and Sandy. Played of course by the inimitable Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams on Round the Horne. (This more-than-usual musical episode of Kenneth Horne’s 1967 radio show also includes Rambling Syd Rumpo, the Fraser Hayes 4 singing off-key not on purpose, and the screamingly funny takeoff skit, “Young Horne with a Man”.)

Now John, John, Glorious John, I know that you know, and I know that you know that I know, that my long-distance lovemaking to you is being observed by a few; not many, just a few. So this rundown is for them, love:

In this very-recently posted pod chat with London-based culture maven Edward Seckerson, John talks about his idol, conductor Sir John Barbirolli; von Karajan; Leonard Bernstein; French romantic music of the early 20th century; conducting Massenet at Glyndebourne; reviving the Sinfonia of London; winning that BBC thingie for his Korngold Symphony (and confirming what I surmised in my review re his “austere” sound vs “chocolate sauce”); his other Korngold recording, the violin concerto, also with son vieil ami Andrew Haveron; Richard Rodney Bennett‘s compositional journey of self-discovery; and what we’re all waiting for, what’s up with The John Wilson Orchestra (seems like that psychic flash I had in April 2020 has proven true).

Here are the main points I took away from this podcast: “What I do try to do as a conductor is carry my sound around with me… It’s almost—I don’t really feel comfortable talking about because you know music is basically a doing thing and not a talking thing… My deepest musical creed is wrapped up with how an orchestra sounds…” Which pretty much confirms what I’ve suspected these two years about him.

John, light of my life, fire of my loins, I respect your process.

Cantara's Beloved Conductor John WilsonAbove: John’s 44-minute podcast interview. Below, “Greensleeves” as we’ve all heard it on Monty Python.

Fantasia on “Greensleeves”
Ralph Vaughan Williams, composer
Barbirolli Conducts English String Music
RCA, 1963 first issue
The Sinfonia of London
John Barbirolli, conductor

23 JUNE 2020 UPDATE: Here’s Barbirolli again from that same album conducting Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia from a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which my beloved John Wilson will be conducting The Phiharmonia Orchestra in, in an online concert on 17 July.

EXTRA! Here are 2 interviews with John from BBC 2 Radio: one (8 min long) from 24 April 2016 with Michael Ball, and one (4 min long) from 4 November 2013 with Steve Wright.

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Stephen Gyllenhaal’s Big Acting Break in Walkow’s 2007 Film, Crashing

Here’s another new film clip on my YT page, a mashup of Steve’s one and only featured film appearance (in the movie Crashing, written and directed by Gary Walkow, 2007) and the Swingle Singers rendition of Mozart’s Turkish March. Last time I looked, this vid made it into Funny Or Die.

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My Bonny John Wilson Conducts the Orchestre de Lyon for the 2023/24 New Year

Well, well, this sounds exciting. Thanks, @JulietRozsa !

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John Wilson and His Sinfonia of London Tour UK with Hollywood’s Greatest Hits, 04 – 15 November 2023

John’s pop fans in Britain have nothing to worry about—all the goodness of The John Wilson Orchestra (1994-2019) is now squeezed into his new/old/new group, the Sinfonia of London in their brand-new “Hollywood’s Greatest Hits” tour. Thank Kennedy Street Productions, who brought Barry Manilow and Gladys Knight to UK’s shores, for this shrewd spectacular run aimed at the 2023 Holiday Season. Now we’ll hear the rest of the movie music John’s been transcribing all these years.

More info to come as I find it. I understand since 2 December 2022 tickets have been flying off the box office shelves.

The SageAbove: John’s own overture, “Hooray for Hollywood” for his 2011 appearance at the Royal Albert.

Glad you asked. Here’s the Sinfonia’s jam-packed “Hollywood’s Greatest Hits” tour schedule:

Sat 4 November 2023 19:00

The Anvil Theatre
Basingstoke UK
Get Tickets Here


Sun 5 November 2023 19:00

Brighton Dome
Brighton and Hove UK
Get Tickets Here


Mon 6 November 2023 19:30

Royal Albert Hall
London UK
Get Tickets Here


Tue 7 November 2023 19:00

St David’s Hall
Cardiff UK
Get Tickets Here


Thu 9 November 2023 19:30

Symphony Hall
Birmingham UK
Get Tickets Here


Sat 11 November 2023 19:30

Sage Gateshead
Gateshead UK
Get Tickets Here


Sun 12 November 2023 19:30

Philharmonic Hall
Liverpool UK
Get Tickets Here


Mon 13 November 2023 19:30

Royal Concert Hall
Glasgow UK
Get Tickets Here


Tue 14 November 2023 19:30

Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall
Nottingham UK
Get Tickets Here


Wed 15 November 2023 19:30

The Bridgewater Hall
Manchester UK
Get Tickets Here

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My Beloved Conductor John Wilson’s Lockdown Listening List: Keely Smith, Teddy Wilson, Walton, Elgar, Brahms, Ireland, Debussy, Peter Ackroyd; Plus Yusef Lateef

From the London-based Philharmonia’s website, July 2020: my beloved John Wilson’s public musical choices. Audio downloads in red.

