Sixteen days later (depending on how you count the days, and whether or not you consider the event to have spanned July 12 and 13) the afterglow the shine, if you will still lingers in the recesses of the soul. A simple phrase, a bit of music, an image without warning any of these might summon up memories of the whirlwind of rehearsing, celebrating, musical exploration and just-plain good times that are all part of a Palers' Convention.
The search for a suitable venue was an almost dream-like experience, the actual declaration of a genuine, bone-fide Palers Convention still in a conceptual haze. We were talking to people, looking at places, gathering information ...but it was all still in the abstract. Pictures, notes, back and forth communications with England (Roland) and Norway (Jens) ensued.
Was this really going to happen? It turns out that there was really only one choice that would work, and the date was available...
The eventual online announcements made it official. The call for volunteers for the eighth incarnation of The Palers' Band goes out, and self-assessment becomes a sobering task. This is the music that we hold so special... We tread carefully. Parts are assigned. This is real.
The shock of the first ten-hour rehearsal is cushioned by the general good-will and camaraderie of the eclectic mix of fans and the warm hospitality of Brooklyn's finest the Celebre family. A second day of rehearsals gives way to the first New York show by Procol Harum [pictured below] and a pilgrimage makes its way through the congested streets of our city (like a great river all choked up with cars) to The Grand Ballroom of The Manhattan Center, where many of us get to see Gary, Geoff (Whitehorn), Matt, Josh and Geoff (Dunn) perform in the USA for the first time since 2012. They're in great form, sounding strong and confident.
The very next morning Carina and I, along with Roland and Linda Clare, go to the convention site to lay the groundwork for the day's events. There are hiccups in the process including yes, a funeral, and the unforgettable introduction of Flippy the Sound-man. A unique start for some unique entertainment...
There was great music from Broken Barricades [pictured soundchecking above] and The Palers' Band. There were tributes, special performances, a particularly heartwarming message, digitally delivered, from David Ball, good food, fun, and wonderful people. Twenty-eight rehearsed pieces were performed, plus a bonus seven as the ever-ready Roland Clare became a human karaoke machine, playing called-out Procol Harum songs. The spontaneous performances were featured a variety of inspired vocalists including myself and The Lovely Carina singing Barnyard Story a privilege and a personal thrill for us.
Splitting the proceedings into Part A and Part B was the triumphant Procol Harum concert at Westbury's The Space Theater [picture above]
If my experience is common to others, there were communal sighs of relief as the various combinations of musicians traversed sacred musical ground and emerged relatively unscathed, and even with selected moments of glory. Personally, I often wondered what it would feel like to be in the middle of a performance of In Held 'Twas In I, and whether or not I'd be able to make it through emotionally intact.
Of course, five very special guests showed up, putting the icing on the cake and the Seal of Authenticity on the proceedings [see above shot of your correspondent with Maestro Whitehorn]. And showing a special kindness, The Commander [see below] gave us all something to remember him by ...
Gary Shepard, Roland from BtP, Bruce Gold who, with Ian Hockley, Ronnie D'Addario and Jens Anders Ravnaas,
not pictured) had the honour of backing Gary Brooker as he sang two songs at the Convention
Procol dates in 2014 | Setlist