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the Pale 

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Music for the Marsden, 3 March 2020

Gary Brooker tells BtP about this spectacular fundraising concert

'A uniquely spectacular conglomeration'

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust is a world-renowned centre of excellence with an international reputation for ground-breaking research, pioneering the very latest cancer treatments and technologies for the benefit of patients not just at The Royal Marsden, but throughout the UK and further afield.

The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity is raising £70 million for the Oak Cancer Centre, due to open in 2022. It will bring together over 400 researchers, in areas designed to encourage collaboration and help speed up the development of new treatments, and will house a state-of-the-art Rapid Diagnostic Centre to provide faster and earlier diagnosis for more people, helping to save lives by diagnosing cancer earlier when treatment is more likely to be successful.

Gary Brooker – who was made MBE in 2003 for his musical charity fundraising endeavours – is to be Musical Director for an all-star concert, in support of the Oak Centre, at the O2 Arena in London on 3 March 2020.

Roland from ‘Beyond the Pale’ [3 December 2019]
Gary, what can you tell the BtP readers about the big fundraising project that you announced yesterday [2 December 2019]?

Gary Brooker
It fell upon my shoulders to get some musicians to play at this ‘Music for the Marsden’, and I thought it would be great to get some big names that have been prominent, over the last fifty years even, and were still able to deliver that level of performance. The younger people … they often veer off on their own tangents of charity performance, and can’t see the wood for the trees, sometimes. But I always felt that this was a huge overall umbrella of effort to build this extra wing at The Royal Marsden, which would benefit all cancer patients, now and in the future, and enormously help research into cancer, and consequently the treatment of it.

 That seemed to me to be a very, very important cause, and something which … ‘How could you not get involved in it?’ is what I thought. ‘How could you possibly turn this down, as a musician?' To think ‘All I’ve got to do is sing a few songs,’ and it’s done.

You say it ‘fell on your shoulders’. Who is actually behind it all?

Yes, it’s not my show. A long-time friend and colleague of mine, his name’s John Caulcutt, he approached me about it. I’ve worked with him on a few charities over the years, anyway. He’s a great man that, if there’s a tsunami somewhere, or an earthquake, he’s the first there with a ’planeful of relief – I mean he is literally there within a day. He usually tries to twist Richard Branson’s wrist to lend him a cargo 'plane, which Richard Branson usually does. But he’s got all these Shelter boxes ready to go.

Anyway, I’ve always been very impressed with his efforts. And when he said he was on the Committee that’s fundraising for The Oak Centre I said, ‘Well, of course I’ll try and help.’ Then I realised (laughs) it was a quite a lot to do.

And have you got any personal connection with the Royal Marsden?

Well, my family has used it … my wife has used it ... they’ve been very good up there. And I know lots of other people that … considering that I believe that one in two people will have some form of cancer during their lifetime, it’s hard to think that you won’t be involved, or that somebody you love or know very closely will be involved. That’s a fact, unfortunately.

There’s quite a lot of musicians announced – Paul Carrack, Eric Clapton, Mick Hucknall, John Illsley, Paul Jones, Sir Tom Jones, Mike Rutherford, Cat Stevens, Bonnie Tyler, Rick Wakeman, Paul Young, Zucchero – is that the fixed and settled quota?

Well we had to have a point where whoever was willing and committed to supporting this appeal had to have their names down, so that we could announce it at a certain point. That certain point was actually yesterday. And those are the people that, God bless ’em and thank them, have committed to support this by yesterday.


Other people may come in … you know, there’s always one or two or three that weren’t quite sure what their plans were … or said ‘let me think about it’ but didn’t get back to me in time. But the people that are named already are brilliant people that I personally thank very much for having made the effort. Well, they will make the effort.


But there are still some people in the shadows, who may emerge when they see who’s already committed. Did we announce Nick Mason?

And are you instrumental in selecting repertoire?

Yeah, I tell them what they’re going to play (laughs).

No! I’ve asked everybody that’s going to perform, ‘What would you like to play?’ Then you’ve got to stand back quite a way away: you have to say, ‘Hang on, we’ve got twelve super guests here, and we’re providing a unique evening’s entertainment … what’s the best way to present it … who goes where, who sings what?’ And that’s the job I’ve got to do. I’m only over Jump One, if this was the Grand National … I’ve got over Becher’s Brook [actually the sixth fence]. I’m asking everybody what they would LIKE to perform – two, three, four songs: they come back to me, then I’ll have to have an overall look, just balance it all out.

And if they’ve all said A Whiter Shade of Pale

(Laughs) If they’re all in G minor, we might have to try and find something that’s in C major.

What’s this like that you’ve done before … ‘The Concert for George’? Your Wintershall / Band du Lac extravaganzas?

Well I was not in charge for Concert for George, I was just in the cast. It’s quite easy following orders: giving orders is another matter. Yes, it’s more like Wintershall … but expanded.

What’s the capacity at the O2, and do you have an idea what the ticket prices will be?

I’m not sure, about 15,000 … not on stage, 15,000 inside the arena. I’m not involved in the ticketing in any way, at this stage. I’ve been very much involved in making sure we’ve got some great people coming on.

And [like the House Band, Graham Broad, Dave Bronze, Andy Fairweather Low, Robbie McIntosh, Ian Paice, Paul Wickens] they’re mostly from your address book, I guess.

More or less, more or less. I think ... yes, I know them all. I mean, Bonnie Tyler and Procol Harum were playing two festivals in Switzerland in August; Zucchero has done A Salty Dog. Cat Stevens covers The Devil Came from Kansas in his present stage show and also was supporting Procol way back in 1970 or something, and actually loves the band, is a huge fan. And Tom Jones has been on The Symphonic Music of Procol Harum.

You’re not bringing a symphony orchestra on in this show?

Not at the moment, no! (Laughs). It’s just solid, solid people – that I’ve worked with and I love – in a uniquely spectacular conglomeration. You can quote me on that.

Thanks, Gary!


Tickets are available from 10am on Friday 6 December 2019 at,, the Eventim Apollo and

(Artist photo by Bert Saraco, Express Image Photography)

Procol Harum concerts in 2020 | Marsden setlist

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