Seth MacFarlane & More Featured on John Wilson Orchestra's THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! CD, Released Today, 9/25
EMI Classics has announced the U.S. release of The John Wilson Orchestra's That's Entertainment: A Celebration of the MGM Film Musical. World renowned conductor and arranger John Wilson leads an all-star cast of singers and his Grammy Award-nominated eponymous orchestra, comprised of some of the UK's finest musicians, on this dazzling recording of some of the greatest songs from Hollywood's Golden Age. Most of the scores have been lovingly and painstakingly reconstructed by Wilson, as MGM destroyed the originals in 1969.
This is the first time the songs, including "Singin' in the Rain", "Steppin' Out with My Baby", "The Trolley Song", and title track "That's Entertainment", have been recorded in their intended orchestration since the films' original soundtrack recordings. That's Entertainment, also features a world-class cast of singers including Kim Criswell, Matthew Ford, Sarah Fox, Seth MacFarlane (the creator of the hit series Family Guy, and film comedy Ted) and Curtis Stigers.
The Standard Edition CD, a Deluxe Edition and a DVD of the 2009 BBC Proms, which launched John Wilson to fame in his native UK, is currently featured as part of a major national PBS pledge drive in August and September, will be available through all stores and online retailers today, September 25th, 2012.
John Wilson is a world renowned conductor, arranger and film music expert who has worked closely with Sir Paul McCartney, and also arranged and conducted the music for the Kevin Spacey film Beyond the SeA. Wilson was given permission by Warner Bros., then rights holders to the MGM film catalogue, to reconstruct the scores to the classic MGM film musicals. In 1969, the studio made the decision to destroy the scores to their legendary film musical catalogue, which includes High Society, The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis and An American in Paris. It is difficult now to understand the thinking that led to the destruction of the MGM scores, yet Wilson explains, "the attitude of the time was that they'd served their purpose. Nobody realized that this music might later be seen as great popular art of the 20th century."
When the rise of television sent movie audiences into decline, MGM, with its huge payroll and exorbitant star roster, had much to lose. The studio went through multiple ownerships and had difficulty housing its considerable assets. Wilson says that, "one particularly vast asset was the music library. It took up a lot of space and one morning in 1969, they ordered its destruction. The whole lot was taken and buried under a golf course! Every note of every film made for every MGM musical since the late '20s, early '30s, was destroyed."
All that remained were the piano reductions, or "short scores," which had been lodged for copyright purposes in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. When Warner Bros. grantEd Wilson permission to reconstruct the lost arrangements, it was to these short scores that he turned, using them as the basis for the herculean undertaking of transcribing the original orchestrations by ear from the soundtrack recordings.
Wilson confesses that, "transcribing music from the soundtrack is an incredibly laborious process and sometimes it's very, very slow going. The cyclone sequence from The Wizard of Oz took forever. I remember spending a whole Sunday doing three or four seconds worth of music, so complex is that scene, with notes flying all over the page!"
Fortunately, however, Wilson's background as an internationally-acknowledged expert in the specialist field of film music rendered him uniquely qualified for the job, and – as a chance discovery would confirm – the results were spectacularly successful. When it later transpired that MGM's Director of Music had saved one of two personal favorites from the scrapheap, Wilson was able to put his work to the test, comparing his recreation of the overture to High Society with the original full score. It passed the test with flying colours. Wilson confides, "I was quietly thrilled to see that there was very little difference between the two scores, which was the result not so much of my skill but my patience and sitting there drinking lots of tea!"