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. This tune 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:

  • Erich Korngold / The Sea Hawk from the 1940 film
  • Martin-Blane / The Trolley Song from the 1944 film Meet Me In St Louis [BB Proms video https://bit.ly/trolleysong; from JWO album https://bit.ly/trolleysong1]
  • Romberg-Hammerstein / Softly as in a Morning Sunrise from the 1940 film The New Moon (song)
  • Richard Rodgers / Carousel Waltz from the 1956 film
  • Bernard Herrmann / Psycho Suite for Strings from the 1959 film [YT Proms video https://bit.ly/psychostrings]
  • Jerry Herman / Love is Only Love from Hello, Dolly! from the 1969 film (song)
  • John Williams / ET the Extra-Terrestrial Suite from the 1982 film
  • Jerome Moross / The Big Country from the 1958 film [YT Proms video https://bit.ly/jwobigcountry]
  • Max Steiner / Gone With The Wind Suite from the 1939 film
  • Kern-Hammerstein / Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man from the 1951 film Showboat (song)
  • Gershwin Bros / I Got Rhythm from the 1943 film Girl Crazy (song) [on the JWO album https://bit.ly/jwoigotrhythm]
  • Franz Waxman / A Place In The Sun Suite from the 1951 film
  • Scott Bradley / Tom and Jerry at MGM from the 1940-1958 cartoons
  • Miklós Rózsa / Parade of the Charioteers from the 1959 film Ben Hur [YT Proms video https://bit.ly/rozsabenhur]

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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Conductor John Wilson, the Sinfonia of London, and Classic Composer Erich Korngold: My Beloved John’s 4 September 2021 Concert at the BBC Proms, London

6 September, 2021. Labor Day. (Bosses 2 – Labor 1) I suspect a few people in the UK might lately be visiting here as part of their Monday morning getting-into-gear ritual, so apologies for the lateness of this new posting, but I had to make the potato salad. Mister Grumble likes my potato salad.

Another reason for the delay: I needed to see what John was wearing for this radio concert, because the work clothes my bonny chooses to wear for any particular program always convey a meaning to me—so I had to wait for his picture (forget the bullshit reviews) to come out in The Guardian or The Independent… As you can see below, he was attired in a simple concert tuxedo, which I truly hope was comfortable. (Still wore his lucky cufflinks, though.)


John and SinfoniaAbove: Erich Korngold’s Symphony in F, Conducted by John Wilson and played by the Sinfonia of London, BBC Proms, September 2021.

The importance of John Wilson’s white tie and concert tailcoat. This is what I couldn’t determine during the early days of my passion for John: Whenever he wore the tailcoat at the Proms conducting The JWO, his fancy showtunes orchestra, I wondered, was it because he was following in the historically deep tradition of maestros (Bernstein, Barbirolli etc) in dignified full dress…or was it just part of the show? So when John eschewed the tailcoat for his very important 4 September “Viennese” concert at the Royal Albert—where he could have so easily camped it up—this is what his choice said to me:

This music is serious. This presentation is serious. Spectacle doesn’t apply here. Sentimentality doesn’t apply here. Pay attention to the music! An assured, masterful bit of programming—not just some splashy entertainment, but a true, potentially life-changing encounter with Art. For only ten bucks a bottom-price ticket, I understand. I hope you Brits appreciate what you have.

John, dearest: It was only quite recently that I decided the satisfaction I get, devising interesting fantasies about making love to you in full dress (in my imagination we’re both in our work clothes, you in your tailcoat, me in my sarong), belongs best in a particular narrow stream of writing that has nothing to do with the way I regard you in real life: as a fellow artist I’d enjoy exchanging energies with. So, hooray for your concert blue suit, your concert tuxedo, your rehearsal T-shirt, all of which remind me that an actual human being strives and pulses behind the baton to create something beautiful.

Which brings us to the concert program. I don’t know the Berg so I’ll let that one alone, except to say the soprano has a nice strong tone. The Zemlinsky encore? You clever lad. Your Ravel waltz is as tight as when you conducted it at the Royal College, here even more ravishing coming from a full orchestra. I’d also get a kick reading your markings for Strauss’s Die Fledermaus Overturehave never quite heard those musical values brought out before. Very yummy.


NOTES for Korngold: Symphony in F (Chandos, 2019) can be found here.


