Who is John Wilson? | Classical music
Who is John Wilson?
John Wilson, a BBC Proms favourite, is a British conductor, arranger and musical scholar, probably best known for his hugely popular programs of light music – which he often performs with his own ensemble, the John Wilson Orchestra. But, as guest conductor of several leading orchestras (including associate guest conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra), he is equally at home with standard classical repertoire. Last year he caused a stir at the BBC Proms with his restored orchestra, The Sinfonia of London, and a program evoking the world of end-of-the-century Vienna. And he’s candid about his desire to avoid being pigeonholed.
How old is John Wilson?
John Wilson was born in 1972, in Gateshead,
How did John Wilson get into music?
As a Tyneside schoolboy, Wilson fell in love with film soundtracks. With the help of his musician mother, he learned to play the piano on his own, then took up percussion at school. Then, in the 1980s, he studied A-level music at Newcastle College, where he cut his teeth as a conductor, building and conducting various ensembles, including a 96-piece orchestra for a concert version of West Side Story.
Where did he train?
At the Royal College of Music, first as a percussionist and later studying composition and conducting. In a Guardian 2017 interview he recalls: “I went from being almost expelled at the end of my freshman year to winning the Tagore Gold Medal [the college’s most prestigious award for students]. They just let me do my thing.
When did he found the John Wilson Orchestra?
In 1994, when he was only 22 years old.
What kind of light music does he conduct exactly?
Mainly tubes of Hollywood’s Golden Age. And he argues that these are as serious in their craft as a Brahms symphony or a Schubert song, conducting them with an attention to detail and earnestness that has done so much for their reputation.
And in terms of standard repertoire?
His tastes are broad but he has a weakness for British music: Vaughan WilliamsDelius, Elgar and others.
Where can I hear it next?
At BBC Proms on Saturday July 16with the London Sinfonia again, in a UK music program including Vaughan Williams, Watkins, Bax, Walton and Elgar.
Image by Sim Canetty-Clarke