“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.]

JW-Prom-29 (1).jpg
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

 

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

A Great American Songbook Song for My Beloved John Wilson, Conductor: “Where Or When” by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart from Babes In Arms (1937)

When you’re awake
The things you think
Come from the dreams you dream
Thought has wings
And lots of things
Are seldom what they seem

Where or When

Another love song to you, John Wilson my darling, my bonny, my Tyneside lad. In Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Warner Bros 1974), Scorsese’s fourth feature, my favorite actress in the world Ellen Burstyn plays Alice Hyatt, a New Mexico housewife suddenly widowed and left without means of support, who decides to try to return to her childhood home of Monterey, California and make a go of it again as a professional singer.

Weak and breathy as her voice is, she keeps the tune and the beat throughout the entire song—Scorsese has her sing the entire song, with intro—and something about the way Edna Rae (Burstyn’s original name) sings appeals to me so much I come back to this scene again and again. Maybe it’s that her through-line is surprisingly strong. By the way, you do notice the sheet music for Oklahoma! on the piano…

John Wilson, Conductor, “Stereophonic Sound” by Cole Porter, and Going Hollywood

john wilson no macfarlane

It actually would hurt me, John my beloved, if you ever believed I think of you the way MacFarlane thinks of you—as more or less part of the gig rather than as a person. (Something I’d like to throttle him for but’ll probably go on watching the pre-2013 Family Guy anyway.) I’m less ironical and more earnest than one would assume at first. Not exactly an asset in this town.

On another note:

“Stereophonic Sound”
Silk Stockings, MGM 1957
Janis Paige, Fred Astaire
Rouben Mamoulian, Director

Silk Stockings was the last movie my old boss 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.

Directed by My Old Boss, Rouben Mamoulian: Applause, Starring Helen Morgan, Paramount 1929

Legendary torch singer Helen Morgan (she was the original mulatto Julie in Jerome Kern’s Showboat) was only 28 when she played the washed-up headliner mother of a chorus girl in this early, early talkie (19-freakin-29!!!) which benefits from an excellent sound recording. Filmed over at the Astoria Studio in Queens. Note Mamoulian’s penchant for symbolism: Morgan’s poster like the Holy Madonna hovering over her daughter and daughter’s sweetheart; the rolled-up curtain on the bannister posing as Death. When I saw this shot it hit me what a genius The Old Man actually really was, and it got me steamed over his treatment by later generations…and particularly by the typically English supercilousness displayed toward him by my beloved John Wilson re the original production of Oklahoma!, right before John conducted his own semi-staged version at the 2017 Proms. More on that later.

Applause can be viewed here in its entirety.

Applause Ending

Conductor John Wilson’s Reading List, My Old Boss Rouben Mamoulian, and Oklahoma!

Well Liberace, flame of my heart, if there’s one thing that can absolutely be said about our relationship at this point, it’s that you know how to spell my name correctly.

John Wilson Wanted.jpgYou block me for an offense equivalent to a friendly panty raid…?

Ecoute: I know you’ve known about my blog for a few months now although you haven’t really read any of it, opting instead to let your friends/fans/acquaintances describe it to you in an offhanded way as thoughtfully or not as they care to, giving you all something to genteelly snigger at on a Sunday…and that’s cool by me, I can’t stop you. You’ve got your mates. (Know what my mates call you? “Some English guy who does that thing over there.”)

Anyway, for a few weeks after I fell in love with you, this would have been until July of last year, I had been quite content to simply go on slavering after you adolescently but unobtrusively in that old Tiger Beat way—you know, “Win a Dream Date With Conductor John Wilson!!!” etc etc—but when I finally caught up with your 2017 video clips all that changed, because you put Mamoulian back in my head, thank you very much.

Don’t get me wrong, I was always intending to talk about The Old Man one of these days, in my own time. But you kind of forced my hand when in interviews you started to blather a lot of malarkey about the original 1943 production of Oklahoma!. Now, there were productions of his Mamoulian liked to talk about, CarouselPorgy and BessThe Song of SongsQueen Christinabut the one he talked about the most to me personally was Oklahoma!. We’ll go into that in an upcoming post, which I think I will call “John Wilson Conducts Oklahoma! at the 2017 BBC Proms, Rouben Mamoulian Howls In Protest from His Grave, Part 2“. (Part 1 here.)

John Wilson Conducts Oklahoma at the 2017 BBC Proms, Rouben Mamoulian Howls In Protest from His Grave, Part 2

John my bonny, if we ever sit down someday and have a natter like two old friends I’d tell you how in many ways you’re like The Old Man, which you’d better take as a compliment, because Rouben Mamoulian was a freakin genius. I didn’t think so when I worked for him, but then I was only twenty-three and he was eighty-one, and the only movie I knew of his—besides the one with Tyrone Power which I watched on TV when I was a kid—was Queen Christina, the result of cinema art-house hopping in New York in the mid-70s, and which had a special place in my half-lesbian heart on account of The Divine Garbo.

CXG Oklahoma
The most subtle reference ever to Agnes De Mille that was clearly about Agnes De Mille without having to mention her name was on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, season 4 episode 2: “So now they’re randomly doing ballet?” “I guess so, it’s hard to follow.” (Hip-hop follows.) “That’s not even the correct dance language for this piece.” Bay Area-born Vincent Rodriguez III is the hunk in the red neckerchief who plays Josh Chan, heroine Rebecca Bunch’s pinoy love interest.

But like I said earlier, I’d known coming in that he had directed Carousel and Oklahoma on Broadway because Filipinos damn well know Rodgers & Hammerstein. There are a lot of parts for pinoys in R&H musicals, ever stop to think about that? I’ll bet you never, my Tyneside lad.

So when he finally started to open up to me, after a few weeks of my just coming in every weekday morning and answering his phone, opening his mail—unpaid bills, media people from all over wanting interviews, a few lines from old friends like Armina Marshall…Paul Horgan…Pamela Mason…Ray Bradbury—balancing his checkbook, reassuring Zayde on the intercom over and over that Henry their handyman hadn’t gone home yet etc etc, and basically fooling around during the many dull spots (which is how I ended up playing the Waltz from Carousel on the actual legendary Richard Rodgers piano) it was easy to follow The Old Man’s train of thought because I already knew a lot about the original production of Oklahoma.

“You know, Agnes…” he started right off the bat one day, and we both immediately understood who he was referring to: Agnes De Mille, the choreographer for the original 1943 production.

I sat up attentively, pen in hand, ready to take dictation. My main duty for Mamoulian was supposed to have been as amanuensis for his memoirs, after all. At least that’s what the temp agency had told me. Although they didn’t say amanuensis.

“No, put your pen down and listen!” he ordered. He was, in the weeks and months to come, going to say that a lot.

So I did.

[more later]

Part One here.