Procol Harum

the Pale

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Rock meets Classic

Part I of Gary Brooker's Orchestral Adventures

On 2 October 1972, in order to promote their Edmonton live album, Procol Harum started their third German tour in Nuremberg. The band was supported by a 40-piece orchestra, the Munich Chamber Opera Orchestra, and the world-famous Toelzer boys' choir. The Conductor was Eberhard Schoener. The tour comprised three further dates in Germany: Stuttgart, Munich and Frankfurt. Outside of Germany, the same line-up appeared in Zurich and Vienna. (pictures here!)

After the Edmonton Concert Procol had already played at London's Rainbow theatre with the da Camera Singers and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Guy Woolfenden from the Royal Shakespeare Company, but the concert suffered from technical problems.

Things looked much better in Germany as there was time to rehearse; besides the orchestra an excellent choir was available and all concerts were played by the same line-up. The conductor, Eberhard Schoener (see illustration), was not inexperienced leading an orchestra accompanying a rock band: on 4th January of the same year he had conducted a German performance of Jon Lord's Gemini Suite in the Munich Concert Hall with the same orchestra featuring singer Tony Ashton, Ian Paice (drums) and Roger Glover (bass) from Deep Purple and Albert Lee on Guitar. Schoener's open-minded way of dealing with rock musicians, and the acceptance he found in the orchestra, led Jon Lord to the decision to concentrate his future "classical" inspired solo activities on Germany.

Even before his first adventure of orchestra meets rock band, Schoener was breaking barricades. Born in 1938 as the son of a Kapellmeister and a music critic, he studied violin and conducting in Germany and Italy, was taught by the legendary Sergiu Celebidache, and founded the Youth Symphony Orchestra in Munich in 1962. In 1966 he became the leader of the Munich Chamber Opera and started his fist expeditions into avant-garde music from here. After having heard Walter Carlos's Switched On Bach in 1968 he went to America to meet Robert Moog. Deeply impressed by the new generation of synthesisers he began to experiment with electronic music. For the 1970 World Exhibition in Osaka he already had composed an official German contribution, realized in his own electronic laboratory in Munich's Bavaria studios.

In 1971 Schoener released three albums, two with classical music and A Day's Lullaby, an album combining his electronic layers of sound with Country (!) songs. In 1972 he was invited to the Berliner Jazztage to perform with his MOOG. This was scheduled at five in the afternoon in a room for about 200 listeners: 2000 persons gather at three o'clock to hear the legendary Moog. This immense interest let Schoener build his vision of 'Rock Meets Classic' for the first time. He recognised that the young listeners with the great interest to hear music beyond the established barriers will be his audience in the future.

Schoener decides that combining classic music with rock musicians is the easiest approach to reach the group of listeners he aims at. So he invites Procol Harum for the tour in Autumn 1972. His intention is to perform a part of Mozart's Krönungsmesse in each concert. Fritz Rau, Germany's leading concert promoter warned him: "You can't do that in a Rock Concert, people will smash the chairs on your head!" Schoener's reply: "Not when a 12 year-old boy sings the Agnus Dei. There won't be anybody who is not moved! " And he was right - his mixture became a success at a time when rock music represented the upflaring young generation and classical music was the incarnation of establishment.

Apart from these activities Schoener wrote film music and released an LP of Music for Meditation and another, Destruction of Harmony. In 1973 Jon Lord and Schoener again perform the Gemini Suite in Munich and in return Lord helps Schoener with his new project, Windows. A public performance of this meeting of Rock and Classic on 1 June 1974 was broadcast on TV in sixteen countries via Eurovision. Musicians involved were David Coverdale (vocal), Tony Ashton (vocal, piano), Ray Fenwick (guitar) and Pete York (drums). This event gave Schoener general acceptance and now he was the trademark for the crossover of all kinds of music.

A 1976 tour and LP combining the Munich Chamber opera, a Rock band and a Balinese Gamelan Orchestra gained enormous publicity in continental Europe and were one of the origins for World Music becoming popular in the eighties. Also in 1976 a new production with Jon Lord was recorded in Germany: Sarabande, an orchestral suite LP performed by the Philharmonica Hungarica and Lord, York and Andy Summers (later becoming the guitarist of The Police), who would be Schoener's guitar player on further four LPs to come. Released under Lord's name, Sarabande became a top-selling album, at least in Germany, where nearly everybody with an affinity to Classic Rock had this album on the turntable.

Between 1973 and 1980 Schoener recorded ten albums under his (!) name, every album having a special theme or concept. From 1977 to 1980 The (soon-to-be) Police were his "House Band" live and in the studio. This fact for the British music press must have been unbearable. It took years until their readers were informed that Britain's most popular band in the early eighties started their career as the Schoener band.

The continuous success and creativity convinced German TV station Bayrischer Rundfunk to try a costly and, in the artistic sense, risky event: Rock Meets Classic 1980.

