My Birthday Treat; Plus a Quick Note to My Beloved English Conductor, John Wilson Before His January 2022 Tour with the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

John, mi vida— It may be likely that we’ll actually meet up sometime or another, since I give not only to the Academy but to the College as well (although I’m thinking of becoming a Friend of the College this year because one, Dr Adlard at the main office has been very kind, and two, I’d like to visit the RCM’s brand-new museum), and so perhaps my few dollars might wangle me an invitation to one of those “Meet the Fellows” wine-and-cheese thingies you as a Fellow are encouraged to attend. If that happens, how about coming over and saying hi to me? I won’t bite. I forgave you for Oklahoma! a while ago.

My birthday treat: Knightsbridge March from London Everyday by Eric Coates and Conducted by My Excellent John Wilson with the BBC Philharmonic. Video clip of John conducting this piece with the BBCSO in 2010 on my YT channel here.

Everyone else, find John’s schedule for January and following, including his tour with the NYO Netherlands, at:

“Following My Beloved John Wilson’s Concertizing 5 November, 2021 Through 10 February, 2022”

and including his appearances at the Royal College and the Royal Academy:

“My Beloved John Wilson’s Concert Schedule March Through May, 2022”


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My Beloved John Wilson Conducts The John Wilson Orchestra in a Swingin’ Christmas on BBC2, Christmas Day 2010

With singers Anna-Jane Casey, Seth MacFarlane, and Curtis Stigers. Mike Lovatt solos on the trumpet. Plus brazen hussy shimmy alert. Whoever would stifle that shimmy in years to come, my bonny, would stifle your spirit.

Swinging Christmas, 2010Above: The full audio of the BBC’s Swingin’ Christmas With the John Wilson Orchestra, 2010. Big Band medley selections are listed below. Find the complete show on YT here.

For the Big Band medley: “Skyliner” – Barnet / Charlie Barnet; “Take the A Train” – Billy Strayhorn and vocalist Joya Sherrill / Duke Ellington; “Let’s Dance” – Gregory Stone (based on von Weber’s “Invitation to the Dance”, orchestrated by Hector Berlioz) / Benny Goodman; “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” – Irving Berlin / Ray Noble; “Begin the Beguine” – Cole Porter / Artie Shaw; “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” – Ned Washington and George Bassman / Tommy Dorsey; “Midnight Sun” – Hampton and Sonny Burke / Lionel Hampton; “You Made Me Love You” – Monaco and McCarthy / Harry James; “Moonlight Serenade” – Miller / Glenn Miller; “Peanut Vendor” – Moisés Simons / Stan Kenton; “Woodchoppers Ball” – Joe Bishop / Woody Herman; “One O’Clock Jump” – Count Basie / Count Basie.

This is the kind of music ID-ing I used to do when I was 18 and a night solfeggist at ASCAP, John.

Composer Andrew Cottee is the show’s orchestrator-arranger.


The entire 2010 BBC Swingin’ Christmas With the John Wilson Orchestra is available to view on YT here.



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To Beloved Conductor John Wilson: Eugene O’Neill and My Old Boss, Classic Film/Stage Director Rouben Mamoulian

From December, 2018. John Wilson: You are a true musician, you command the finest magical mechanism Western Civilization has ever invented: the symphony orchestra, and you do this for a living. All life is asking you to do is be cool with it, and the fact that I’ll be continuing to make love to you long distance indefinitely.

Now, there are far more interesting exercises in the world of Schenkerian analysis than one huffy American ex-porn actress taking the piss out of a popular middle-ranking, BBC-scripted, English conductor… If it weren’t for the fact that ex-porn actress happens to have fallen in love with aforementioned Conductor and lusts after him regularly*. Therefore she takes Conductor’s pronouncements a little more seriously, a little more discerningly than she would, say, the pronouncements of her own musical compatriots—Alsop, Tilson Thomas, Mauceri etc… Additionally, Conductor reveals in his public statements more about himself than I think he’d prefer, John.

So as much as I’d enjoy ragging you for the impudent (and ultimately self-revealing) remarks you made about Mrs Bernstein and Mrs Coates, I really should finally get down to the one single thing (aside, of course, from your tearass tempi, your overuse of percussion, your rushing of singers, your astonishing lack of color in certain critical pieces) that has bugged me since the day I first encountered it: your juvenile dismissal of my old boss, film/stage director Rouben Mamoulian, and his creative contribution to the original 1943 production of Oklahoma! Now, I know you were only riffing off info you got from some book or Andre Previn, who likely socialized with The Old Man when they were both at MGM. But, as I mentioned in an old posting, of all his stage and screen work The Old Man liked to talk about, the one he liked to talk about the most was Oklahoma! And I turned out to be his perfect audience, because early on I’d confessed to him that I was a big Rodgers & Hammerstein fan. (Filipinos are big Rodgers & Hammerstein fans, for obvious reasons.)

