Remembering that fateful night 39 years ago, the ESO enjoys the memories
and welcomes Procol Harum.
Tuesday 9 November
To Be Sung to the Beatles’ Tune of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
(with no apologies to John Lennon and Paul McCartney)
T’was [sic] 39 years ago today
When Procol Harum came to town to play.
The ESO was backup band
And the show was truly really grand.
The disk they made was rated ‘gold’
'Cause of the number that were sold.
Procol Harum is coming back to play-ay-ay.
On that Thursday evening in the middle of November of 1971, there was definitely a buzz in the air. Those of us who knew about Procol Harum were there with bated breaths, knowing that history was about to be made. They were going to make a live concert recording with our own Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in the Jubilee Auditorium. It’s hard to think that anyone in the audience that night went home disappointed. The band performed exceptionally well, as was expected, and even introduced a new song [sic] that would soon become a certified hit — Conquistador, and several selections were recorded a second time in order to correct any errors or interpretations the band members and the sound engineer disagreed with. The end result of the effort has been well documented — the recording became the largest selling disk ever apart from Bing Crosby’s White Christmas at the time [sic], and it was broadcast worldwide, thereby putting our local orchestra on the international cultural map. It was the very first concert recording of a rock band with symphony orchestra to attain gold sales status anywhere, and over time it eventually went platinum.
Broderyck Olson, an ESO violinist at the time who is still performing with the ensemble described what it felt like on the inside.
“There was this feeling of electricity in the air.
"You knew that something special was about to happen. None of us in the orchestra knew who Procol Harum was, just that they were from England. We contracted for a flat rate fee rather than a percentage of the royalties. And when Lawrence Leonard, who conducted the show, found out that they were a rock band, he disowned any association with the performance. He refused to have his name mentioned at all on the recording.” Olson feels that the concert recording was a brilliant move by the orchestra’s then-assistant general manager Bob Hunka.
Zonia Lazarowich, a former ESO violinist, now retired, remembers that the concert “was a lot of fun. It was music that was very enchanting, really. I liked their way of presenting the music, too. I certainly enjoyed it.”
What eventually came about as a result of that recording session was the ITV concert series that brought Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck to Edmonton to perform in concert with a live orchestra conducted by now-Senator Tommy Banks.
A twentieth anniversary concert with the group took place in 1991 and now comes the 39th. According to publicist Pam Pecush, the ESO was unable to book Procol Harum during what would have been the 40th anniversary year.
Will the band perform the exact same program as in 1971?
Might they introduce a new song or two? Only time will tell.
Procol dates in 2010 | Setlist from this concert