The third movement of Erich Korngold’s Symphony in F. The Mister and I have exchanged a few strong words on this subject; however, since one cannot talk reason to a woman in love, I’m not going to include his remarks here. It’s a wonder that this single movement can bring out such contentiousness among people, even in someone like Mister Grumble, who wouldn’t’ve given a fig for Korngold if I hadn’t rediscovered Korngold through my wanton passion for conductor John Wilson and all the music that surrounds him. Even Leonard Bernstein and his protegee, John Mauceri, couldn’t agree: read my earlier post ”Leonard Bernstein Hears Korngold’s Symphony in F-sharp for the First Time”[going off to make dinner, spaghetti with chicken-tomato sauce, back asap]



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John Wilson and Orchestra at the Royal Albert and Holly Does Hollywood in Body Double, Written and Directed by Brian De Palma (Columbia, 1984)

The flick Holly Does Hollywood is fictional, of course, a fictional movie in the world of a real movie called Body Double, which was conceived and executed by the man who in an ideal world would be king of Hollywood, Brian De Palma.

De Palma’s affectionately knowing, utterly non-patronizing visit to pornland is a bit of a fantasy, of course. No flick I ever did or saw had a budget big enough to afford a mirror ball, let alone an MGM-sized dance floor (though Damiano’s later movies came close). But scale aside, De Palma understood the thing that kept nearly all of us, cast and crew, jazzed while we were being pushed to get out product, and that is: When you are making a porn movie, you are making a movie.

Now, every so often I’d remember this. I’d be in the middle of a take, and like a klieg wash switching on I’d suddenly become very aware of everything around me: the lights, the mikes, the crew, the director, the luxuriously gorgeous surroundings (half my films were done in those sumptuous private homes in Marin County), the smooth-skinned, sweet-smelling people touching me, the amused audience (most of the homeowners would hang around watching us film)—and the realization would thrill me so perceptibly I would be open to the moment and I’d like to think it showed up in my performance.

Which is the same jazzed-up open-to-the-momentness I thought I saw in John Wilson one evening when I was trawling online for classic show tunes and stumbled onto my bonny in a 2012 BBC-TV clip, commanding the podium in the middle of the Royal Albert, surrounded by an orchestra of eighty and an audience of 6,000, conducting a hot piece of Jule Styne and shimmying like a brazen hussy. And when I say shimmying like a brazen hussy, understand: I’m the brazen hussy he was shimmying like. I fell in love with him because I recognized him. I got his number. Or so it felt like…


Body Double 1984Above “Madeleine” (or is it???): Featured in De Palma’s “Vertigo” Tribute (and if you don’t get the cross-reference look up at the banner of my blog why don’t you), Body Double/Holly Does Hollywood, is the Liverpool group Frankie Goes to Hollywood, who made their initial splash in 1984 (dig it) with the best stroke song ever written, “Relax”. Of course it was banned by the BBC.


And so for over three years I’ve been following my Tyneside lad’s career and person, not as a fan, really, but as an…interested party. So you know I’m going to sit up and take notice like I did when John, conducting in 2019 possibly the last John Wilson Orchestra concert ever at the Royal Albert for the BBC Proms, looked deadly serious, almost toothache-grim, at first when he commanded the stage. Especially when you compare him to that cocky whippersnapper who took the podium back in 2011

I don’t mean to read a lot into this, maybe he did have a migraine or a toothache at the start. But I think more probably he’s thinking differently (that is, more “seriously”) about things nowadays. Eight years have passed between those two appearances, after all, and I’m sure he’s gone through scads of internal changes during that time and made some interesting decisions we’ll all find out about, sooner or later. It’d be sad if it’s John himself who thinks it’s now “unseemly” for him to shimmy in public anymore (I’m way not the only one to have noticed his gorgeous limey shimmy); but it would be a sadder thing if John’s taking the nudge-nudge hints and advice of others to heart.


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Directed by My Old Boss, Rouben Mamoulian: The Mark of Zorro (20th Century Fox, 1940) Starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone; and My Favorite Swashbuckling Score by Alfred Newman

A weekend doddle before I start the big book. The first day I went to work for Mamoulian, he asked me outright if I knew any of his movies. I told him yes, this one. Which all of you probably know like I do, from TV. (Now on Primecatch it before they yank it.) Find his remarks in my memoir, Mamoulian In Mind, which should be finished and up on Amazon sometime next year.

