Mamoulian in Mind, a memoir by Cantara Christopher

Coming spring 2022/3. Available at Amazon.

#memoir #classichollywood #roubenmamoulian #marlenedietrich #gretagarbo #barbarastanwyck #miriamhopkins #ritahayworth #lindadarnell #cydcharisse #tyronepower #williamholden #oklahomathemusical #carouselthemusical #porgyandbess #georgegershwin #richardrodgers

John Wilson An English Conductor, a portrait by Cantara Christopher

A compilation of postings from my music/sex/film blog on BBC conductor John Wilson. Plus some additional writing not found on blog and direct links to a variety of music.

There is a small but loyal group of my own fans out there who have shown some interest in my online, real-time attention to the career, at mid-point, of dazzlingly eclectic English orchestral conductor-arranger John Wilson. For them, this collection of blog postings circa 2018-2021 will be simply another stroll through my personal reactions to John, from “That limey weed, he butchered Oklahoma!” to “That’s what Korngold should sound like, the bloke’s a genius!” to “That’s a nice Tchaikovsky, wish he could’ve made it sound as crisp as he wanted, he deserves a hug for the effort.” My desire for John, my raging hunger to have this man in my life, my kitchen, my bed, has been duly noted even by the most casual of readers. So I will not be dwelling on his manifest attractions here, preferring to save that for the erotica I write. Neither will I be going into personal reminiscences of my own experiences at music school (as a string, then voice major) that following John’s career have stirred in me, preferring to do such storytelling elsewhere.

John Wilson An English Conductor by CC 1

Rather, these blog postings make up an album, more or less, of the most pleasurable of John’s music on stage, in concert halls, and in the recording studio—from popular, well-known standards (for examples the show music of Richard Rodgers, Gershwin etc; the ballet music of Aaron Copland; the Manhattan-type jazz stylings of Richard Rodney Bennett) to the hefty orchestral works of early- and mid-century western composers like Karel Szymanowski, Carl Nielsen, Emanuel Moor). Here is the best of his John Wilson Orchestra, that fabulous, flamboyant 80-member pop musical group which he formed 27 years ago at the age of 22 and has had its own enthusiastic following centered mostly in the UK; as well as the first glorious strains of his re-formed (in 2018) Sinfonia of London. Here also are some of his more glamorous engagements, at Circus Roncalli in Berlin on New Year’s; at Snape Maltings in Aldeburgh; Glyndebourne in Lewes; and for BBC Music. Most of the videos I link to make the most of John’s visual appeal: his bookish beau-laid features, his geeky spectacles—but most of all, when he is so attired, his astonishingly elegant figure in full dress suit, the white tie and tails he wears at concerts. Again, I’ll leave my erotic scenarios of John so attired to yet another stream of writing, where he and I dwell together in the monochrome screen world of my old boss in Hollywood, classic film director Rouben Mamoulian.

Here we will concentrate on John’s actual talent and accomplishments in a variety of music styles. This means that the blog postings reprinted in JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR are only the postings wherein John—his work and his words—are featured, reviews by myself and others of his work plus lists of the numbers played by The JWO at various BBC Proms, and lots and lots of audio downloads. As John records with the finest state-of-the-art indie labels in the UK, the album samples are a particular treat. Also included are downloads of his podcast chats, made in 2020, with UK culture mavens Edward Seckerson and Michael Seal. Although much less articulate extemporaneously, when given the chance to collect his thoughts in prose John appears to be an intelligent musician, a me-ti-cu-lous researcher and transcriber, but most of all, an inspired technician who has managed to devise orchestral strategies to reflect his own musical idiosyncrasies. As luck would have it, his own musical idiosyncrasies just happen to resonate with an overwhelmingly large segment of his audience, which has led to his success.

John’s popular success—as has been mentioned by newspaper critics in reviews far more “golden” (John’s word) than mine—has lain a great deal in his specialty, which is making tweaks to the sound of works already well-known and time-honored, music that almost everybody recognizes but almost no one (unless they’re pop music geeks and/or worked at ASCAP, like me) can quite place, except in personal terms of memory or sentiment—standard pieces from the hybrid field of Classic Broadway/Hollywood Musical Theater/Film, as well as orchestrated tunes from The Great American Songbook which, by the way, is truly American and truly great. Works from the surprisingly large repertoire of English Light Music are also in John’s wheelhouse though, and it is where I have responded the most joyfully to my beloved conductor, as English Light Music has been the secret musical delight of my life, ever since I bounced up and down to Captain Kangaroo (@47:00) in my playpen.

So…here’s hoping that this album will please John’s fans, as well as bring him new ones. But most of all, of course, here’s hoping it brings a smile to John’s dear face.

Available here FREE in pdf.