But before I get to the point about Oklahoma! I have to tell you a side—though relevant—story about Mamoulian and Eugene O’Neill.

John and Mamoulian 2Rouben Mamoulian and John Wilson at around the same age (40), 80 years apart.

*6pm PDT=2am UK time=3am Netherlands time till the end of January.

MAMOULIAN’S AND MY EUGENE O’NEILL STORY

This is the second story Mamoulian ever told me back in 1978 when he was 81 and I was 23, which he told me in a way that was flattering as hell, which was he didn’t ask if I knew who Eugene O’Neill was, although I did say “Wow” at the mention of the name, so he might have sized up my interest that way, and just went right into the story.

Seems that when he was living an emigre’s life in New York, trying to make a go of it in stage work, he scored his greatest career triumph to date: The Theater Guild wanted him to direct a play by Eugene O’Neill. Now, O’Neill had already won the Pulitzer and he’d already had several successes, not to mention his other new play, Strange Interlude, was already generating a lot of pre-opening night buzz, so we’re talking King of 1928 Broadway here. O’Neill agrees to meet Mamoulian in his hotel room (that is to say, O’Neill’s hotel room. It seems like the best stories about O’Neill take place in hotel rooms) to talk over any directorial concerns O’Neill, the playwright, might have, and if he has any advice to give this youngster concerning his play.

“Actually, Mr O’Neill,” says Mamoulian, trying to sound like himself at thirty, you know, the brash but confident whiz-kid, “I know exactly how to fix your play.”

“You will change not a word. Not a word!” says O’Neill. And here The Old Man doesn’t bother to actually imitate O’Neill, although in time I heard him do some good impressions of other people, mostly actors.

“Look here, Mr O’Neill,” says young Mamoulian, opening the bound script of Marco Millions that he brought with him. “I can show you exactly where the speeches slow the play down, and where we can achieve the same ends using action. Here—” And here The Old Man imitates taking a blue pencil and gleefully slashing a diagonal line across a rejected page like editors do— “—and here—” He goes on to recreate his turning the pages of the script one at a time— “and here—here—here—” with a slash! slash! slash! And all the time I’m thinking with a kind of growing horror: You CUT Eugene O’Neill!!!?

“But in the end,” Mamoulian assures me, “he saw that I was right, and we got along splendidly.”

But that’s not the end of the story. About a year after Mamoulian and I go our separate ways, I get a chance to attend opening night of Marco Millions at Berkeley Stage Company up in the Bay Area, as the plus-one of some guy I was seeing. This was around the time BSC was on its “classics” kick, making it clear in news and ads and publicity sheets that this wasn’t just any old O’Neill revival, this was an extra-special homage to the master playwright of our great theatrical heritage. Scenes cut from the 1928 production had been restored in order that this fruit of O’Neill’s genius be presented intact and full; Mamoulian’s name was hardly mentioned.

Well, I watch this big lumbering thing, right through the parts that dragged on and on with their interminable speeches about the redistribution of wealth and so on, and I’m thinking, this must be where he cut, here— Then here— And here  And almost like he’s whispering in my ear “See? See?” I realize that The Old Man was right to make the cuts, and that Marco Millions probably could have been a fine piece of theater if they’d stuck to the original opening night version.

But I swear, it was not on my mind to argue this during lobby talk after the curtain. The big thing on my mind was that I had the perfect story to share at this particular time, in this particular space, and yeah, I wanted to share it. I was with the guy who brought me, a cokehead freelance lighting designer who was always hitting up people for jobs. Together we went up to the artistic directors, a married couple, my date immediately starting in with the whole buttering up thing, you know, You look fabulous what have you been doing to yourself, etc etc etc.

I break in with something like, “You know, I have a great story about this play I got straight from (and here I made sure to stress the second syllable like he preferred) Rouben Mamoulian and how he worked with—”

And here the guy, my date, takes me aside and mutters as urgently but tenderly as is possible for him, “Sweetheart, would you please shut up while I’m talking business.”

Reader, I did.

So everyone, this is the first time—the very first time—in thirty-eight years I’m telling this story.

And you, Tom Stocker. Just for that, I regret having given you the most explosive blowjob of your life, the one that made you howl like a wolf.

Conclusion to come…


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My Beloved John Wilson’s Concert Schedule March Through May 2022, Plus an Update on That E-album About an English Conductor

To those of you patiently awaiting the release of my text+audiolinks album JOHN WILSON AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR: Sorry, you’ll have to wait a little while longer—my pdf software, which I’ve had no problems using when converting shorter works, is giving me grief because the collection of John’s work has grown sooo voluminous I’m going to have to make cuts. But where??? Now aiming for it to come out in time, in some shape or form, for my bonny lad’s fiftieth birthday. On va voir.