The Mark of Zorro, 1940Above: The suite of Alfred Newman’s Oscar-nominated score, orchestrated by Hugo Friedhofer.

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John Wilson Conducts the Sinfonia of London, 4 September 2021 at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in a Debut of Erich Korngold’s Symphony in F-sharp

For you fans, here’s the program for the 4 September, 2021 concert:

Francesca Chiejina, vocalist

John Wilson in PicadillyAbove Mister Personality: The Big Band medley from the BBC’s Swingin’ Christmas with The John Wilson Orchestra. List of tunes in the medley can be found on my blog posting, “My Beloved John Wilson Conducts The John Wilson Orchestra in a Swingin’ Christmas on BBC2, Christmas Day 2010”.



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“John Wilson’s Summer Delights” with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Streaming On Marquee Starting 19 June 2021

Just popped up in my queue: bonny John makes a new appearance in my Marquee.tv subscription.


AVAILABLE NOW: JOHN WILSON’S SUMMER DELIGHTS with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra streamcast at Marquee


Screening Room, SF 1979Above: Eric Coates’s “Cinderella: A Phantasy” recorded by my darling John Wilson with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, 2006.

Program:

MY BELOVED JOHN SPEAKS AT 46:00!

John: I think with Light Music generally one of its primary requirements is to ‘land in the listener’s lap’. It has to have a direct route to the listener’s emotions. You mention the Haydn Wood London Landmark Suite… In the 1930s from about 1933 onward, with Eric Coates’s London Suite, there was a sudden vogue for London—it was an illusory London, but it was very useful for these composers who wanted to express these sort of picture-postcard scenarios in music… Eric Coates did that very effectively with his London Suite in 1933. Now, why did people suddenly start copying Coates? It’s because it was enormously successful… It sold 400,000 copies of the 78 [record] and suddenly of course dollar signs started flashing in front of the publishers’ eyes.

And these three that we’re going to hear tonight are incredibly different individually. What should the listeners be expecting to hear?

John: The tunes are good. Particularly the last movement, “The Horse Guards—Whitehall” which was used as a signature tune for a long-running radio show [Down Your Way, 1946-92]… That’s obviously got a jaunty, horsey aspect to it… The first, “Nelson’s Column”, has a sort of quality nautical aspect to it… And the middle movement, “Tower Hill”, has a sort of thread of tragedy running through it. It’s never profoundly tragic, it’s all a kind of…as I keep saying earlier, a kind of picture postcard, a sort of 1930s-1940s sort of illusory version of what these places represent.

What are the sort of challenges you come across as a conductor when conducted and preparing music like this? 

John: You know, there are a time when there was no division between light music and serious music. But with the advent of broadcasting and seaside orchestras there was a new market for composers who specialized in that field.. And the challenge as a conductor is that you have to get off the page the immediacy of the music, the directness of the melodies and the rhythms, so I think on common levels of snap, articulation, fervor, all those things to bring these pieces to life… It’s, I think, from a player’s point of view, it’s often more than you might actually think. Part of the secret of this music’s success is that it never outstays its welcome. Which means as a player you have very little time to establish yourself. You’ve got to be in the zone and you’ve got to kind of deliver immediately. I mean, you know, I’ve been doing this stuff here with this orchestra for a lo’ of years, so they’re quite familiar with not only the style but what it is I like, so it’s all very happy music making. 


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Going Hollywood, Grieving for a Lost Star, “Stereophonic Sound” by Cole Porter, and Two Degrees of Separation from My Beloved English Conductor, John Wilson

It actually would hurt me, John Wilson my beloved, if you ever believed I think of you the way MacFarlane thinks of you—as more or less part of his gig rather than as who you are, which is to say John Wilson. Something I’d like to throttle him for but’ll probably go on watching the pre-2013 Family Guy anyway. Nothing personal against your chum.

john-wilson-with-macfarlane (1)

No, I lie, it’s personal.

