Prom 59 is one that I have been hanging out for. The John Wilson Orchestra, along with their founder and conductor, John Wilson, made their yearly appearance at the Proms in Prom 59: Hollywood Rhapsody Prom. The music from this Prom is from non-musical movies, but that still have feature songs and stand-out soundtracks.
They opened with the 20th Century Fox theme tune, quickly followed by a medley of tunes (I think). I must admit, I couldn’t quite follow what music was from what, as I’m not up with my early/mid 20th century films scores, but my goodness it is good. It’s just such wonderfully good, completely harmless fun. The second piece was along the same lines.
The third piece was the suite from Psycho, music written by Bernard Herman. I can’t say I enjoyed it particularly, mostly because I do not like that film at all and it scare the **** out of me (we had to watch it for Media in Year 10 – not fun). And, I’ll admit, I took my earphones out during the Shower Scene part of the suite. It really does scare me! It was played very well – I just don’t like it.
This was followed by the suite from Citizen Kane, also written by Bernard Herman. This is quite different from the Psycho suite, and featured a stunning Russian soprano soloist Venera Gimadieva, who is from the Bolshoi, and she is fantastic. The first half of the Prom ended with the suite from Eric Korngold’s suite Robin Hood. This was rich and luscious and sumptuous.
The second half opened with Jemore Moross’s The Big Country opening title, and it was excellent. This was then followed by Max Stiener’s Casablanca Suite. Then came a medley of songs from early/mid-20th century films. The soloists Matthew Ford and Jane Monheit. There were a number of very well-known songs in here, including Three Coins in a Fountain, That’s Amore, Ca Sera Sera, among others. The soloists were brilliant, and I hope to hear more of them.
This was then followed by Franz Whiteman’s A Place in the Sun, which was quite jazz-like, heavily featuring the alto-saxophone, played by Howard McGill, but I really liked it.
Next was ‘a whole lot of cat and mouse,’ Scott Bradley’s Tom and Jerry at MGM. This was clear mayhem, mischief and general anarchy, but the orchestra sounded excellent. It’s quite something when you can hear through iPlayer that the orchestra are having a good time, and it was never more evident than in this piece. This piece included dogs barking, wolf whistles, yells and smashing plates. Brilliant.
There was laughter from the audience before the beginning of the next piece (anyone know/care to share why?), Franz Waxman’s epic Ben Hur suite. “It just so happens…” that there was an encore to this Prom, the John Wilson Orchestra played Franz Waxman’s toe-tapping Taras Bulba – The Ride of the Cossacks. Amazing, wonderful stuff. Massive, very well deserved applause from a capacity Royal Albert Hall.
And the John Wilson Orchestra…well they are beyond amazing. They have quite a unique sound, and sound quite unlike any of the other orchestras that perform at the Proms. They are so full of energy (all 108 players, who hardly fit on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall!) and you can hear in their music that they are having a great time out there performing and love what they are doing. They are just sublime.
(A lot of superlatives, but I make no apologies).
(Pictures from the BBC Radio 3 Facebook page).