Taken at the upstairs hall at The Sage, the Royal Northern Sinfonia’s permanent home in Gateshead, on the south side of the river from Newcastle. That’s the Tyne and the Tyne Bridge out the window.
Royal Northern Sinfonia is a British chamber orchestra, founded in Newcastle upon Tyne and currently based in Gateshead. For the first 46 years of its history, the orchestra gave the bulk of its concerts at the Newcastle City Hall. Since 2004, the orchestra has been resident at The Sage, Gateshead. In June 2013 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the title “Royal” on the orchestra, formally naming it the Royal Northern Sinfonia.
This is the group John Wilson wished a happy birthday to, and it’s a truly worthwhile one: The RNS has an outstanding record in community outreach in the northeast of England. It’s pleasing to think that bonny John had a childhood filled with such musical memories—makes me recall Northrop Auditorium and the Minneapolis Symphony, now the Minnesota Orchestra. (Will tell all about my Vietnam War-era music school/protest days sometime.)
The vid above doesn’t have the entire Vaughan Williams, so here’s my lovely lad conducting this exquisite piece:
Made in Britain (2011)
“The Lark Ascending”
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Composer
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
John Wilson, Conductor
Oh John honey. You’re a sweetheart to do this when you’ve barely unpacked.
John conducted Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Symphony no. 5 in D major with the Royal Northern Sinfonia at The Sage in his home town of Gateshead 1 March 2019.
The composer who wrote this piece has obviously been in love. It’s in the music.
In fact, while sojourning in Europe Berkeley studied under Maurice Ravel and did fall in love with Benjamin Britten which…hmmm…might make a good Saturday Drama for BBC Radio 4…
Anyway, the sunniest piece in the programs of my bonny John Wilson’s upcoming concerts is this one, Serenade for Strings op.12, which he’s conducting with the Royal Northern Sinfonia in a program entitled Great Britons, again at The Sage in Gateshead, his home town, 1 March 2019.
I’m still finding it mighty strange that my bonny has a birthday landing on exactly the same day as my father’s—the 25th of May, which would make him a Gemini—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 then 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.
Local Low Fell Lad Makes Good
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 bonny John and his orchestra play “The Trolley Song” or “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” or “Get Happy” or the MGM Jubilee Overture—or the absolute best of the lot, “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue“—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, bright, busy and loud 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 gratitude…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, John, when you get up to Gateshead again. I’ve never seen the Angel of the North.
If I hadn’t fallen so fierce hard for Geordie-born-and-bred John Wilson, Conductor I’d never have been delving into All Things Gateshead and I never would have stumbled onto a bootleg recording of this show, which was the very show Mister Grumble and I missed in New York when we were just setting up household and 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.
For more on The Police’s drummer, go to my posting below, “The Equalizer Theme by Stewart Copeland“.
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 conducted this symphony with the Royal Northern Sinfonia at The Sage in his home town of Gateshead in March 2019.
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 (which is right next door to the neighborhood of Low Fell), Gateshead, who rose to be the king’s Master of the Musicians and was buried in Westminster. From his comic opera Rosina (1782).