Tag Archives: Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

REVIEW: A West End Christmas at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall


This is becoming a yearly ritual at the Royal Concert Hall. With numbers from the greatest West End and Broadway musicals including: The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Wicked, Guys & Dolls, Chess, Cabaret, A Chorus Line, Singin’ in the Rain, Top Hat, Kiss Me Kate, The Lion King, Mamma Mia! and many more. This year’s soloists are:

Leila Benn Harris:


Jacqui Scott:


Daniel Boys:


and Graham Bickley:


all accompanied by the Scottish Festival Orchestra and City of Glasgow Chorus, conducted by Martin Yates.

Instead of the usual two hours of Christmas songs, this is a cleverly chosen selection of songs with a festive connection or from beloved movies seen during the festive season. The choices range from the familiar to the less well known but the running thread through it all is the superb quality.

In the hands of the four talented soloists the whole show flies by, each bringing a different vocal and performance style which lends great light and shade to the concert. Highlights include Jacqui Scott’s stunning rendition of Macavity from Cats, Leila Benn Harris’ Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again from Phantom of the Opera, Daniel Boys great comic delivery of Mr. Cellophane from Chicago and the final goosebump-inducing rendition of One Day More from Les Miserables by the ensemble and the City of Glasgow Chorus which sent the audience back onto the street with a song in their hearts and a spring in their steps.

Looking forward to next year already.


REVIEW: West End Men – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow


Starring three West End veterans, Lee Mead, Stephen Rahman-Hughes and Ramin Karimloo, the West End Men present a selection of key songs from some of their most famous roles together with a collection of some of the world’s best known show tunes.

As Mead, Rahman-Hughes and especially Karimloo take to the stage, the cheers are almost deafening, for Karimloo the reception stops him literally in his tracks – asking the musical director to give him his key again as the crowd refuse to be quieted. 

The three then rip through some of the most famous songs in musical theatre with some pop favourites thrown in for good measure. The quality of the singing is top-rate which is only to be expected from performers with their pedigree, but it is Karimloo who is the stand-out star of the night, his voice making the others look pedestrian in comparison – it is easy to see why he is regarded the West End’s best, and favourite star. There isn’t much more to say except that this was top quality, a sheer joy to watch and it sent the audience home hoarse of voice but with a spring in their step and a song in their heart. Hopefully it won’t be long before the trio make a welcome return to Glasgow. An excellent night’s entertainment.


REVIEW: John Wilson Orchestra – Rodgers and Hammerstein at the Movies, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

It was a triumphant return last night to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for John Wilson and his spectacular orchestra. At the risk of boring everyone senseless again (I’ve waxed lyrical and at length about John Wilson on many occasions) I’ll keep it short.

Wilson’s careful and clever mix of well known and neglected, but no less beautiful tunes serves to remind us that some of the finest songs of the 20th Century were written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. 

The energy and virtuosity of the players and the enthusiasm and charisma of John Wilson manage to convey to each and every audience member the sheer joy and exuberance of this music. It is a privilege to be in the same room as these musicians and to hear this music. Vocalists Sir Thomas Allen, Julian Ovenden, Annalene Beechey and Kim Crisswell testify to the quality and sheer class of this outfit, all four made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end when they sang. The sell-out house were on their feet at the end and everyone on stage deserved no less acclaim. All I ask is that they hurry back to Glasgow as soon as they can. 

WHAT’S ON CHRISTMAS: West End Christmas returns to the Concert Hall

Sunday 16th December 2012 at 3.00pm and 7.30pm

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall : Main Auditorium

After last year’s knock-out show – West End Christmas returns to the Concert Hall.

Show-stopping numbers from the greatest West End and Broadway musicals including The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Chicago, My Fair Lady, Cats, Miss Saigon, Wicked, Mamma Mia!, The Lion King, We Will Rock You, Jersey Boys and many many more, sung by four glittering soloists from London’s West End, Leila Benn Harris, Jacqui Scott, Michael Xavier and Graham Bickley, accompanied by the Scottish Festival Orchestra and City of Glasgow Chorus, under the baton of Martin Yates.

Join the festive fun and head to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for A West End Christmas.

Details here

REVIEWS: Ramin Karimloo in concert – The Road To Find Out – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 20th May 2012

Now this is a difficult one – a concert by probably the biggest male-lead in West End musicals at the moment, however, this show is his attempt to break free from the musical theatre world into the mainstream. The problem is that the majority of the audience are here on the strength of his performances and reputation as a musical theatre performer. So how the non-musical theatre numbers go down is going to be interesting…

…so how did it go?

Well it’s a tribute to Karimloo’s engaging warmth and sincerity, as well as his phenomenal talent, that right from the first song, he had the audience in the palm of his hands and kept them there throughout. The audience itself was on astounding form – with whoops and cheers ringing out throughout the auditorium all night. Karimloo himself tweeted after the show:

“Thank you Glasgow. Last night was unreal. I’ll never forget it. We had such a great time. Now for a long drive home. But so worth it. Thanks for the kilt love. It was a kind present sent to me before arriving to Scotland from my Scottish friend. I’m grateful. See you soon.”

as did his guests for the evening Jonathan Ansell and Simon Bailey:

  His debut UK album, which entered at number 16 in the charts was the focus of the night and despite my misgivings about this being neither a musical theatre night or an out and out concert of his own material – this was just a sublime evening’s entertainment.

