An Interview with John Wilson about his Piano Spectacular III

Bassoonist and member of the RNCM Development Team, Linda Begbie, blogs for us this week about her meeting with revered accompanist and RNCM alumni, John Wilson – ahead of the John Wilson Piano Spectacular III event here at the RNCM on Saturday 31 January.

I first met John in 2013. I was supporting a talented bassoon student through her application to study on the RNCM’s prestigious International Artist Diploma and she had chosen to play Roger Boutry’s Interférences for bassoon and piano – a fiendishly difficult piece for both instruments. Unfamiliar with British rehearsal time (or rather, lack of it) she was anxious that it would be impossible to sight-read, but sure enough John picked it up and her lasting memory of the audition became disbelief that that someone could not only acquire such difficult music so quickly, but also be so calm, musically responsive and supportive in a performance only minutes later.

This is the first time I’ve worked on one of John Wilson’s Piano Spectaculars, in which eight renowned concert pianists, improvisation star Harry the Piano, Classic FM presenter John Brunning and conductor Tim Reynish all come together to put on an evening of music and raise funds for the John Wilson Junior Fellowship in Accompaniment.

John met me for a chat and I recorded our conversation for research purposes. Listening back to the material, I thought others might be interested in hearing him talk about his life and work in his own words. Instead of writing an extensive blog about the event, I chose to let John speak: the following audio clips are taken from our chat. John is passionately committed to the art of accompaniment, to attracting the highest level of talent to the RNCM and supporting its development. In listening to these snippets of conversation I do hope you will be inspired to join us on 31 January:

Track 1

I asked John how the idea for a Spectacular came about and he told me how it came from a conversation with the late Joyce Lindley Parker, then Chairwoman of RNCM Friends:

Tracks 3, 2 and 5

Having come up with the idea of eight grand pianos on stage, John was then faced with the challenge of making it happen… and arranging the music!

Tracks 6 and 7

John talks about his childhood and his first piano lessons at the Northern School of Music (as was):

Track 10

I ask John about the John Wilson Junior Fellowship in Accompaniment and he tells me how important it is to attract a very strong talent to this specialised role. Junior Fellows play an important role in the RNCM accompaniment team and must be ready to start their professional career.

Track 9

I’m interested in knowing what John thinks about the role of the accompanist, and what it takes to excel within it. He talks to me about this, and also about being a musician at the age of 75.

I would be happy to give you more information about the concert itself, and about donating to the Fund. You can reach me on linda.begbie@rncm.ac.uk

15 January 2015