PETER ACKROYD London, A Biography read by Simon Callow “Can I include an audiobook? I’m getting into them because I can study/write scores with them on in the background…” / Oh, John, oh no no no. I’ve heard of putting music on while reading prose, and that’s bad enough, but this other way around plays much more havoc on one’s powers of focus. But if you’re listening because you’re really groovin to the sound of Callow’s measured, reassuring, perfectly accented voice, that’s another thing…

*I am astonished that John actually, correctly, described Teddy Wilson as a Swing musician rather than put him into the catchall Jazz bag, which I’d have expected him to do, considering who was his teacher. His teacher was Richard Rodney Bennett. My teacher (at CUNY) was YUSEF LATEEF (download his 1957 album Jazz Mood here in full).

**John, are you conflating song with melody, or what? Only asking as a humble member of your audience.

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My Bonny John Wilson and the Sinfonia of London at the BBC Proms, 6 August 2023

Numerous films—such as William Dieterle‘s September Affair (1950), Charles Vidor‘s Rhapsody (1954), and Billy Wilder‘s The Seven Year Itch (1955)—have borrowed themes from Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto. Frank Borzage‘s I’ve Always Loved You (1946) features it heavily. David Lean’s romantic drama Brief Encounter (1945) utilizes the music widely in its soundtrack. Royal College of Music alumnus Benjamin Grosvenor is the soloist.

Screening Room, SF 1979Above: Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no 2 in C minor, op 18 played by Eileen Joyce with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf conducting, from the soundtrack of the 1945 film Brief Encounter. John you cad, you’re playing with my heart again.

The entire film Brief Encounter is available on my YT channel here

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“The Trees So High” by Patrick Hadley, IV Adagio Just for My Bonny Lad, Conductor John Wilson

Today, Easter, I found this work by an esteemed composition teacher of your alma mater, the Royal College of Music, the same day I also spotted the perfect illo to go with this Scotch-English ballad. I am dedicating it to you, John, because the lyrics make me shiver.

Reign of Guilds, 2023Reign of Guilds is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) now in its trial run as of February 2023. Above: The heartbreaking choral Adagio from “The Trees So High” by early 20th century English composer Patrick Hadley (1899-1973). Swiss-born Matthias Bamert conducts the Philharmonia.
The trees they grow high,
the leaves they do grow green
Many is the time my true love I've seen
Many an hour I have watched him all alone
He's young,
but he's daily growing.

Father, dear father,
you've done me great wrong
You have married me to a boy who is too young
I'm twice twelve and he is but fourteen
He's young,
but he's daily growing.

Daughter, dear daughter,
I've done you no wrong
I have married you to a great lord's son
He'll be a man for you when I am dead and gone
He's young,
but he's daily growing.

Father, dear father, if you see fit
We'll send him to college for another year yet
I'll tie blue ribbons all around his head
To let the maidens know that he's married.

One day I was looking o'er my father's castle wall
I spied all the boys a-playing at the ball
My own true love was the flower of them all
He's young, but he's daily growing.

And so early in the morning
at the dawning of the day
They went out into the hayfield
to have some sport and play;
And what they did there,
she never would declare
But she never more complained of his growing.

At the age of fourteen, he was a married man
At the age of fifteen, the father of a son
At the age of sixteen, his grave it was green
Have gone, to be wasted in battle.
And death had put an end to his growing.

I'll buy my love some flannel
and I will make a shroud
With every stitch I put in it,
the tears they will pour down
With every stitch I put in it,
how the tears will flow
Cruel fate has put an end to his growing.

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Apo Whang-Od, Kalinga Tattooist and Now Vogue’s Oldest Cover Model

Apo Whang-Od, a 106-year-old tattoo artist from the Philippines, is now the oldest Vogue cover model. Whang-Od is considered her country’s oldest mambabatok — or traditional Kalinga tattooist. (Kalinga being one of the tribes in the middle of the big island, Luzon.) Her tattoos use an age-old hand-tapping technique, which she perfected as a teenager using just a bamboo stick, a thorn from a pomelo tree, water and coal. Her work is now internationally known, and she told Vogue Philippines she’s training her granddaughters in this stunning and meaningful art form.

