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the Pale

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2001 … a Procol Harum Odyssey

A New Year Communiqué from BtP

… in which we find ourselves looking to the future as we keep one eye on the past …

The story of a Procol Harum fan is the story of a person with several lost hopes: but somehow he is always still hoping ...

Those could have been the right words to wind down the first year of the new Millennium (or what Gary insists is the last year of the old Millennium).

Only this time it is different. 2000 was an excellent year from a Procol Harum fan's point of view. As the year started, we knew that a Procol Harum concert might happen in the year to come: Gary had promised so on several occasions, and he is not a man who likes to disappoint his fans. BtP had hoped and planned to announce a Millennium Concert even as 2000 dawned on January 1st. But for various reasons, that was not to happen, and more than six months were to pass before the Guildford concert was finally announced at BtP. On my birthday! A better birthday present would be very hard to find.

As early as October 1999 BtP had started making up pages covering a putative PH 2000 concert in London, sadly never to be confirmed; Gary's Rhythmical Kingly outings, however, were a solid delight, not least when he played in my home town, having first dropped in chez Clare for a meal and some piano duets … something of a dream come true. Conversation at that stage suggested that even Guildford would not happen … yet within a few days a contract was signed, whereupon BtP found itself enmeshed in the tortuous negotiations with the Guildford Civic, the Jarvis Hotel and numerous helpers in Surrey.

I dare to hope the Palers' Convention was a worthy successor to the excellence of Redhill, and to all the work put in by Henry, then Diane and John, through the lean years. It really consolidated the virtual community of BtP when like-minded fans from so many countries met to talk and play face-to-face, proving the truth of the aphorism that 'Procol Harum's music is matched only by the quality of the people it attracts'. To tackle that oeuvre in the genial company of so many multilingual friends (and with spouse and offspring of course!) was a great delight … taking turns to pass it on, indeed. I feel confident there will still be more in the series started by the Whalers' CD and the Palers' CD.

So much BtP time and thought was focussed on organising the Fringe Event that the actual Procol concert, an event fervently-hoped-for since Redhill, burst upon Jens and me with the enhanced brilliance of an unexpected novelty! Simply wonderful to hear that sound once more, specially with a choice of choice guitarists, some sax, some band-only, some full Monty, and a dedication (tiny MP3 here: 'especially for 'Beyond the Pale', that's what it was called and that's who it was for ...' ) to our very own website! Thanks, Gary! Sandwiched into that weekend also was the fantastic new live album, which would itself have been Event of the Year at any other time … the whole weekend was like a giant dream, even though it came at the end of the most sleepless week (thanks, petrol strike!) I can remember.

Roland has covered the Guildford experience: let me just add that this was one of the best weekends I have ever experienced. I still feel the warmth inside me when I think of all the wonderful people I met there. The Palers' Band, all the Palers (no name mentioned, no name forgotten) and of course Procol Harum. The Procol Harum fans must surely be the most friendly rock fans on earth.

Roland and I are very grateful for the support from all of the Palers. Friendly greetings are always appreciated. And the fact that traffic on the website is increasing all the time shows that our efforts to keep the flame burning brightly are not wasted. In fact, December will be a new record-breaking month with more than 120,000 'page-views': that's more than a 50% increase on the figure for December last year. And daily about 1,000 different persons visit 'Beyond the Pale'. Thanks for all this: it's a great inspiration to both of us.

Amen to all that Jens says; and my added wish for 2001 is that more people would enjoy a lateral surf through BtP, exploring the many links that we insert in the text on every page … this might also limit the vFAQs ('What does AWSoP mean?' 'Are Manchester tickets on sale yet?' etc) that we have to answer! But Palers are delightfully responsive, when there's a benefit CD to sell for the BJ Fund – or the chance to vote him Top Drummer, or the opportunity to put AWSoP top of a Norwegian poll! True, it may be repeated lobbying (possibly even repeated voting?) that accomplishes some of these triumphs, but once they're done, they become real, and this sort of activity really does create a world in which PH can continue to flourish and give pleasure. In that connection the many PH/GB broadcasts on British television during the year are very heartening, and we look forward to a lot of media coverage for the Hallé gig. Mark is working very hard and imaginatively as current promoter for the band.

We're immensely grateful to all the people who send BtP so many articles and pictures: I think the daily vibrancy of BtP is something we can all be pleased about. And I've been grateful for the opportunity to add a little to the printed canon myself again this year, with the liner-notes to the long-overdue CD reissue of Matthew Fisher's first two solo albums, and with a piece extolling PH to the readers of the Millennium Concert programme. And I've been specially glad that Linda and I, who first turned out together to see Procol Harum in March 1972, have now set a personal record by hearing Maestro GB play in five different settings in one year (in Harum mode here, here and here, in R&B mode here and with six other Procolers here) – quite a nice end to this leg of our Procol Harum odyssey!

As mentioned above, Procol Harum gave me the best of birthday presents. And now Gary, Matthew and co also made sure I got the Christmas gift of a lifetime. A few days before Christmas BtP was able to announce a Procol Harum concert in my home-town Kristiansand, Norway. A dream is about to come true, and I must admit I have hoped hard and worked hard for this the last two years. A Procol Harum birthday present and Christmas present all in one year. You can't beat that!

I hope many of you will find your way to Kristiansand in May. We all know that Procol Harum will make the trip worthwhile. And I will do my best to make sure you'll have a wonderful weekend. We already have some great things planned for you.

It might be best not to book your accommodation for Manchester or Kristiansand until BtP is able to announce exactly what's planned in terms of Conventions. We hope to present inexpensive and complementary events in the UK and in Norway, as we know many Palers will be attending both, and of course, with the events being only 22 days apart, visitors from afar have an excellent opportunity to construct a nice-length European holiday book-ended by two very different Procol Harum concerts!

Whether we able-bodied, privileged webmen and e-Fans have any real business to be putting so much time and energy into this small world of rock music, while around us the real world starves, overheats, or struggles to choose a worthy leader, is perhaps debatable. But, given that we are doing it, inveterately, perhaps we can console ourselves with the momentary thought that we are at least celebrating something of indisputable value, and that we inhabit a salutary mindset while we remain discriminating, choosing to champion pearls in a world a-swill with swine?

As we wind down 2000, we know that 2001 will be a great year for Procol Harum fans. And although 2000 was great, the New Year will be even better. Two Procol Harum concerts announced, and Gary Broker says in his greetings to the Palers that more studio material and archive releases are planned.

It's been a long while since a year started with such bright possibilities for us Procol Harum fans. If ever. And although the story of a Procol Harum fan has been the story of a person with several lost hopes, the year we are just leaving shows dreams can be fulfilled. And 2001 is coming, with more hopes.

And they will not be lost.

A Happy New Year to you all. A warm thank you to all the Palers and to Procol Harum.

Shine On!
Roland + Jens

Life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?

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