Weedon Weekly: 7th December 2017

Our view from the gods


OK, I confess:  just when I should have been penning this I was sitting up 'in the gods' in a packed concert hall listening to The John Wilson Orchestra and Chorus. If you've not come across this musical phenomenon, John Wilson is a young Geordie lad who decided the MGM film scores (all destroyed when the big screen musicals had apparently had their day) were too good to lose. So he sat down with the many, many hours of soundtrack recordings and re-wrote the orchestral scores in complete detail, all by ear. Now, I've done my fair share of transcribing by ear and like to think I'm no slouch, but I can't see how one life is long enough (or one pair of ears sharp enough) to perform such a herculean task. 

John Wilson looks barely out of his teens now, but he must have been conducting from a pram when he founded the orchestra in 1994. I first heard JW and his startlingly lovely band in the 2009 Proms, since when he's been featured (and televised) every year in that august festival. Tony and I were so enthused that we bought rather expensive tickets to see him live - expensive, even though they were in crammed seats behind the orchestra. When we got there, we found the legroom was so poor we simply couldn't sit down. After some discussion amongst the ushers, we were escorted through tunnels beneath the concert hall to emerge centrally in the dress circle, to what must have been the best seats in the house (and certainly beyond our means) at no extra charge. The orchestra immediately swelled into glorious life and we both shed tears of sheer bliss.

Each year now we scrape together the wherewithal to sit up in the roof when JW returns on tour. And each year he adds yet more to his leviathan orchestra. This year he had his core dance band (4 each of trumpets and trombones, 5 saxes, bass and rhythm guitars, drummer and not one but two grand pianos). Added to that he has a full symphony orchestra - woodwind, French horns, harp, an amazing toy counter of percussion including a lovely celeste, and a body of the most exquisite strings you'll ever hear. This year's new feature was a real Hollywood chorus, who added stunning vocals behind the solo singers. Where can he possibly go from that? Unless it's to introduce the full Busby Berkley dancing spectacular? At least we'd get a birds' eye view from our seats in the stratosphere!

The concert hall was heaving with fans who cheered each number to the echo.  They were mostly our age - folk who remembered those movies the first time round - but also equally enthusiastic young 'uns. It goes to show that, even when pricey, tickets can sell to quality shows. I still maintain that TV exposure is the key to popularity, and TV exposure of organs has been remarkable by its absence. 

Now, as the snow falls so heavily it's blocking out the light, I'd just say that John Wilson and his Orchestra and Chorus are the best winter warmer there is. If you've not seen them yet, watch out for them on the tele, click here to see them on YouTube or even book to see them in the flesh. They truly are entertainment, with a capital 'Eee' (in a Geordie manner of speaking). 

PS: if you receive this as a newsletter sent direct to you email inbox, don't forget that there are loads of past articles available on the website itself.  Just go to and click on 'Blog'. And if you're already reading this on the website but would like future blogs sent to you direct, then subscribe at the foot of the home page.





Weedon Weekly: 19th November 2017


Less Weakly

I'm feeling much better today, perked up by your kind wishes and swift responses to yesterday's blog.  I'm now turning my attention to the opinions you expressed after my item 'Choose Your Fantasy Programme'. Terry, whose email prompted that item, wrote in to say "Well done! I'd like to think a few artists will take note. I like your suggested music - Stylistics, Barry White, Bee Gees etc. Hopefully you will publish the reactions." Your wish is my command, Terry.

Syd said "I'm one of the silver haired concert goers that Terry mentioned. I can remember quite well being in the barrack room in the early 50s listening to Radio Luxembourg on a tinny radio. So my enjoyment of music spans the 50s to the 80s, 1960 to the end of 1980 being my favourite time. Discos in the 70s as a 40 year old teenager - now that was something else! I am not a great fan of modern music. Yes, let's have some light classics included in our concert programme. There are some of us that enjoy this music. Me included."

Chris mailed "What an interesting idea! I was born in 1950 and have a lot of favourite pieces. Sadly, We'll Meet Again and White Cliffs of Dover are not in them. Some of my favourites are Palladio, Whiter Shade of Pale, Nights in White Satin, Cry Me a River, Music of the Night, This Old House, Summertime, Rule the World, Careless Whisper, Tiger Feet - loads more, but you only asked for 10..."

