Review: John Wilson Orchestra

The John Wilson Orchestra
The John Wilson Orchestra
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Andrew Vine at the Royal Hall, Harrogate (4 stars)

John Wilson, the master of bringing vintage music to brilliant and vibrant life, has over the past three years made the closing gala concert of the Harrogate International Festival his own.

It’s a measure of how the Harrogate audience has taken him to its heart that the Royal Hall box office was turning people away on Saturday night as they tried at the last minute to get tickets for the sell-out performance.

Wilson’s programme was devoted to the music of Frank Sinatra, and in singer Matthew Ford, he had an ideally sympathetic partner. There are no bigger shoes to fill in the performance of the classic popular song repertoire than Sinatra’s, but Ford acquitted himself admirably, even on signature numbers like Come Fly With Me and My Kind of Town. The orchestra, cast in the accompanying role, was scintillating in its performance of the classic arrangements 
of Nelson Riddle and Billy May.

There is a verve and drive about this ensemble on uptempo performances that sends shivers down the spine, as well as a sensitivity and warmth in its handling of ballads.

The joy that the orchestra takes in its music is plain to see.

There were as many rapturous smiles amongst the musicians on stage as there were in the audience, which gave them the ovation they richly deserved.

Wilson might well be back in Harrogate next summer, and if he is, expect the box office to be turning people away once more.