Suite from the Score of Truly Madly Deeply by Barrington Pheloung (1954 – 2019)

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Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman tug at our hearts in this calculated romance.

Mournful noodling distinguishes this piece. I remember the movie—adore the movie—but just don’t remember the music at all. Australian-born, Royal College of Music graduate Pheloung, who died last week at the age of 65, got some considerable write-ups for having been the composer of the popular Inspector Morse theme which, again, isn’t to my taste. I’m guessing the author of Waving, Not Drowning (which I reviewed on Amazon and below) borrowed the name for his fictional conductor, Barrington Orwell, from Pheloung. It’s a small world over there.

Dmitri Kabalevsky (1904 – 1987): Overture to Colas Breugnon, op.24

My bonny John Wilson will be conducting this, among other works, on 21 September 2019 at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. Only thing I know about Dmitri Kabalevsky, that old Communist, is his “Comedians” Suite—which John may very well end up doing sometime, if he hasn’t already—and the dauntingly massive bildungsroman Jean-Christophe by Romain Rolland, who also wrote the original novel the opera Colas Breugnon is based on. (Never finished Jean-Christophe, may yet. Let you know.) This piece is typical of the kind of repertoire John’s getting known for: bright, busy, theatrical, uncomplicated, and quite entertaining. Here’s the New England Conservatory giving it a go.

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“Remember My Forgotten Man” by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, from Gold Diggers of 1933 (Warner Bros)

Remember My Forgotten Man” is performed by Joan Blondell, whose voice was dubbed by Etta Moten. Choreographer Busby Berkeley was inspired by German Expressionism and the War Veterans March on Washington, DC that occurred a few months earlier, in 1932. After watching the rushes for this number, Jack L Warner and Darryl F Zanuck, the studio production head, were so impressed that they ordered it moved to the end of the film.

My Forgotten Man

Remember my forgotten man
You put a rifle in his hand
You sent him far away
You shouted, “Hip hooray!”
But look at him today
Remember my forgotten man
You had him cultivate the land
He walked behind the plow
The sweat fell from his brow
But look at him right now
Once he used to love me
I was happy then
He used to take care of me
Won’t you bring him back again
‘Cause ever since the world began
A woman’s got to have a man
Forgetting him, you see
Means you’re forgetting me
Like my, my forgotten man
Remember my forgotten man

“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.]

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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


The True Heir to Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas: “Music and Emotion Through Time” A TED Talk (2012)

Excerpt: What happens when the music stops? Where does it go? What’s left? What sticks with people at the end of a performance? Is it a melody or a rhythm or a mood or an attitude? And how might that change their lives? To me this is the intimate, personal side of music. It’s the “passing on” part, the “why” part of it. And to me that’s the most essential of all…

Michael Tilson Thomas

Now that we have unlimited access to music, what does stick with us? Well, let me share with you a story of what I mean by really sticking with us. I was visiting a cousin of mine in an old-age home, and I spied a very shaky old man making his way across the room on a walker. He came over to a piano that was there, and he balanced himself and began playing something like this. [plays notes on piano] And he said something like, “Me…boy…symphony…Beethoven…” And I suddenly got it and I said, “Friend, by any chance are you trying to play this?” [plays Beethoven concerto] And then he said, [excitedly] “Yes, yes, I was a little boy. The symphony, Isaac Stern, the concerto, I heard it.” And I thought, My God, how much must this music mean to this man, that he would get himself out of bed, across the room, to recover the memory of this music! That after everything in his life is sloughing away, still means so much to him…

Well, that’s why I take every performance so seriously, why it matters to me so much. I never know who might be there, who might be absorbing it, and what will happen to it in their life.

A Great American Songbook Song for My Beloved John Wilson, Conductor: “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” by Cole Porter, Sung by Virginia Bruce to Jimmy Stewart in Born to Dance (MGM 1936)

I’m warning you, bonny John (and take it from someone with experience in such matters): Don’t ever again let your baton write a check your heart won’t cash.

Virginia Bruce Jimmy Stewart

I’d sacrifice anything come what might
for the sake of having you near
In spite of a warning voice that comes in the night
and repeats and repeats in my ear
Don’t you know little fool, you never can win
Use your mentality, wake up to reality
But each time I do just the thought of you
makes me stop before I begin
‘Cause I’ve got you under my skin

The Grateful Dead Take a Little Break from Each Other at Winterland: Excerpt From the Novel A Hole in the Fog by Michael Matheny For Conductor John Wilson and His Fans

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…“But the weird thing is,” he continued, “just how popular the Dead have become in just the last few years. I remember back in ‘69, even ‘70, just before I got drafted, they were still playing for free in the park and handing out free grass and acid to keep what little audience there was from splitting. I remember even when they played Kezar in the spring of ‘73, they only charged five bucks for three bands. And even so, there were only a few hundred people there. You could loll around in the bleachers or lie out on the grass and listen to the music all afternoon, just like a free concert in the park.” He turned to Moose and me. “You guys remember that one, don’t you? It was right after you got here.”

“Yeah,” said Moose. “What a trip! The Dead must have played for about four hours straight.”