There were a few brief trips to Musical Theatre Land with The Impossible Dream, Radames Letter, ‘Til I Hear You Sing, a banjo version of Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Somewhere and Bring Him Home and, of course, an encore of Music of the Night: these showcased his considerable vocal skills at their best, however, they weren’t what moved me most. He actually looked uncomfortable singing these songs and I think the rapturous reception with which his own material was received made him all the more keen to shake off the shackles of musical theatre.

Each of the original or collaborative compositions from the album were delivered with such sincerity that you couldn’t help but be won over. All of the songs from the album also played out much better live than on the recording – the life he gave to them on stage elevated them to a level that the production of the album couldn’t.

He is obviously a deeply spiritual man and he talked about his journey from Iran to Canada via Italy, and eventually his leaving his home and family to come to London with one suitcase to “become the Phantom” and now “well I’ve done that – what now?” This concert was aptly titled The Road To Find Out and the way the material was presented here, really made you want to go on the journey with him. 

His first guest Jonathan Ansell provided a musical theatre moment for the crowd with Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar, a duet on Muse’s Guiding Light and a surprisingly good version of Queen’s Somebody To Love which raised the roof.

Second guest Simon Bailey, currently Raoul in the Phantom national tour also provided a moment of musical theatre magic with Why God Why? from Miss Saigon as well as an emotional duet with Karimloo which Bailey dedicated to his recently deceased father.

The night finished with a second encore of Green Day’s Time of Your Life with the good citizens of Glasgow providing the final words of the song.

This is a calculated move away from musical theatre and it’s great to see an artist of Karimloo’s talent spread his wings, previously I would have cautioned against any musical theatre artist completely abandoning his roots – but I would urge Karimloo to have the courage of his convictions and take the time to grow and develop as a songwriter as this was a truly magical night. I would also hate to see him abandon the theatre stage as his is a rare talent – the West End would be bereft without the promise of him eventually returning.

I was a fan before, but I’m an even bigger fan now. A truly special evening.

REVIEW: Christmas at the Musicals – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 11th December 2011

Advertised as “show-stopping numbers from the greatest West End and Broadway musicals including Love Never Dies, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Chicago, My Fair Lady, Wicked and many more. With soloists from London’s West End”. Feeling festive and seeing that one of my West End faves Michael Xavier (below) was one of the singers I decided to book an outing to this.

seen below as Cinderella’s Prince in the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre version of Into the Woods,

It also featured Helen Hobson;

below as Donna in Mamma Mia,

Leila Benn Harris;

below (with Ramin Karimloo) as Christine in Phantom of the Opera,

and Scott Davies, below as The Phantom,

all accompanied by the Scottish Festival Orchestra and City of Glasgow Chorus, conducted by John Owen Edwards. Now potentially this was a quality line up and so it proved to be. Each of the soloists were fantastic. This was spectacularly played and sung and there were moments when I had genuine goosebumps. Being a bit of a Michael Xavier  fan I especially enjoyed his songs and the twinkle in his eye with which he delivered each song was a joy (as well as his frequent outfit changes). The most rousing moments were Can You Hear The People Sing? and One Day More from Les Miserables and Why God Why from Miss Saigon and the audience voiced their appreciation loudly in the rapturous and sustained applause at the end. Like the rest of the audience I left with a spring in my step and with a song in my heart. Roll on next year.

REVIEW: John Wilson Orchestra – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 6th December 2011

I’ve blogged about John Wilson and his wonderful orchestra before and he is a real musical hero of mine so I couldn’t pass up the  chance to see them live here in Glasgow. With my ticket for row C in hand I thought I had a great seat in row 3 but it turned out that it was even more prime than I thought – it was front row with the most fascinating view of an amazing conductor at work. If I’m being completely honest at every orchestra I’ve ever seen before I’ve never really seen or understood the influence the conductor has on his orchestra – but this was a revelation!! Every gesture, nod, smile or signal was reflected in the playing of this mightily talented orchestra. The fact that, to a man and woman, they played with gusto and a genuine smile on their face from beginning to end, showed the passion and love they have for their orchestra, conductor and this wonderful music.

Hooray for Hollywood follows on from the phenomenally successful appearances at the last two BBC Prom seasons and a festive season TV special. It was a whirlwind chronology of the golden age of movie musicals from the 1930s to the end of the studio musicals in the 1960s.

Act One comprised;

Warner Brothers and the birth of the movie musical;

42nd Street (1933),

Fred and Ginger at RKO;

Top Hat (1935), A Fine Romance (1936), The Way You Look Tonight (1936), They All Laughed (1937), Shall We Dance (1937),

Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy;

The Road To Paradise/Will You Remember (1937),

Hollywood Goes To War;

Strike Up The Band (1943), Can’t Help Singing (1944), You Stepped Out of a Dream (1940),

You’ll Never Know (1944), Hallelujah! (1955).

