Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum in May 1992 with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (1)

Larry Pennisi writes:
The notion of fusing a rock band with a classical orchestra was not new when Procol Harum recorded their history-making live album in 1971. It had been initially attempted, though in the studio only, by The Moody Blues when they recorded Days of Future Passed in 1967  It was taken to the next echelon by The Nice in 1969 with the commercially-released Five Bridges Suite. Procol Harum had, nevertheless, done their orchestral thing live at the Stratford
Shakespearean Festival in 1969. Sadly, not much of a record exists of this aside from the reminiscences of some lucky people who were there. It was not recorded. Deep Purple also followed suit with their 1970 Concerto for Group and Orchestra album, at whose live recording Gary Brooker was reportedly in attendance. This Deep Purple show was professionally recorded and ranks as one of my most precious archived materials. Therefore, Procol’s effort was not the first, but history seems to deem it the most successful of all such collaborations.

In May 1992 Canadian Television recorded Procol in a recreation of the 1971 event. Hosted by Tommy Shanks, the Edmonton Orchestra was conducted by David Hoyt who had also been a member of the original Edmonton orchestra in 1971. Fans are interviewed, though none that I can identify on sight. The band is interviewed momentarily: Gary’s interview was done alone, and the other members were interviewed as a group. Somewhat infamously the band, sans Brooker, did an impromptu Procol Rap, led by Grandmaster MC Dave Bronze with hip-hop accompaniment by the other band members.

At this time, with Matthew Fisher on hiatus at Cambridge University for the purpose of achieving his degree in Computer Programming, he was understudied by Don Snow (aka John Savannah). Mark Brzezicki on drums and Geoff Whitehorn on guitar, later mainstays, were in attendance as well.

The set list is varied, opting to start of with a powerful version of Ghost Train from Brooker’s Echoes In the Night album (Matthew Fisher is credited as co-composer of Ghost Train as well as contributing to The Long Goodbye track and other material on the Echoes album). The band is unyielding, the performance unconditional. Two unintentional moments of levity occur when the choral singers do not come in on time. First, during Holding On and then, excruciatingly off-time at the beginning of Whaling Stories, where Gary winces and then smiles at the temporal faux pas.

Several songs were left off of the aired programme, including what appear to be band-only versions of Shine on Brightly and Homburg with Don Snow playing some delicious Hammond. Mr Snow was reading from music scores during Grand Finale, played guitar on Whisky Train and was, musically at least, quite an asset to this incarnation of Procol. In the audience was comedian, Richard Lewis, a Procol fan in his own right. The set list was Ghost Train / Simple Sister / Holding On / Man With A Mission / Homburg / Whisky Train / Grand Hotel / Into The Flood / A Salty Dog / Intermission / Whaling Stories / Shine on Brightly / (You Can't) Turn Back The Page / The Truth Won't Fade Away / The King of Hearts / Conquistador / A Whiter Shade Of Pale (two verses). Encores were The Long Goodbye / Grand Finale / Repent Walpurgis  followed by Conquistador (again).  Unaired footage includes Shine on Brightly / Homburg / Whaling Stories (alt. take).


Special Presentation indeed ...

The conductor ...

The dots ... looks like A Salty Dog, would you not say?

Maestro Brzezicki (who first saw this footage at the Palers' Party in Kristiansand, and was pleased
when BtP was able to give him a copy at the Manchester Palers' Convention following)

Voilà! A violin ... note the 'wolf-chaser' on the A string, right by the bridge.

Who's this geezer?

The on-screen title is somewhat superfluous

Thanks to Larry Pennisi, Marvin Chassman, Ted McCallion

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