On 12 November Eberhard Schoener presented his Rock & Classic concert at Munich's Circus Krone Building. TV stations of 16 countries were connected when Schoener opened a six-hour concert presented on two stages. On the upper the rock musicians and their equipment, on the lower the Munich Chamber Opera Orchestra again. The concert was divided into three parts, the orchestra taking part only in the first two. To give an impression what was going on that night, this was the music played in original sequence:

Circus Polka

Igor Strawinsky (orchestra)

A Salty Dog

Gary Brooker (John Giblin, bass; BJ Wilson, drums; Ian Bairnson, guitar; Morris Pert, percussion; Hermann Weindorf, organ) (orchestra & band )

Symphonie Classique

Serge Prokofiev (orchestra)

The Valley of Sounds

Mike Batt (conductor) (orchestra & band)

Alan Parsons and Andrew Powell are introduced as guests


electronic composition performed by Schoener, Esther Ofarim voc

The Inexorable Sequence

Andy Mackay (Roxy Music) ( composition for orchestra, band and two saxes: Mel Collins plays second sax)

Suite for Orchestra 1&2

Igor Strawinksy (orchestra)

In Held 'Twas In I

Gary Brooker (same line-up as ASD above, except Ian Bairnson leaves for Paul Vincent on guitar; only appearance of a choir that night)


Eberhard Schoener (orchestra & Mel Collins sax, and pantomime performance by Andy Geer)


Mike Batt (orchestra & band)


Pomp and Circumstance

Edward Elgar (orchestra)

Song of Seven

Jon Anderson (Yes) Band (first public appearance) (orchestra & Band)

La Campanelle

Nicolo Paganini (orchestra, Guenther Salber solo violin)

Concert for Violin 1&2

Darryl Way (orchestra & solo violin by Darryl Way): read Darryl's account of the evening here


Gary Brooker (Orchestra & band, Mel Collins sax)

Symphony No. 3

Morris Pert


Mike Batt (transmission interrupted)


Eberhard Schoener (autobiographical composition: ES, violin; Esther Ofarim, vocal; spoken words: Gary Brooker)


Andy Mackay & band


Eberhard Schoener (orchestra & performance by Andy Geer)

The Winds of Change

Mike Batt & band

A Whiter Shade of Pale

Gary Brooker (orchestra & band)

Orchestra leaves


Peter Michael Hamel piano

Some Are Born

Jon Anderson Band

I Hear You Now


One More Time


Take Your Time


How Does It Matter


Fairlight 80

Eberhard Schoener keys, Chris Rainbow vocal

When Colours Die



Eberhard Schoener leads into a jam session of all rock musicians involved

This mammoth programme underlines that it was not Schoener's intention to please a broad public! Many contributions in this concert indeed were far from "easy listening". Explicitly he opened the possibility of coming and going to the audience, also he doubted that anybody at home on TV would watch the whole performance. (Although this TV programme (in some countries FM simulcast) was widely available, only a very few persons I know have taken notice of it at the time of performance: probably it was the Zeitgeist of late punk and New Wave. Any recordings, audio or video, welcome)

Eberhard Schoener

In my opinion this is a very nice article about the Lord/Arnold/Schoener connection. Although not directly our subject here, I would like to use the link for its extraordinary quality. It mentions AWSoP. This Sarabande link has two picture of Schoener (both with LORD) otherwise not easy to find . This link is less helpful, perhaps. Keith Reid discusses the European and British orchestral concert experiences here.

In 1982 the second Rock and Classic Night was produced in Munich. This time Schoener's guests were mainly keyboard bands: among them OMD, Sparks and Tangerine Dream. Schoener had to invest his own money into this event to cover the costs of a concert of this dimension.

In 1983 the concert already was an established event and this time had Gary Brooker on the guest list again! The whole concert seemed more "performance"-orientated. Pantomime, dance and masks were used to give an additional dimension to the music played. Most of the bands performing in 1983 came from the then-popular "New Wave" scene. Klaus Nomi, Zarathustra, Sternenreiter, Ultravox , Hazel O'Connor and German nonsense band Trio stood against more traditional rock musicians like Mike Oldfield and Gary Brooker. Conquistador, The Cycle and Symphathy of the Hard of Hearing were played in orchestrated versions (the last two ones probably never before and after) in the first part of the concert . Oldfield's Orchestral Tubular Bells were performed again and Schoener's Sunday Morning In Manhattan featured Sting as the singer.

Gary appeared again (this time without orchestra) and played The Angler and Mineral Man, just before the traditional jam session of all musicians involved finished the evening. He was supported by the same band as in 1980 (Hermann Weindorf, keyboards, John Giblin, bass, Paul Vincent, guitar): only BJ Wilson had been changed for Henry Spinetti . Obviously Schoener had cut the part that original "Classic" music had in his concerts. Only Stravinsky's Firebird Suite and a Duo for violin and double bass from Giovanni Botterini represented this part of his work.

1985 marked the end of Schoener's "Rock meets Classic" era . A concert from Tokyo was transmitted to Germany via satellite, the New Japan Philharmonic orchestra with German singer Nina Hagen and her band played Brecht/Weill songs and an impressive Habanera from Bizet's Carmen. Later on, classical pianist Niclas Economou and Gary Brooker begin with the famous Mackie Messer song: 'Mack the Knife'; Schoener asks his band to enter the stage and the Hagen band starts to jam on this theme. Nina herself, in a mixture of German and English, babbles about the person of Mack the Knife and starts a dialogue with Gary, who seems to feel very uncomfortable in this situation [pictures here]. Nowadays asked about this concert Gary obviously does not like very much to be reminded of this far East adventure. From the same venue there exists a daytime recording of Gary performing Ghost Train and Mr Blue Day with the Schoener band and orchestra .

Eberhard Schoener in the later years wrote film music, released CDs and writes 'Mini Operas' for the BMG label. (see here); currently he works on a "network opera" (see here) with musicians from different parts of the world communicating via the Internet.

Thanks, Hermann!

Gary Brooker's page at BtP

Rock meets Classic, Part II

Many more pages about Procol with orchestra


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