RTÉ today announced John Wilson as Principal Conductor Designate of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. One of the most exciting conductors and arrangers on the scene, Wilson has been the RTÉ CO’s Principal Guest Conductor since 2009. He will succeed David Brophy as RTÉ CO Principal Conductor in January 2014.
Born in Gateshead on Tyneside in 1972, Wilson studied composition and conducting at the Royal College of Music, where he won all the major conducting prizes and the coveted Tagore Gold Medal for the most outstanding student. He has since established an enviable reputation as a conductor, arranger and scholar, and is recognised internationally as an expert in the fields of light music, jazz and music for screen.
He arranged and conducted the music for Kevin Spacey’s film Beyond the Sea, orchestrated and conducted several of Paul McCartney’s compositions with the London Symphony Orchestra, and his arrangements and orchestrations have been played by the Chicago Symphony, Boston Pops and Cleveland orchestras.
As well as his role as Principal Guest Conductor of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Wilson is Principal Conductor of the Northern Sinfonia and also works regularly with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the CBSO, the Philharmonia and the BBC orchestras, with a focus on symphonic orchestral music as well as the repertoire for which he is so well known.
His performances with his own John Wilson Orchestra, a handpicked collection of leading players from orchestras across the UK and Ireland, have introduced him to the widest audiences with their immensely popular televised appearances at the BBC Proms. His 2009 Prom celebrating 75 years of MGM musicals was a sensation. Televised live on BBC Two and watched by 3.5 million viewers, it generated so much public demand that it was repeated three times, released on DVD and led directly to an exclusive recording contract with his eponymous orchestra on EMI (now Warner Music Group). Since then, the annual visit of the John Wilson Orchestra has become one of the hottest tickets of the BBC Proms, with Hollywood Rhapsody the most recent to sell out the Royal Albert Hall in August.
Wilson’s dedication to this repertoire is evidenced by his painstaking, bar-by-bar reconstruction of ‘lost’ orchestral scores of MGM musicals. Engaged by MGM to reconstruct the orchestrations of all their major musicals, including High Society and Singin’ in the Rain, he gave the first European performances of the restored score of The Wizard of Oz synchronised with the film. Irish audiences have seen him conduct the RTÉ CO in a series of highly successful Wizard of Oz screenings, as well as in screenings of classic song-and-dance routines, Gotta Dance!
Another hugely popular strand of his Dublin appearances has focused on the great musicals of stage and screen, performed in their original arrangements and featuring internationally renowned guest vocalists such as Kim Criswell, Anna-Jane Casey, Rodney Earl Clarke, Matt Ford, Annalene Beechey, Elizabeth Llewellyn, Julian Ovenden and Clare Teal.
Other highlights of John Wilson’s four years as RTÉ CO Principal Guest Conductor give an indication of his range: La Sheridan – A Gala Operatic Tribute to Margaret Burke Sheridan with Orla Boylan, Anne Marie Gibbons and Alfie Boe (April 2009), The John Lennon Songbook with Mark McGann, Curtis Stigers and Claire Martin (August 2009), The Great American Songbook with Richard Rodney Bennett and Claire Martin (May 2010), My Fair Lady with Anthony Andrews (August 2010), A Gilbert & Sullivan Extravaganza with Richard Suart and Sarah Fox (October 2011), an evening of American classics featuring Gershwin’s Piano Concerto with Artur Pizarro (February 2012), and a Spanish-themed night Boléro featuring Morgan Szymanski in Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez (April 2013).
This evening, 5 September, he conducts the RTÉ CO in Essential Classics, followed by Essential Opera on Thursday 19 September, and in October he returns for two concert performances of South Pacific, all taking place at the National Concert Hall.
Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, Interim Executive Director, RTÉ Orchestras, Quartet & Choirs, commented: ‘A versatile and progressive group of musicians like the RTÉ Concert Orchestra needs a conductor who is adaptable, communicative, unifying and clear, so that he can shape and express the sound of the ensemble. I have had the privilege of watching John working with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in recent times and of hearing him conduct his own orchestra during BBC Proms concerts a couple of years ago. His enthusiasm is infectious – for musicians and audience alike. I welcome John to the role of Principal Conductor and look forward to hearing him bring that enthusiasm to Irish audiences through our many platforms on RTÉ.’
Anthony Long, General Manager of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, welcomed the appointment, saying: ‘The appointment of John Wilson as Principal Conductor to the RTÉ Concert Orchestra is another milestone in the orchestra’s evolution as the country’s premier provider of high-quality popular orchestral music. It is a real coup for RTÉ and underscores our commitment to the arts in Ireland. John is rare among conductors in valuing good music equally whether it is Mozart or Mancini, making him a perfect fit for the RTE Concert Orchestra. I look forward to working closely with him to deliver the best music in the best performances at the best value, in the true spirit of public service of which RTÉ is rightly proud.’
John Wilson commented: ‘I am thrilled to be appointed as Principal Conductor of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. I have tremendous respect and admiration for this incredibly versatile and accomplished group of musicians.’
The precision, passionate musicianship and pure verve that John Wilson brings to all genres of music matches the RTÉ CO’s own commitment to achieving the highest quality across the eclectic range of its output. In Wilson’s own words, ‘It’s all music and we have to play The Band Wagon with as much care, attention and style as we do a Beethoven symphony.’