Review: Hooray For Hollywood!, at Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Monday is not traditionally a going-out night. But when John Wilson is in town it’s a different matter.
Now touring a revamped version of his successful BBC Proms concert, Wilson drew a capacity audience to “the best concert hall in the country” for an evening of seemingly endless highlights.
Heard in the flesh the John Wilson Orchestra has a quality that combines the best symphonic practices – rich-toned, attacking strings and a characterful, beautifully coloured wind section – with the raunchy powerhouse brass playing of a big band.
In this venue clarity, balance and precision were all stunning, as was the impact of those glorious arrangements by Hollywood’s musical master craftsmen Conrad Salinger, Ray Heindorf, Robert Russell Bennett and others.
Almost as impressive were the four vocalists. In around two dozen numbers Kim Criswell and Matthew Ford’s versatility in recreating the style (without resorting to impersonation) of several legendary performers provided several joyous moments; for her part Annalene Beechey did a super Deanna Durbin in Can’t Help Singing; and tenor Noah Stewart displayed his operatic credentials to fabulous effect (and also garnered the biggest cheers) with his Serenade from The Student Prince.
Above all, though, it was the music itself that really delivered the goods. John Wilson’s energy and enthusiasm is much greater than the single Hooray of the title song (which, surprisingly, we heard as an encore.)
He deserves three cheers at the very least.