About 13, 14 years ago the best friend of the son of my (now ex-) friend died unexpectedly in New York, and it was a shock to everyone. My own son, who was the same age, was a big, big fan of his—more than a fan, in fact, he practically worshipped this young actor—and was in tears that day. I texted my friend and we shared our shock and grief. Daniel Day-Lewis stopped an interview, sobbing, “I didn’t know him, I have a strong impression I would have liked him very much…and so looked forward to the work he would do in the future.” I’d so like to have witnessed this young man’s progress on screen and stage through the years myself. He was the new Brando—better than Brando, in fact, as he not only acted and directed but wrote as well. And he wasn’t even thirty. He was handsome and vigorous, he had a beautiful speaking voice. He was the most committed actor I’d seen on screen since Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces.

So there he was dead in NY. On the streets of Beverly Hills, some roving celebrity reporter from one of the gossip shows was out and about getting sound bits for his show, and came across Rob Lowe and MacFarlane. After some genial exchange of bullshit the rover blurted, Did you hear the news from New York? and without a pause went right into giving them the news. Lowe dropped his mask, truly stunned for a moment, and turned human, while MacFarlane drawled almost offhandedly, “We-ell, this is disconcerting…” And at that moment I started to genuinely dislike the calculating little creep. MacFarlane’s an almost supernaturally gifted dealmaker, Stewie’s a pretty inspired animated character, and the guy seems to have a genuine fondness for the old styles…but that just isn’t enough for my scorecard. If you could say that there’s such a thing as a Seth MacFarlane Tolerance Level, mine’s pretty low I guess.

Anyway, I’m less ironical and more earnest than one would assume at first. And I tend to take things like that hard. Not exactly an asset around here.

On another note:

“Stereophonic Sound”
Silk Stockings, MGM 1957
Janis Paige, Fred Astaire
Rouben Mamoulian, director
Andre Previn, music director

As I said in another post, I’m three degrees away from my beloved John Wilson with one particular MGM musical, Give a Girl a Break, as the bridge. But! I’m only TWO degrees away from the man I love with this MGM musical, Silk Stockings—from me to Rouben Mamoulian to Andre Previn to John.

Silk Stockings was adapted from the 1955 stage musical of the same name, which itself was an adaptation of the film Ninotchka (MGM, 1939). It was directed by my old boss, Rouben Mamoulian, produced by Arthur Freed, and stars Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse (who wound up as Mamoulian’s neighbor on Schuyler Road). Musical director was Andre Previn. It was the last movie Mamoulian, aka The Old Man, ever did (at 60—he died at 90), and “Stereophonic Sound” is one of the numbers on John Wilson+Orchestra’s 2014 Cole Porter album. But watch the clip instead. Janis Paige is the focus in this number but Fred Astaire at 58 is still a joy.


The entire film SILK STOCKINGS directed by my old boss, Rouben Mamoulian, is available to watch here



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Things I Did for Love of Geordie John Wilson, 1: Watched Get Carter (British MGM 1971, Mike Hodges Director) and Sarah Millican; and Listened to, But Didn’t Watch, The Orville

This is all to do with my beloved John Wilson, Conductor being from Gateshead. Except for that Seth MacFarlane show.

Sarah Millican first. Tried listening to this fast-talking comedienne from nearby South Shields the middle of 2019 but could not keep up with her pace or her accent. Later I started watching old episodes of Auf Wiedersehn Pet, The Likely Lads, Byker Grove (which starred BGT presenters Ant & Dec when they were kids), and now one of my favorite shows ever on television, Our Friends In the North (all episodes here) etc etc but they’re just so…masculine, you know? Which I suspect probably pretty much characterizes Geordie culture anyway… So I started alternating watching that show with When the Boat Comes In, which was more successful for me, as the estimable Northumbria-born actress Jean Heywood provided a good model of what a feminine northeast accent sounds like. After her it was a snap to follow Millican.

Second, The Orville, Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek-like TV series. Like the 70s folksinger says, “I’m a stoner, I’m a trekker, I’m a young sky walker…” So yeh, I’d be interested in watching this show just to see if it measures up to the standards of my youth. Unfortunately, none of MacFarlane’s (post-Family Guy) projects ever sound interesting enough for me to overcome my intense personal dislike for him. So…maybe later. I did, however, listen to the show’s theme music, which was written by Andrew Cottee, the same young man who wrote some arrangements for The John Wilson Orchestra over in England. The theme does everything expected of it.

