Procol Harum is unique among the great British bands: alongside their illustrious five-piece rock career, they began playing live with choirs and orchestras as early as 1969, and have continued to do so with great distinction.
Procol’s innovation paved the way for Deep Purple, The Nice, and various other ensembles whose idea of symphonic collaboration essentially exploited the difference between the electric musicians and the ‘classical’ forces (in John Peel’s dismissive analogy, ‘grafting a tomato on to a hairbrush’). This was an evolutionary dead end, whereas Procol’s music – built on harmonic interest and dynamic variety – proved a natural, fertile match for the textural resources of orchestra and choir. Their Live with The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra album went gold in 1972 – an enormous achievement for Gary Brooker, Procol’s composer-pianist and self-taught orchestrator – and they were invited back (1992 and 2010) for further triumphant concerts.
Procol’s first orchestral outing on home ground was
with the Royal Philharmonic at London’s Rainbow Theatre in 1972; their LSO
concert in 1996 (promoting the Symphonic Music of Procol Harum CD)
elicited the longest ovation in the Barbican's history and became the
most-requested item in the theatre’s entire recorded archive (The
Guardian, calling Procol ‘An Enigma in All its Variations’, noted that
the speed with which the Barbican show sold out ‘amazed all concerned’).
This century Procol have collaborated with the New London Sinfonia and with
the Hallé Orchestra, always garnering the same, rapturous reception. The
soulful voice and tempestuous guitar, sweeping through the majestic
architecture of a symphonic setting, prove irresistibly moving.
Back in the 1970s Procol made a famous broadcast from the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic; in addition to one-night symphonic stands they ambitiously toured Austria, Switzerland and Germany with the Munich Symphony Orchestra. In more recent years, under the baton of long-time collaborator David Firman, they played with the Danish National Orchestra to more than 20,000 people at the outdoor shows recorded in the Live at Ledreborg DVD, and gave more than a dozen indoor choral/symphonic gigs in various Danish cities.
Procol dates in 2014 | Procol Harum dates with orchestra