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Aaron Copland and His Influence on Games Composer Michael Giacchino, Among Others

Encouraged by Maestro Mauceri, I now look for the musical influences on games composers, hence my “Coplandesque” remark on FB about Michael Giacchino’s Medal of Honor theme below. Listen to my beloved and desired English conductor John Wilson helm the BBC Philharmonic in Copland works every freakin’ American knows: “Fanfare for the Common Man” (commission, 1942) and the “Simple Gifts” part of the ballet Appalachian Spring. And just for good measure! “Hoedown” from the ballet Billy the Kid ’cause I enjoy a good steak.

Somewhere in my blog (“My First Music: The Pure Joy of St Trinian’s and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness by Malcolm Arnold“) I wrote about particular chords and intervals that, to me, give music a particularly “English” sound—well, I’m coming around to understand that Copland, far from being a cheap minimalist, was actually one of the founders of the “American” sound (along with Joplin, Dvorak, Gershwin, Schoenberg and, of course, Copland’s pupil Bernstein). I’m so glad my bonny John “gets” it. His Copland almost makes up for his 2017 butchery of Oklahoma! at the Royal Albert. As for Copland’s influence, listen for it in certain tunes of Jerry Goldsmith and, as I said above, games composer Michael Giacchino.

John Mauceri’s THE WAR ON MUSIC: RECLAIMING THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (Yale, 2022) can be read free on Scribd here

Medal of Honor

Again, Giacchino’s Coplandesque theme for the game Medal of Honor: https://bit.ly/giacchino1

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Before the Oscars, 2023

So, Michael Levine, you tell me your chum Marin Alsop says “There’s finally a movie about a female conductor and she’s a sociopathic narcissist”? So freakin what? Tell her to tighten up her Adagietto.

Did she even see the film?  I did. You know what I saw? Something NONE of you gwilo morons (“unidentified Asiatic country”—sheesh!) saw—the portrait of our revered Jose Rizal high on that wall. Even before I heard the Tagalog, I knew Lydia was finally in a good place. 

The Spanish couldn’t break us. The Yanks couldn’t break us. The Japs couldn’t break us. The corporations will not break us.


So, now there’s a big movie that has—gasp!—Asians in it! My God, who are these people? Are they even human? Can we make some big money out of them?

I hope Everything does win Best Picture. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and all that.

Not that I don’t wish James Hong well. James Hong and I are both native-born Minneapolitans. My family used to eat at his family’s restaurant.

Whether Tár wins as best picture or not makes no difference at all to me. Lydia’s story is my own mental story and no one, ever in my life has ever seen that story or cared to understand that story. Any points I want to address about the movie I give to my own beloved conductor John Wilson as a gift of love and teshuvah and to no one else. 

My husband is blind, we’re living in filth and poverty, I’ve been hospitalized twice for congestive heart failure and still have to do the grinding housework of two people—but I swear before Urduja, guardian warrior spirit of my father’s province, before I go out I’m bringing you gwilo morons to your knees.

Now back to work.

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Valentine’s Day, 2023

To my beloved BBC conductor John Wilson on Valentine’s Day, 2023—the full force of our mighty spirit Buddy Holly through his emissary Stevie Nicks and company:

Valentine's Day, 2023Above: Buddy Holly’s classic “Not Fade Away” with Stevie Nicks, Waddy Wachtel et al in attendance.

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Cantara Christopher Gives Her Beloved Conductor John Wilson Crib Notes on Todd Field’s Screen Masterpiece, Tár: Love, Teshuvah and Filipinos Will Save Western Music, Part 1

Everyone is getting the 2022 movie Tár wrong, everyone. Except me and Martin Scorsese.

Which is okay, because if Scorsese, Todd Field and Lydia Tár inhabit the same artistic ecosphere as I do, I don’t feel so alone. In a world 99% made up of Maxes and Tony Tarrs, I don’t feel so much alone.

So John, lamplighter of my heart, in my ongoing quest to give you nice things, I’m going to list some elements—in sequence—in the movie you might find useful next time you cocktail chat with people…

In Part 1:

  • Playing to the New York Crowd
  • Kavanah and Teshuvah in the Kabala
  • That Fantastic Red Handbag
  • We All Know That Conductors Hate Sopranos
  • Lunch With Elliot


