John Wilson swings into Harrogate

It's one of the hottest dates on Harrogate International Festival's packed month-long programme.

Friday, 23rd June 2017, 6:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:37 am
John Wilson. Picture: Chris Christodoulou

Starting June 30 until July 29, is the month-long smorgasbord of music and family events that take place throughout the Spa town for the flagship summer Harrogate Music Festival.

The John Wilson Orchestra has become a perennial favourite, bringing the power of the Proms to Yorkshire’s doorstep.

Best known for their Hollywood-themed concerts at the Proms, broadcast to millions, the world-class orchestra will appear at the Royal Hall in Harrogate on Saturday July 15.

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“I’m conducting at the proms three times this year, so preparations for that will be starting soon,” Wilson said. “I haven’t got much free time!”

Now one of the UK’s most acclaimed and respected conductors, John Wilson grew up in an ordinary Tyneside family. He was turned on to music listening to his dad’s copy of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album. Today, he has a close working relationship with Paul McCartney and has orchestrated and conducted several of his compositions. “I never thought I’d grow up to work with Paul McCartney when I was five years old!”

“My parents weren’t musicians or anything like that,” Wilson said. “It was just something that was in me. There’s not a day I can remember when I was not obsessed with music from being a toddler. I remember going to the piano and thinking, I know how this works – it seemed logical, just like learning to speak.”

The John Wilson Orchestra has become a firm favourite with Harrogate International Festivals’ audiences. This year, they’ll perform a celebration of Rodgers and Hammerstein at Harrogate’s Royal Hall.

“I’m looking forward to coming back to Harrogate, we love playing there, we love playing in the Royal Hall, it’s a wonderful Hall, and the audience is great, it’s always packed to the rafters.”

The Rodgers and Hammerstein programme features the film versions of their most famed hits, alongside Rodgers and Hart hits – many of which featured in their 2009 debut at the Proms dedicated to the golden era of MGM studios.

“It’s quite a time frame – spanning the 30s, 40s, 50s – and we have some great singers who work with the orchestra regularly, really top singers to deliver the songs, and it’s a big orchestra. The film orchestrations are really opulent.”

Hits will include tracks from Oklahoma! Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music.

John Wilson Orchestra: A Celebration of Rodgers and Hammerstein/Hart, Saturday 15 July, Royal Hall, Harrogate, 7.30pm. Box Office: 01423 562303, or visit