Review: John Wilson Orchestra Prom at the Royal Albert Hall (Prom 59)

Jane Monheit at Prom 59. Photo credit: BBC / Chris Christodoulou
BBC Prom 59 / John Wilson Orchestra
(Royal Albert Hall, 26th August 2013. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

This Bank Holiday Prom by the John Wilson Orchestra featured the briefest of appearances in the UK by singer Jane Monheit. She dropped in for a quickfire shared medley relay of movie theme songs, floated melodies like Victor Young's My Foolish Heart in real style. She and fellow medley-er Matthew Ford were applauded heartily, but then vamooshed, not to be seen again. More, soon. Please? When?

There were some other fine cameo jazz moments in the John Wilson Prom. Mike Lovatt on trumpet blazed fervently in the first number; Gordon Campbell was mellifluous and winning in David Raksin's Laura. Colin Oxley on guitar made a telling mandolin contribution to That's Amore in the medley, as did Jay Craig on baritone  in The Tender Trap. Howard McGill on alto and soprano saxes had some fine solo moments too. Matt Skelton on drums and Jeremy Brown on bass anchored many a fine moment, particularly in the rapid tempo changing antics of a 'Tom and Jerry' feature for full orchestra, which probably got the loudest cheers of the evening from the full house. This fifth annual John Wilson Orchestra Prom, had sold out on the first day of booking.

Thinking about those all-too brief jazz moments brings my mind back to those moments - even in a kaleidoscopic evening of huge energy - which (for me) passed too slowly, particularly the Max Steiner/ Hugo Friedhofer Casablanca Suite. The Korngold 'Robin Hood' suite proceeded from a love theme with dollops of extra cream reminiscent of Richard Strauss's 'Rosenkavalier', to a never-ending finale.

A high-energy evening with many moments to treasure - the  audience loved it and cheered it.  I probably haven't done justice to all of the pre-planning that went into selecting the programme. Over at The Arts desk, David Benedict has. For devotees of fim music, there's more to come:

- This Prom will be on BBCFour Television - Friday 30th August

- The John Wilson Orchestra sets off on a NATIONAL TOUR in November.

- Film music is a focus big-time in September at the BBC, with the #BBCSoundofCinema month and documentary series (see our feature from the launch)

- UPDATE: Leah Thomas of Blue Flamingo and Caroline Crampton of The Arts Desk also reviewed.


  1. How can I buy this CD - BBC Prom 59 / John Wilson Orchestra
    (Royal Albert Hall, 26th August 2013. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

    1. Unfortunately you cant, there's too much copyright involved. There's only been 1 JW Proms and that was Celebration of Classic MGM Film Musicals from 2010.
      I always keep an eye out in the tv listings in the hope the BBC will repeat them and I'm sky plus so I have them forever.

  2. The discography for the John Wilson Orchestra is HERE. I hope that helps you in tracking it down