  • It’s Francesca texting Krista on the private flight from Berlin to NYC. It’s Krista who posits to F, you still love her then
  • Francesca is a Yale School of Music grad, probably post-grad. No matter the impression she gives of powerless and invisibility, she is actually connected and quite probably brilliant—but these days ground down. I know the feeling. Hope you never, my love.
  • The song at the beginning is in Lydian mode. (But you got that, John.) When I was 11, I was captured by the Lydian mode in this popular jukebox tune, side B of NYC-based Left Banke’s hit single.
  • In the (mostly tech/assistance) credits, there are at least 2 real people who lent their names to characters in the story, Francesca Lentini and Sebastian Brix.
  • The New Yorker Festival in which Lydia is interviewed was held 7-9 October 2022. Been to a couple of these. They’re like Glyndebourne, only without the food.
  • Lydia’s hands are beautiful my love, but no more beautiful than yours.
  • The benefit concert for Zaatari would’ve been the 10th anniversary—ten freakin years!—of that crummy refugee camp.
  • Antonia Brico was a big deal in my Women’s Liberation group in the mid 70s. You know, women of achievement. Here’s a 2018 romantic biopic of Brico, entitled The Conductor. And here’s the 1974 documentary.


  • I first got interested in Jewish mystical thought when it kept popping up in Leonard Bernstein‘s writing. The more advanced ideas, I got into at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv. I had a crush on Neil Horowitz so I followed him to Israel, after having won a CUNY scholarship to go. We learned about Maimonides, the Kabala and how to read Hebrew. Then on the way home we did it in the washroom of the El Al.
  • Kavanah means intent, just like Lydia says. She expands on this, simply and forcefully, in the master class scene.
  • Teshuvah is another matter. Teshuvah is the more important, more complex idea and it arrives close to the end of the movie so I’ll explain it more fully at the right time. Teshuvah has to do with the inevitability of creation. So you want to stick around for that.
  • You know John, this stuff is taught at the yeshiva up in Bensham, a couple miles from your childhood neighborhood of Low Fell. I know about Gateshead Talmudical College because a stateless Jewish refugee (from Cuba, he escaped, they took away his citizenship) we knew in Quito, a brilliant scholar downstairs, applied to this school so I got to read all the brochures they sent him.


  • This scene was so spot on I can’t believe a man wrote it. This is the first scene in the movie that made Scorsese start to sit up in his seat and believe again.
  • Field pulled out all his AFI grad stuff for this scene. Check out Whitney’s enormous rock as she flirts with Lydia. I’m engaged, but that’s no problem. They talk about Stravinsky. Lydia throws in a really, really esoteric Kabalistic reference that goes right past this pretty Smith alum.
  • Lydia points at Whitney’s handbag, which is luscious, and with a price tag of around US800-1200 I’d say. Now, this is where most women (and certain men) in the audience call out with awed recognition, You bitch! We know you’re angling for that bag! And you know that you’re gonna get it! Because you know that rich tramp is gonna call Bergdorf’s and have one sent to you “in token of our meeting” or other bullshit… But in the end, it’s just another cheap trophy you toss to Sharon…
  • And all the while Francesca is the background, texting.


  • I grew up with the story in music school, probably false, that the legendary Otto Klemperer made Kirsten Flagstad cry in rehearsals, which I suppose was the beginning of my conviction that there exists a natural antipathy between vocal artists and orchestra conductors.
  • So when Francesca texts Krista a shot of Lydia’s digs at the Carlyle, dubbed the “Placido Domingo Suite” and K quips, she thinks she is being ironic, you wonder in passing what the deal is between conductor Lydia and tenor Domingo.
  • But that remark is actually meant to alert us to the recentness of Francesca’s and Krista’s relationship with Lydia. Later in the movie Lydia makes a disparaging remark about the excellent mezzo Samantha Hankey—who rode to prominence quickly in 2018 after winning prizes at Gyndebourne and Placido Domingo’s own star-making Operalia (which he also conducts, by the way)—that clarifies this.


  • Tosker, man!
  • Mostly Norman Lebrecht-type stuff but we get a few necessary pieces of information, for example the Accordion Fellowship doesn’t simply place fellows in residencies, it fosters (funds?) entrepreneurship. This will figure in the Krista part of the story.
  • Elliot is a banker/lawyer/amateur conductor with biiiig pretensions. Lydia doesn’t notice his predatory tendencies because he’s gotten her fat and complacent.
  • Lydia brings up Max Bruch to affirm her place in Elliot’s society.
  • That bit about Turing Machine (a math rock group) doing Chopin’s Piano Concerto #1 in Japan, conducted by (who we later see is a dodderer) Sebastian Brix rubato has to have gotten a laugh from somebody in the audience.
  • One last one! This is the first time in the movie an Asian is clearly and lengthily shown in the background. Well dressed, middle-aged Chinese lady. You think I don’t notice these things, do you? Gwilo mooks.

Next: The Master Class

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