However, it also gives me time to refine my observations about John’s artistic path. Anyone who knows me from A POET FROM HOLLYWOOD: LOVE, INSANITY, STEPHEN GYLLENHAAL, AND THE CREATIVE PROCESS knows this is my real bag.

Ah, there’s the man below whose every gesture makes my heart beat faster.

Meanwhile, here’s his concert schedule—including his appearance with the Royal College—for the next few months (with links to music):

John’s schedule for 5 November 2021 to 18 February 2022 can be found on my posting here.

Sun 6 March 2022 20:00
Berliner Philharmonie
Berlin, Germany
DSO Berlin

Thu 17 March 2022 19:30
Royal College of Music
London, UK
Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra

Fri 8 April 2022 19:00
Sheffield City Hall
Sheffield, United Kingdom
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Louis Lortie (piano)

___

Sat 9 April 2022 19:30
The Bridgewater Hall
Manchester, United Kingdom
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

___

Thu 21 April 2022
The Bridgewater Hall
Manchester, United Kingdom
Halle Orchestra

___

Fri 20 May 2022 19:30
Usher Hall
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Louis Schwizgebel (piano)

___

Sat 21 May 2022 19:30
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Glasgow, United Kingdom
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Louis Schwizgebel (piano)



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Following My Beloved John Wilson’s Concertizing 5 November, 2021 Through 18 February, 2022

Including his appearance at the Royal Academy and his January tour with the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands:

Fri 5 November 2021 19:30
National Concert Hall
Dublin, Ireland
RTE National Symphony Orchestra
Peter Moore, trombone

[full audio of this concert here and below—click any title]

[full video on my YT channel here / program notes here]

Sat 20 November 2021 19:30
Snape Maltings, United Kingdom
Sinfonia of London
Pavel Kolesnikov, piano

The Arts Desk in their review of this concert described the Sinfonia as “bold John Wilson’s latest super-orchestra, an army of technicolor generals”.

Sat 21 November 2021 19:30
Snape Maltings, United Kingdom
Sinfonia of London

Wed 1 December 2021 14:15
Birmingham, United Kingdom
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Nina Feng, violin

Sat 22 January 2022 20:15
De Doelen
Rotterdam, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Sun 23 January 2022 15:00
Concertgebouw De Vereeniging
Nijmegen, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Tue 25 January 2022 21:00
Muziekgebouw Frits Philips Eindhoven
Eindhoven, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Wed 26 January 2022 20:00
Theater & Congres Orpheus
Apeldoorn, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Thu 27 January 2022 21:00
TivoliVrendenburg
Utrecht, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Fri 28 January 2022 20:15
TivoliVredenburg
Utrecht, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Sat 29 January 2022 20:00
Theater Kerkrade
Kerkrade, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Sun 30 January 2022 14:15
Amare
Den Haag, Netherlands
National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands

Wed 9 February 2022 19:30
St David’s Hall
Cardiff, United Kingdom
Philharmonia Orchestra
James Ehnes, violin

Wed 10 February 2022 19:30
Royal Festival Hall
London, United Kingdom
Philharmonia Orchestra
James Ehnes, violin

Fri 18 February 2022 19:30
Royal Academy of Music
London, United Kingdom
Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra



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Safewords in Sex Bondage Games; Plus My Beloved John Wilson Conducts the CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 1 December 2021 in a Matinee of Rachmaninoff and Glazunov

Birmingham is lucky to have you, dear, even though this is the place where you made that cheerfully meathead remark about Leonard Bernstein‘s excellent wife Felicia (which bordered on anti-female and anti-semitic but hey, you got away with it with the Brummies)…

Anyroad. Here’s the current program for this 2:15pm concert, including that change from Korngold to Glazunov:

The Rachmaninoff is the one that gets my attention. My bonny claims a special affinity with this mighty Russian, as is noted somewhere in that red link above.

Haydn Wood London Landmarks (Birmingham, John Wilson cond)I’ve decided that our safeword, John, should be Ant-n-Dec. And don’t worry, because of/despite your movingly odd remarks about women (see my posting “Maria Ewing gives Richard Strauss’s Salome the Full Monty and Sings Bali Ha’i Exotically with the JWO, Just for My Beloved Conductor, John Wilson”) I still love you. Above: The “official” government (USSR) version, and a very good one, of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No 3 (1936).


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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 (Mamoulian in Mind and Runes of Minneapolis). This 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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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:

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), 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 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's Swingin' Christmas, 2010Above 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.


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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), Our Friends In the North 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 RCM 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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