“Or four hours stoned,” Hemp corrected. We all laughed dutifully. “Then right after that,” he continued more seriously, “they put out a triple live album of their ‘72 European tour. And now, all of a sudden, they’re more popular than the Stones or Led Zeppelin, at least around here.”

“But I don’t understand,” objected Cookie. “I read that they might be breaking up. Isn’t this concert called ‘A Special Evening With Jerry Garcia and Friends’?”

“Sure,” said Hemp with a wink. “‘Jerry Garcia and Friends’! That’s just to keep the crowds down and the tourists away. I’ll bet anybody the price of his ticket, fifteen bucks, that at least four of the six other members of the Dead show up onstage tonight with Jerry. That’s all you really need anyway. Any takers?”

We all declined. “You’re the expert, Hemp,” I told him without the least hint of irony. “We believe you.”

He took a last puff on the joint, licked his thumb and forefinger and pinched out the lit end, then dropped the roach neatly into his jacket pocket, and stood up. “Line’s beginning to move,” he said.

We all stood up as well, stretching and working out the kinks that had formed due to contact with the cold damp cement, and followed the line as it began to shuffle in a surprisingly orderly fashion toward Winterland’s entrance. Once inside, we presented our tickets and got frisked by the friendly private security guards hired by Bill Graham Presents in order to keep the cops away. They were only looking for cans, bottles, and weapons, paying no attention whatsoever to the obvious herbs, pipes, hand-rolled cigarettes, pills, and other drugs and paraphernalia. After all, they wanted us to have a good time! After patting us down and finding nothing untoward, our guy merely shrugged his shoulders and pointed to a permanent sign fixed to the wall which read “No Pass Outs! If You Leave, You Have Left!”

Inside, everything was a riot of color and celebration. Loud rock music poured from an impressive array of wall-mounted speakers, as members of the audience tossed frisbees and batted balloons around. A light show played on a screen mounted on the back wall behind the drum set on the raised stage where the group would soon be playing. There were some seats in the back, but they were located under the overhanging balcony where both sight and sound would be somewhat obscured. So we opted to join the throng of people who were already packing the dance floor, swaying and bobbing energetically to the recorded music.

In a few moments the house lights dimmed and a single white spotlight suddenly illuminated a single figure who was standing at the front of the stage and adjusting a floor microphone stand to the proper height. It was none other than Bill Graham himself, we were informed by an awed whisper from Hemp.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began solemnly and formally. “On behalf of the entire organization I’d like to thank you for your support during the past year and welcome you to a very special New Year’s Eve concert. As most of you probably already know, The Grateful Dead…” There were loud screams and cheers at the mention of the sacred name. “…The Grateful Dead are taking a well-deserved vacation from performing.” Astoundingly, there were no boos at this announcement, only a loud collective sigh of disappointment and regret. “So tonight,” he continued, “we present to you, as advertised, Jerry Garcia and Friends. Since Jerry’s friends may not be well-known to all of you, I’d like to introduce them to you.” There was some polite, but rather unenthusiastic applause at this announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he again intoned, more dramatically this time, “from Marin County, on percussion, Mr. Mickey Hart!” A spotlight hit the drums on one side of the stage as a cymbal rhythm began, to wild applause. “On drums, Mr. Bill Kreutzman!” Another spotlight hit the other side of the stage as a heavier drumbeat was added and the applause increased. “On bass guitar, Mr. Phil Lesh!” A bass line was added as the roar of the crowd now became thunderous. “On tambourine and vocals, Miss Donna Godchaux, and on piano, Mr. Keith Godchaux!” The light came up on the piano, revealing a tall thin young man with a heavy mop of blonde hair, who was sitting on the piano bench playing a few languid chords. A strikingly beautiful young woman with long, dark, straight hair, wearing a flowing peasant dress was standing by his side enthusiastically beating a tambourine. “On guitar and vocals, Mr. Bob Weir!” This brought the largest demonstration yet from the audience, who stomped and whistled their approval until the building shook. “And finally, on lead guitar and vocals, Mr. Jerry Garcia! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘Jerry Garcia and Friends’!”

Jerry ambled over to the microphone stand and said quietly, “Hope you don’t mind if my friends sit in tonight.”

“Yeah,” agreed Bob, strumming a few chords on his guitar, “we were just gonna sit around the house, you know, have a quiet evening, maybe get a little stoned…” There was laughter and a loud roar of approval. In a louder voice he continued, “But when Jerry called us up, we knew that this was the place to be tonight. So let’s get this party started!”

And astoundingly, without any warning whatsoever, they launched into one of their high-energy numbers, “Bertha”, so fiercely and flawlessly it took our breath away.

About three hours later, after playing most of their old favorites and some of their new, the Dead (“Jerry Garcia and Friends”) closed their first set with a rousing rendition of “Not Fade Away”. Then Bob Weir stepped up to the microphone. “We’re gonna take a little break now. See ya ‘round midnight.” Then they all ambled off the stage as the house lights came up…

—From A Hole in the Fog by Michael Matheny (Cantarabooks, 2003)