Third, Get Carter, starring Michael Caine and the City of Newcastle. Made this movie last on my list because it deserves two paragraphs, being the British noir classic that it is…

Sidebar: As we all now know from film school, existentialism is the engine of noir, which means that petty details like Michael Caine speaking in a thick Cockney accent* when his character’s supposed to be from Newcastle-upon-Tyne oughtn’t to matter to the sophisticated auditor. But I had a problem. I’m sorry. Three years ago I wouldn’t have cared, one Brit being the same as any other. Then I fell in love with John Wilson, a Low Fell lad, and individuality suddenly became a very important thing to me.

The Movie Overall: Not quite sure why the filmmakers transplanted novelist Ted Lewis’s story from his original setting in Lincolnshire (Lewis’s birthplace), to Tyneside, but since it’s the classic story of the Anti-Hero’s Revenge, which works anytime, anyplace, it does fine here. Michael Caine’s a little podgy but quick with his reflexes and still a treat for the ladies. Lots of sex and violence, lots of local atmosphere, local faces, and landmarks like Tyne Bridge, the Newcastle Racecourse and, of course, the carpark across the Tyne River.

The Carpark in Gateshead Scene: By a stroke of luck Get Carter was just streamed on Criterion so I watched the entire movie, then to make sure, watched the carpark scene twice more in order to understand why it so sticks in the mind. Because it does, you know, even though I’m not a fan of movies like this. I guess it’s because there’s rather a high elegance to this scene that contrasts with all the mundaneness and phony poshness around it… Very arty, but a genuine statement. Or maybe it’s just because I like watching Michael Caine get all riled up.


Get-Carter-1971-Behind-The-Scenes-Michael-Caine-Brian-Mosely-Trinity-Square-Car-Park-Gateshead-2The now torn-down carpark at Trinity Square in Gateshead in this famous scene was a dreary piece of English Brutalist architecture that, according to its creator, was never meant to stand the test of time anyway. That’s the theme to The Orville above.


*I understand that a stage version of Get Carter was recently performed in Newcastle, with Carter’s accent spoken correctly.


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Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Played by the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra Conducted by John Wilson, October 2018

The 19th episode of the 8th season of the long-running Korean-wartime sitcom M*A*S*H entitled “Morale Victory” (clip available on my YT channel) is mostly pretty silly—but! Get through all the A-story shenanigans and there’s a surprisingly tight and moving B-story about a wounded soldier/concert pianist which culminates in a 3 1/2 minute scene that always makes me cry. David Ogden Stiers (Juilliard, ’72) plays Dr Winchester and James Stephens plays his patient.

MASH Morale Victory 08-19Above: Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major (1938) performed by the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Wilson, with piano solo by Nikola Avramovic. Plus watch the clip on my YT channel here.
(Winchester wheels David into the squalid hut that is the officers+enlisted club)
David: What are we doing here, doctor? I don’t want a drink.
Winchester: Good. Because you’re not gonna get one.
(Wheels him close to the piano)
David: What the hell is this all about?
Winchester: Please, David. (from manila envelope takes out sheet music) I’m sure you’ve heard of these, eh?
David: (glances at them) Pieces for the left hand. Of course I’ve heard of them. What are you suggesting now? That I make a career out of a few freak pieces written for one hand?
Winchester: Not at all. I won’t make any pretense about your physical ability to play concerts. That’s not my point. Are you familiar with the story behind the Ravel?
David: No, and I don’t really—
Winchester: It was written for an Austrian concert pianist named Paul Wittgenstein. He lost his arm during the First World War. He embarked on a long search to commission piano works for the left hand alone. Composer after composer turned him down. But he refused to give up. Finally, he found Ravel who, like him, was willing to accept this great challenge.
(Beat; David considers this)
Winchester: Don’t you see? Your hand may be stilled, but your gift cannot be silenced if you refuse to let it be.
David: Gift? You keep talking about this damn gift. I HAD a gift! And I exchanged it for some mortar fragments, remember?
Winchester: Wrong! Because the gift does not lie in your hands! I have hands, David. Hands that can make a scalpel sing. More than anything in my life I wanted to play. (sighs) But I do not have the gift. I can play the notes, but I cannot make the music. You’ve performed Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Chopin. Even if you never do so again, you’ve already known a joy that I will never know as long as I live! Because the true gift is in your head and in your heart and in your soul. Now, you can shut it off forever, or you can find new ways to share your gift with the world, through the baton, the classroom, the pen. (points to sheet music) As to these works, they’re for you, because you and the piano will always be as one.
(Winchester sees a spark of interest in David and moves him closer to the keyboard. With a look of determination, David begins to play the Ravel. Winchester’s face registers intense emotions, including joy)


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My First Music: “My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair” by Joseph Haydn, Sung by Joan Sutherland with Richard Bonynge at the Piano, 1970

Smile as you will at this mincing little ditty but it got me a medal at the Tri-State Vocal Competition of 1969 when I was fourteen. Go Minnesota!

