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Review: John Wilson Orchestra at The Sage Gateshead

The John Wilson Orchestra played to a packed Hall One of Sage Gateshead. Kieran Gill was there to catch the show led by Gateshead-born John Wilson

The Sage Gateshead Music Centre with the Baltic
The Sage Gateshead Music Centre with the Baltic

John Wilson Orchestra: A Tribute to the Golden Age of the MGM Musicals, Sage Gateshead

For a moment we fell into the 1950s. Such was the authenticity of the sound, it was easy to lose yourself in the era of the classic Hollywood musicals.

There was no room to spare as strings, brass, woodwind and percussion set up camp on the pink-tinted stage. A quick collective tune up, a slight nod from lead violinist Andrew Haveron and it began.

Dressed to the nines in a tux, Gateshead-born John Wilson, the man to lead us on our cinematic journey, had entered to rapturous applause.

An opening burst of Singin’ in the Rain was particularly apt on this soggy day. It put into mind Gene Kelly, strolling with his umbrella.

Matthew Ford and Anna-Jane Casey were present to sing the classic numbers and the chemistry between the pair - he also in a tux and Anna-Jane in red silk gown and diamonds - was there for all to see.

It was a solo from Anna-Jane that stole the show, her vocal prowess in The Lady is a Tramp draped in attitude. But that is not to take anything away from Matthew who had the tough task of stepping into Frank Sinatra’s shoes.

With the Hall One acoustics creating irresistible tones, I Got Rhythm was performed to the high standard set by the Gershwin brothers. Who could have asked for anything more?

Trumpet player Mike Lovatt soon answered, capping his solo by comically waving a white handkerchief in surrender.

The night neared its finale and the celebrated conductor said: “It has been particularly thrilling to be back in my home town.”

Thrilling for the audience, too. Once the dust had settled from a standing ovation, a 13-minute piece from An American in Paris was all that was left to savour.

When Mr Wilson assembles his players he plucks the best of the best. Surely even Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would have felt lucky to be backed by such an orchestra.

Kieran Gill


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