Two John Wilson Orchestra Proms – Sinatra and Bernstein

Prom 30: My first Prom of 2015 (and second ever) was one I was so keen for I actually bought tickets rather than risking the queue – Seth MacFarlane and The John Wilson Orchestra performing Sinatra in a Late Night Prom on Friday August 7.

From my ear and eye viewpoint in the circle, the performance was absolutely stunning. The John Wilson Orchestra produced a magnificent, rich sound which climaxed with the High Society Overture – a fantastic piece of work played at the highest of standards.

Seth MacFarlane, best known for creating Family Guy, American Dad and Ted, is also a fantastic crooner which often inspires his oeuvre. It was apparent throughout that he genuinely enjoyed the experience and put his heart into the songs, mostly with great success, with just a few moments that weren’t quite rich enough.

But if it’s a rich, broad vocal you’re after, the other male singer, Jamie Parker, certainly delivered and was possibly the night’s best surprise, for me at least.

The stage set for Prom 30
The stage set for Prom 30

Seth and Jamie together on Guys And Dolls was a moment to remember, and Seth’s duet with Claire Martin on This Can’t Be Love was another starry moment.

Unfortunately, the sound balance was never quite right and a lot of diction and even notes from the vocalists got lost among the full big band sound at the brassiest moments which was a huge shame.

Altogether, the programme was an excellent combination of old favourites and more niche numbers – with Let’s Face The Music And Dance and I’ve Got You Under My Skin two particularly well-known highlights – plus arrangements by Nelson Riddle that showed the craft of Sinatra in a brilliant showcase.

The view from the gallery before Prom 67
The view from the gallery before Prom 67

Prom 67: Back for my second ever promming experience and my first in the gallery (because the arena queue was already so huge when we arrived!) it was time for The John Wilson Orchestra again- this time performing works by the American composer Leonard Bernstein on Saturday September 5.

The singer who opened the show created a truly showstopping moment (before the show had even begun!) with the first lazy, deep notes of I Feel Like I’m Not Out of Bed Yet from On The Town. Then, when Julian Ovenden and two others strode on to belt out New York, New York, the audience knew the fantastic quality was there to stay.

Highlights were two hilarious and cheeky numbers – A Hundred Ways To Lose A Man from Wonderful Town sung by Louise Dearman, and Candide’s Glitter And Be Gay from Scarlett Strallen – plus all the West Side Story numbers, especially the orchestra’s shining moment Dance At The Gym. The Overture from Candide was also a stunning way to begin the second half.

The programme had a similarly clever mix of these ever-popular and quality numbers, plus less well-known musicals that, for various reasons but usually the script, never took off – Peter Pan, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue which wonderfully showcased the Maida Vale Singers, and Trouble In Tahiti.

The only issue, once again, was the lack of volume from the singers which was even more of an issue than before, although that could have been because I was slightly higher up in the gallery compared to the circle. But it made some songs indecipherable.

This is probably why the orchestra’s solo moments were so particularly special but also why the tender moments from the singers with a less bold, round ensemble sound shined through even more.

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2 thoughts on “Two John Wilson Orchestra Proms – Sinatra and Bernstein

  1. Clive September 16, 2015 / 12:45 PM

    I think the sound at the RAH is always a battle to balance and can be very dependent on where you sit, or stand. It sounded great when we saw them on TV. (We were in the Circle for both Proms. The atmosphere in the hall was just electric, something that doesn’t come across on TV.
    By the way A Hundred ways to loose a Man was sung by Louise Dearman.

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