Live Music Review: John Wilson Orchestra - At The Movies

Words: Kevin Stanley
Friday 14 December 2018
reading time: min, words

Classic Hollywood scores from a superstar orchestra


John Wilson’s superstar orchestra is on its Autumn tour entitled 'At The Movies’. Tonight this group of some of the world’s finest, hand-picked, performers stopped off at Nottingham to play to a delighted audience at the Royal Concert Hall.

The orchestra, formed by conductor and arranger John Wilson in 1994, specialises in recording and performing a vast and varied repertoire of scores from Hollywood film soundtracks and Broadway musicals from the Golden era of the 1930s to 1960s, to the present day.

‘At The Movies’ is all about the Golden era of Hollywood films. The opener was Franz Waxman’s The Philadelphia Story - Suite (1940). Many of the pieces will be familiar to audience but there were plenty of other pieces that despite being less familiar (at least to me) were still hugely enjoyable.

John Wilson himself is a fantastic conductor and quite the showman. He introduced each piece with a story about the film that it belonged to, bringing the scores to life for us with humorous anecdotes about the actors and actresses that appeared in each movie.

Joining the orchestra was solo vocalist Kim Criswell who takes to the stage on four separate occasions to accompany the orchestra with her wonderfully powerful (American-accented) voice - which is perfect for Hollywood numbers such as Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend from the 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Don’t Rain On My Parade from the 1968 movie Funny Girl. Also included in tonight’s performance was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s wildly popular The Sound Of Music from the 1965 film of the same name and I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

The fine acoustics of the Royal Concert Hall seem perfectly suited to such a large orchestra and this was a thoroughly enjoyable night of music from a 70+ strong orchestra of talented musicians. Each and every performer seemed to have a chance to shine as the pieces performed shifted through different film styles. It was a particular treat to hear a wonderful performance of Adventures on Earth from the 1982 movie ET - The Extra Terrestrial composed of course by Spielberg favourite John Williams.

John Wilson and his orchestra are usually in town at least once a year, so I would well recommend seeing them for yourself next time they are here. Whether or not you are a classical music goer I have no doubt that you'll enjoy a lively and pleasurable performance as good as this one from JWO.

The John Wilson Orchestra played at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall on Thursday 13 December 2018.


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