Act Two;

Judy’s Comeback;

A Star Is Born/Gotta Have Me Go With You/The Man That Got Away (1954)

The Fabulous Fifties;

Secret Love (1953), Serenade from The Student Prince (1954),

From Stage To Screen;

Gypsy Overture (1964), One Hand One Heart (1961),\

End of the Golden Age;

Jolly Holiday (1964), Pure Imagination (1971), Put on Your Sunday Clothes (1969).

I’ll let John Wilson explain the creation of his Orchestra. “During my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s the BBC would regularly screen the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film musicals on a Saturday afternoon. I was instantly attracted to the sound of the MGM Studio Orchestra and, even then, knew that one day I must conduct an orchestra like that! As my musical experience broadened, I was able to analyse what made that special sound. That the Hollywood studio orchestras had vast string sections is a popular myth – the epic soundtrack for Gone with the Wind was recorded with only eight first violins.) It was this sound that I had in my mind when, in 1994, I formed the John Wilson Orchestra for a concert at the Bloomsbury Theatre. In 2000 our debut performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall paid tribute to the great American composers and arrangers of the past century: Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Johnny Mandel, Paul Weston and others. This led to an invitation to play next door at the Royal Festival Hall and – as part of a concert devoted to the screen composers of Hollywood’s Golden Age – I included a handful of well known songs from the MGM musical films.”

I knew that MGM had been taken over by Turner Classic Movies which had, in turn, been acquired by Warner Bros. I’d read that Warner Bros. presided over meticulously preserved archives and that every note of music for their films survived intact. So I wrote informing them of my forthcoming concert, asking if I might have access to some of the MGM scores. I received a reply by return informing me that, while all of the available music materials for Warner films were preserved in the archives of the University of Southern California, the full scores and orchestral parts for all of the MGM productions were destroyed in 1969 – for no reason other than that they took up too much space and a new car park was needed. Every note of music for every MGM film was gone – used as landfill for a Californian golf course.

Well, not quite. For copyright reasons, MGM was obliged to hang on to some sort of musical documentation – a record of who composed what, so that royalties could be apportioned correctly. So it was with great excitement that I travelled to Hollywood to spend a week inspecting what the USC archives call ‘The MGM Conductor Books’. For every production – musical or otherwise – a short score, or ‘piano-conductor’ score, would be prepared, from which the music director could conduct. These were condensed versions of the full scores and contained most of the information necessary for recording purposes and for fitting the music to the picture. Full scores seem to have been considered too unwieldy: too many page turns that could be picked up by the microphones.

The MGM conductor books exist in varying degrees of completeness; for example, The Wizard of Oz is sketched mainly on two staves with scant indication of harmony (and virtually no instrumentation), whereas Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is laid out over six staves like a miniature full score. Easter Parade and Gigi are all but lost – only a third of each score survives; High Society is 95 per cent complete and has the most lucid sketches. In general, the piano-conductor scores for the later musicals seem to contain more information than their earlier counterparts; a state of affairs brought about by Johnny Green, who was appointed Head of Music Department in 1950 and who insisted on the highest standards of music copying and preparation.

(The conductor books are all beautifully copied by a handful of top-class copyists who must have been on permanent contract at MGM for at least 20 years.) While these documents have provided the basis for my reconstructions, most of the real work is done by listening over and over again to the soundtracks. (I once spent an entire Sunday reconstructing four seconds of music from the cyclone scene in The Wizard of Oz.) There are many things the conductor books don’t give you, inner parts buried deep in the orchestra, also, only rarely did the vocal or choral parts make it into the conductor books.

Reconstructing these scores is a chore, but a joyous one. The songs are all in the top class, written by the greatest tunesmiths of the day. The arrangements are, in my opinion, the finest ever made in the field of musical comedy. The performances on the original soundtracks are just about the best you’ll ever hear. The unbeatable playing of the musicians in the MGM Studio Orchestra is a constant inspiration, not only to me, but also to the musicians of my own orchestra.”

I urge anyone who loves music to go and see an orchestra live. It’s been a while since I have myself and to actually be in the room when a magnificent orchestra is playing is a real privilege. The feeling of the sound resonating through your whole body is an amazing experience. This is an orchestra of supreme quality and both the scoring and the playing are exceptional.

Special mention must go to the vocalists;

Kim Crisswell (above) is the veteran of two of John Wilson’s previous BBC Proms and she belts out these standards in classic Golden Age of Hollywood style.

Annalene Beechey was scheduled to appear but was suffering from a throat infection, she was ably replaced by Sarah Fox a veteran of a previous John Wilson Prom.

American opera singer Noah Stewart (below) garnered some of the biggest cheers of the night with his fine tenor voice

And Matthew Ford the experienced, and in demand, big band vocalist who has worked with, among others; The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, The RTE and BBC Concert Orchestras and the BBC Big Band, sang his programme with charm and aplomb.

Truly brilliant music and musicians. After listening to them, as the Guardian says;

“It’s impossible to feel anything but happiness.”

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