Procol Harum

the Pale

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The Italian 'Union Chapel' evening

Gary Brooker in Naples – by Stefano Ciccioriccio

It was around 11.30 am on Tuesday 4 January when my receptionist at the office put me through a call of an, unknown to me, 'Mr Broca'. This English-speaking gentleman started to ask me if I was interested in 'the concert in Naples', but I soon stopped him, saying that I had discussed this item with Gary Brooker in Chiddingfold during a Christmas lunch on 18 December. To my great surprise, and even greater embarrassment, his answer was “I am Gary Brooker ('Broca')”. I tried to apologise but can imagine my emotion!

The answer to his kind invitation was, of course, a strong yes ... and a couple of invitations were waiting for me and my son Andrea at the reception of Hotel Palazzo Turchini.

There was just time to finalise a few items at my office, give the exceptional news to Andrea, pick him up at home (where he was enjoying his Christmas school holidays), find an hotel to stay in overnight and ... Naples here we come!

Gary's signed invitation, dedicated to 'Beyond the Pale'A couple of hours' drive south to Rome and we were in Naples. An envelope with the two invitations was waiting for us at the hotel lobby where we arrived around 7.00 pm. There we met Mark Lundquist and Vania (one of the Italian promoters of the concert) who, after a “How are you” and “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”, invited us to join the artists for an after-concert dinner. What a start to the evening!

We had the time to buy and eat a sandwich and, at 7.30 pm, we were at the entrance of Santa Maria la Nova,  the church where the tenth edition of “Il Concerto dell’Epifania” (The Epiphany Concert) was scheduled. The actual church, rebuilt in 1599, has a sole nave with side chapels, an elegant  Renaissance façade and a gold-plated chest-of-drawers ceiling.

We were able to sit in the first available row after the seats designated for the local Authorities and Press, where we waited until around 9.00 pm when, after some suggestions for TV purposes, the concert started. In fact the event will be (or has been by the time you read this) broadcast on the main Italian TV channel RAI 1, on 6 January at 9.35 am.

From the programme on this page you will note that the event, built upon the Christmas peace sign, had an international appeal with a very strong direction towards the poor deep African continent.

Gary, being the top star of the evening, was scheduled for the last two songs, before the “all-artists-together” final piece. Among some twelve songs (Paul Young, Z-Star and Youssou N’Dour the most-applauded ones) and many TV-technical breaks,  Maestro Brooker took the scene around 11.00 pm, adequately introduced as one of the main representatives of the English rock-pop scene of the late sixties, among big applause. Together with the Arteteca Choir and Santa Chiara Basilica Orchestra he sat down at the grand piano and the first notes of Holding On started to delight the sold-out church of Santa Maria La Nova. His magic voice, and the orchestra and choir's good work, were even more appreciated thanks to the exceptional acoustic of the venue.

An ovation from those in attendance marked the end of the Commander’s first track.

Programme for the night's entertainmentThen, after a reminder of Gary being the leader of Procol Harum, the band that released the worldwide hit A Whiter Shade of Pale, still together with the same orchestra and choir, the notes of A Salty Dog started to fill up the church. According to me this song, due to its structure, is more orchestra and choir oriented and this was the reason for, this time, a big ovation at its conclusion. The ovation (a standing one) was even bigger at the end of Amen, the last song for the evening, where, still seated at the grand piano, Gary accompanied all the artists.

Some fireworks outside the church marked the end of an enthusiastic international evening of music where, as mentioned, Maestro Brooker had the main role.

Thanks again to Mark and Vania, we were admitted behind the scene where Gary, as usual, was very friendly in shaking hands, having pictures with some fans and signing some invitations (including the one to BtP 2005 on this page). We exchanged some opinions about the concert and he was very satisfied about his performance and the whole evening in general.

As promised it was after midnight when, together with Andrea, a van appeared that led us two, Gary, and Mark, to a restaurant were we had a dinner together with – among other people – Z-Star, Lillo and Pietro (two other promoters of the evening). Some good Italian food (fried pizza, mozzarella cheese, ham and Italian salami, two kinds of pastas and some desserts) was served and at 2.15 am everyone said good night – very tired, but as you can imagine, extremely happy .

Just the time to thank you, once again, Gary and Mark (I promised to both of them to send a tape of the show that will be broadcast on Italian TV) and the three Italian promoters and ... the bed was waiting for us. The Italian “Union Chapel Evening” was over!

Procol Harum concerts in 2005: index page

Gary Brooker's solo shows

Pictures from the live recording Sound and vision

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