Joan Sutherland Richard Bonynge.jpgAustralian-born conductor Richard Bonynge and soprano Joan Sutherland; they married in 1962.



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“We John Wilsons, we can be busy little beavers when we need to be” ~ Novelist-Composer Anthony Burgess (Dick Cavett, ABC-TV 1971)

Anthony Burgess, my Number One Language Guy, was on Dick Cavett’s talk show late one evening during my first year at music school. The host had brought up the oft-told story of how Burgess, when in his 40s, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and told he would be dead in a year; consequently he returned home to England (he’d been in the civil service in Brunei) and was seized by a mania of writing that resulted in his completing a half dozen intriguing novels, all of which are still in print. Oh, and he didn’t die in a year. Referring to his name at birth—he was christened John Wilson, Anthony being his Catholic confirmation name and Burgess being his mother’s maiden name—Burgess commented, “We John Wilsons, we can be busy little beavers when we need to be.”

John Wilson BBCSO London SymphonyDick Cavett and Anthony Burgess on my old B&W portable, a US knockoff made by the same company that cornered the 70s East Coast market in prepackaged noodle soup, Pho King. Above the interlocutors: A full audio recording of Burgess’s ’71 appearance on Cavett (the first half-hour) wherein he does an Ovaltine commercial as Shakespeare would have truly sounded.


Which is a remark that came to mind when I fell in love with John—my John, John Wilson the Conductorand read how he spent 15 years transcribing the “lost” scores of MGM musicals, toting his Sibelius-programmed laptop around, listening to tracks in off moments, plugging in those thirds and fourths and damned glissandos as he heard them, passing on pub crawling or watching the telly to keep working on this gorgeous music…

First fruit of my beloved’s efforts: The MGM Jubilee Overture, which was performed for its 50th anniversary by The John Wilson Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in 2004. (More information on the Overture plus tune credits here.)


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Alt.Spiritual Gateshead, UK and Five Easy Cooking Recipes for My Bonny Geordie, BBC Conductor John Wilson

Here are 5 easy cooking recipes I wrote down just for you, John my love, after remembering you mentioning cooking sausages for your best friend*. The dinners below, besides being tried and true and easy-peasy, are plain, nourishing, tasty, cheap, quick, satisfying, and don’t require fancy kitchen equipment or expensive ingredients:


Angel of the North Plus CraftFive elements make Gateshead a uniquely potent locus on the spiritual plane: 1) the Kolel in Bensham, the world’s most important center of esoteric Talmudic scholarship; 2) the Sage symphony concert hall on the River Tyne, which because of its particular physical manifestation is blessed by Sarasvati; 3) the underground cable hub; 4) the Angel of the North, a huge guardian structure overlooking Low Fell, the working class neighborhood where my beloved grew up (see above); 5) the city’s long history of UFO sightings and alien visitations. Above the Angel: “The Blaydon Races” (Geordie Ridley, 1862) sung by Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy and Kevin Whately for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. “Ah me lads, ye shudda seen us gannin’ / We pass’d the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin’ / Thor wes lots o’ lads an’ lasses there, all wi’ smiling faces / Gannin alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races…”


NEWCASTLE LAMB STEW

  • ½ lb boneless lamb, cut small
  • 1 large potato 8-12 oz, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced (though carrots are not traditional)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups liquid, preferably beef, lamb or pork broth; otherwise, water or combination water+broth totaling 4 cups
  • 2 tbs cooking oil, margarine, butter or other desired fat

Saute lamb pieces and onion in fat until lamb starts to brown and onions begin to soften. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 30-45 minutes or until lamb and vegetables are tender. If desired, adjust seasonings. If desired, thicken consistency with a paste made from water+flour or water+cornstarch or other thickener. Add paste to pot and cook over high heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and gravy is of desired thickness.

Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.

GATESHEAD SAUSAGE STEW

  •  ½ lb good quality smoked sausage such as Polish or garlic, left whole or cut into 2 pieces or sliced
  • ½ lb potatoes, peeled and cut up
  • ½ lb cabbage, cored and sliced to cole slaw consistency
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups beef broth, fresh or tinned (no boullion cubes or powder, please!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste, depending on type of sausage used

Combine all ingredients to a large pot, bring to boil and cover and cook on medium heat for ½ hour or until all vegetables are tender.

Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.

GEORDIE CHICKEN CURRY

  • 2 cups cooked diced chicken or tinned boneless chicken (note: leftover roast or boiled chicken may be used)
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth, tinned or fresh (note: if you have boiled chicken for this recipe, use the broth in which it was boiled)
  • 1 cup tinned peas
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine chicken broth and onion in saucepan and boil until onion is just tender. Then add chicken meat and peas. Add salt, pepper and the 2 tsp curry powder or more if spicier dish is desired. When mixture is heated through, add flour or cornstarch paste (note: see Newcastle Lamb Stew above) to mixture, stirring constantly until desired thickness. Serve on bed of plain boiled white rice with side of mushy peas and mango chutney if desired.

Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.

TYNESIDE MINCE AND MASH

For the mince:

  • 4 oz ground beef, pork or lamb or 2 cups minced beef, pork or lamb (note: roast or boiled leftover meats may be used; if using fresh ground meat, saute with onions, adding a little oil if meat is quite lean, then add remaining ingredients)
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 2 cups meat broth
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring all ingredients to a boil and when onion is soft and raw meat is cooked add thickening paste (see above).

For the mash:

  • 1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut up

Boil potatoes in separate pot in water until very soft. Drain potatoes thoroughly, add 2 tbs butter or margarine and mash thoroughly with masher or large fork. When mixture is thoroughly mashed whip it with a large spoon, adding more or margarine if desired until mash is very thick and smooth. Transfer mash to serving plate and top with mince. Serve with boiled Brussels sprouts if desired.

Serves 2, or 1 with leftovers.

WEE BONNY JOHN’S SIMPLE FISH AND CHIPS

For the fish:

  • ½ lb firm whitefish filet such as cod, snapper or perch

Cut filet into 4 2-oz pieces.

For the batter:

  • 1 cup flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and dried dill weed
  • ¼ tsp baking soda which has been dissolved
  • in 1 tbs vinegar

Stirring constantly, add sufficient water to make a thick batter.

For the chips:

  • ½ lb potatoes, peeled and sliced into chips of desired size

In a pot or deep skillet heat vegetable oil to high heat. Add chips and fry until golden brown. Remove chips from oil and drain on newspapers.

Dip fish in batter to coat and immediately fry in remaining hot oil for 2-3 minutes or until underside is brown; then turn fish with slotted spatula and fry for 1-2 minutes more. When fish coating is brown and firm remove fish from oil and drain on newspapers with chips. Serve with boiled carrots in parsley butter.

For the carrots:

  • 8 oz carrots, peeled and sliced

Boil in water until tender. Drain carrots and remove from pot. In drained pot add

  • 4 tbs butter or margarine
  • 1 tsp minced parsley
  • 1 tbs minced chives
  • 1tsp dried dill weed

Melt butter and stir until herbs and butter are evenly mixed, then add reserved cooked carrots and toss in parsley butter for about 5 minutes until carrot slices are evenly coated.

To serve, place fish, chips and carrots on serving plates and sprinkle fish and chips with salt and malt vinegar.

Serves 2. It doesn’t keep.

*If you mean bangers, the best way to cook them is to prick them so they won’t explode, then fry them gently in lard or bacon fat.


UPDATE 12/25/20 Just uploaded: Alan Robson’s Grisly Trail of Newcastle/Gateshead. Haven’t decided to keep it yet so if you want this grab it now. Robson’s walking tour spiel (a Night Owls feature) is incredibly crude, cruel and bloodthirsty, but it appeals to the 12-year old in me. If nothing else, this guy Robson’s accent is pure Geordie and he speaks slowly and distinctly, so I understand everything he’s saying except most local references. Oh! And he does mention The Dead Alien of Bensham!


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