End of the Year 2018 While I Still Have John Wilson, Conductor in My Head

I’m finding it mighty strange that my bonny has a birthday landing on exactly the same day as my father’s (a Gemini to the core—I learned to know ’em when I see ’em) but somehow it starts to make sense: There’s John of the BBC Orchestra and Eric Coates and Vaughan Williams and the tra-la-boomy-boom that makes up English music; and there’s John of the big-shouldered swaggering sweating bombastic vibrant American tune book. One (when he plays it well) makes me want to cook him a nice lamb stew with pearl onions swimming in the rich gravy; the other (again, when he plays it well, which is almost always) makes me want to—well, I was in the business, you know. Use your imagination.

Driven to Drink by John Wilson

Only don’t be too sure which is which. Like I said, John almost always plays the music of his country and his heritage well, with a deep feeling that’s irresistible; whereas when he works out the great American tunes it turns out more often to be hit-and-miss, with many many many more misses than hits.

But oh! When he does hit! When my bonny John and his orchestra play “The Trolley Song” or “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” or “Get Happy” or the MGM Jubilee Overture it’s freakin heaven, and I’m not the only one to say this. Subtlety is not this lad’s forte when it comes to the American popular repertoire. But when John goes big, loud and busy when the number actually calls for it, screams out for it, it’s so damn satisfying when he does it and does it brilliantly that I want to—how can I put this?—do something for my darling in return…make him a nice meal…fatten him up a little… (Ess, kind, ess!)

For right now, though, I’ll settle for a natter on a quiet afternoon, which is why I thought of the Metropole before karaoke time. You know, when you get up there. I’ve never seen the Angel of the North.

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The Police Perform Ghost In the Machine at the International Stadium, Gateshead, 31 July 1982

If I hadn’t fallen so fierce hard for Geordie-born-and-bred orchestral conductor John Wilson I’d never have been delving into All Things Gateshead and I never would have found a (Seoul-based bootleg) recording of this show, which was the very show Mister Grumble and I missed in New York when I was heavily pregnant. Great music, great energy, and it was touching to catch a (private?) glance at Sting—another Geordie, by the way—crossing himself before taking the stage. The sound is impeccable.

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For more on The Police’s drummer, go to my posting below, “The Equalizer Theme by Stewart Copeland“.

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

Since 2004, when John and his eponymous orchestra first played this reconstituted medley, by MGM’s best-known music director, at the 2,900-seat Royal Festival Hall, it has 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 transcribe the score directly from hearing this lusterless 1954 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.

Here are the numbers (I’ll add the composers later): “Singin’ In the Rain”; “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”; “Broadway Rhythm”; “The Last Time I Saw Paris”; “Temptation” (shades of Tony Martin!); “Be My Love” (shades of Mario Lanza!); “The Trolley Song” (with the Judy sound); “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” (more Judy sound); “Donkey Serenade”; and “Over the Rainbow” (the Judy sound of all Judy sounds).

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

Deleted: 2 bars plus “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and John, I’d really like having a little chinwag with you re Philip Lane’s remarks etc one of these days.

Ralph Vaughan Williams Conducts His Symphony No. 5, 1952

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This recording was made off-air by a sound engineer using state-of-the-art recording equipment for the time that used rare and expensive long-playing acetate disks. The symphony was first performed in June 1943 (at the height of the blitz) but this recording captures a later performance in September 1952. There are four movements: Preludio 0:00 Scherzo 11:40 Romanza 16:40 Passacaglia 26:42.

My beloved John Wilson is slated to conduct this symphony with the Royal Northern Sinfonia at The Sage in his home town of Gateshead in March 2019.

Serenade for Strings by Lennox Berkeley, Performed by the LSO and Conducted by the Composer

The most intriguing piece in the programs of my bonny John Wilson’s upcoming concerts is this one, Serenade for Strings op.12, which he’s conducting at The Sage in Gateshead, his home town, in March 2019.

While sojourning in Europe Berkeley studied under Maurice Ravel and fell in love with Benjamin Britten which…actually…might make a good Saturday Drama for BBC Radio 4…

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Nope, forget it. I’m dry.

The Bournemouth Sinfonietta Conducted by Norman Del Mar Plays George Butterworth’s “The Banks of Green Willow”

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Butterworth based “The Banks of Green Willow” on two folk song melodies that he noted in 1907, including “Green Bushes”. “Green Bushes” was a common tune, and there are notable uses of it in works by Ralph Vaughan Williams (Folk Song Suite, Movement 2) and Percy Grainger (“Passacaglia: Green Bushes” and “The Lost Lady Found”).

George Butterworth was killed on 5 August 1916, during the Battle of the Somme. He was was a Lieutenant in the Durham Light Infantry, age 31.

Norman Del Mar was a British horn player/conductor who taught conducting at the Royal College of Music; one of his notable students was violist/conductor Neil Thomson (b. 1966) who in his own turn taught conducting at the College. My bonny John was one of his students.

Joan Sutherland Sings a Song by Composer William Shield, Local Swalwell Lad Made Good

Dame Joan was the one who got me interested in classical singing, if not doing it myself then listening to and appreciating it. This really tasty ditty comes from the pen of William Shield of Swalwell, Gateshead, who rose to be the king’s Master of the Musicians and was buried in Westminster. From his comic opera Rosina (1782).

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