Norman's choice? "I find it difficult to send my Top Ten as I enjoy listening to the arrangements, styles and registrations of the various artists. I particularly enjoy hearing such arrangements as The March of the Bowmen, Knightsbridge March, The Horse Guards, Whitehall and Ivor Novello songs, The Way You Look Tonight, These Foolish Things, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes etc. It would seem I've answered your question re the decade!"  Norman followed up with another point: "My main concern is the use of new compositions. Since I retired, some 25 years ago, I have enjoyed writing as much as playing. I wrote to various publishers without success. This led me to complete the ALCM in order to see if my writing was acceptable. When I have played some of my compositions in public I have received requests. There must be many people like myself, writing music yet unable to find a way of offering these compositions to the general public. Which begs the question, do we only like to listen to the music we know, or are we prepared to listen to new compositions?"

That's a very good question, Norman, and one I shall throw open to our readership. What do you think, folks? And how many would like me to write about getting your music published? I do have an idea up my sleeve...


Weedon Weakly: 18th November 2017

ESN Wurlitzer

Weedon Weakly?

Why the spelling? Well, dear readers, I had the flu jab and I can report it works: I got the flu. Though I must say it has just been the hot and cold and achey bit. Not one cough or sneeze to interrupt my few days of slumber! I'm now reclining on the sofa, dog on lap, in that rather pleasant no-mans-land where dear Tone is still being doctor and I'm still being lazy patient. I thought I'd fire off several Weedon Weeklys featuring your emails, to get us back on track. This one is made up of your responses to my piece of 21st September 2017 about the American concert venue on a boat, when I asked for your suggestions of pleasant or unusual venues.  

First to reply was Alan Hoar who suggested The Turkey Cock pub in Hunsdon, Hertfordshire.  Alan says "I visited this place 60 years ago and, on making enquiries it's still there, worth a visit.  I won't give the game away, but getting into the place needs thinking about..."
Now, here the plot thickens.  According to the Hunsdon Village website, the pub was requisitioned for demolition by the Air Ministry in 1939. Yet it was still there when Alan visited in 1957. Has this anything to do with the tricky access? Or is it to do with this photo

Next to answer the call for venues was Terry Trevett, who said "The only venue that stands out in my memory is a Folk Park in Gothenburg, Sweden, where I listened to a Swedish pop group many years ago - it could have been the beginning of ABBA but I lost the programme, so I'll never know!" Oh, Terry. I just Googled this, and a book, The Girl With the Golden Hair, is advertised from which an excerpt reads "Her (Agnetha's) next career commitment was a summer folkpark tour with Björn, Benny and Frida, their first as a foursome. One week later, their summer folkpark tour opened in Gothenburg." That programme could have been a money spinner if you still had it...

I can add my own ten pen'orth now - the stunning concert hall at the East Sussex National Golf Hotel (pictured at the top), built by the owner of the golf club to accommodate his other passion: a Wurlitzer. I visited this venue a couple of weeks ago for some marvellous coaching from Michael Wooldridge in the (sometimes scarey) art of 'flying' a huge theatre organ.  The surroundings are, to say the least, impressive, and the organs (yes, there are two of them under the stage) are in apple-pie order. If you're free on the 10th December, then consider the Music Variety Show being held there, with Michael Wooldridge at the Wurlitzer, International Multi-Instrumentalists Andante, Star Singer Samara Stanton, and Drummer Chaz McLeod - as the poster outs it, 'A feast of music and fun'.


Weedon Weekly: 1st November 2017

Box of tissues

I'm currently wrapped up on the sofa, nursing my first cold of the winter. My head is stuffed, but not with ideas for this blog, even though I have received several interesting emails which I shall use soon.
Fortunately, I have no work lined up which requires a stand-in. But for your amusement, here are 3 lovely stand-in stories. I hope you enjoy them, and I'll be be back soon 'in better voice'.

The singing cloakroom girl.

The missing Aida

The sudden Prom soloist



Weedon Weekly: 19th October 2017

Music box ballerina

Marble-ous, a touch of glass!

Thank you to all of you who are sending me your reactions to my last blog, concerning your top 10 pieces. I'm collecting the information and will pop it up here soon. 

Meanwhile, I'm grateful to Shirley for pointing me towards this amazing music machine which plays by marbles! Also to Tony who rather enjoyed these two contrasting versions (one a solo, the other a duet) of The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by Tchaikowsky.

I love automated music. If you can recommend any museums that feature player pianos, music boxes, street organs and the like, I'd love to list them on the blog - and, indeed, visit them myself!





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