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the Pale

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Rock meets Classic

Part II of Gary Brooker's Germanic Orchestral Adventures

Hermann Braunschmidt sends 'Beyond the Pale' this fascinating account of Gary Brooker's extra-Procolian activities between 1990 and 1993. Read this in tandem with his account, elsewhere, of the first round of Gary Brooker's Germanic Orchestral Adventures.

Performance picture from the Brooker ballet, 'Delta' The year 1990 saw Gary Brooker in high activity. The Prodigal Stranger album was in progress, and he was commissioned by Denmark's Royal Opera house to write the music for a ballet to be performed by US choreographer Laura Dean with first performances of the orchestral piece in December of that year.

In the same year, early 1990, in Germany, Hermann Haupt, a concert promoter and music journalist, began to develop a great plan, in Wurzburg. He had been playing in beat and rock bands himself in the 60s and 70s and conceived the idea to have a concert played in his hometown with his musical heroes of the past. He loved the symphonic side of rock music, and orchestrated rock always had been his favoured genre. He saw a chance for a local event of this character, if he could rely on local resources. He gained support from the local authorities and got in touch with Christian Kabitz, Kirchenmusikdirektor at the Johannischurch. Kabitz, highly active in choir and orchestral music in addition to his organ work for his church, always had great interest in the fusion of musical styles and forms of performance. He was the co-author, and participant in, the performance of Rock Requiem and Cosmogenia performed in Munich in the 80s, also released on two LPs and later on CD. There was a third one, Johannes, in 1995.

Kabitz agreed to become musical director of the project and bring in his Bach Choir and orchestra, all amateurs, but a highly respected ensemble. Haupt found some rock musicians that felt able to represent the "electric" part of the whole and he himself joined in on Hammond organ. At an early stage in the development of the idea, Haupt recognized that he had to bring in guest stars to make the whole event a success. He had local singers that were able to perform part of the programme, but what a difference would it be to have original artists performing their own material here in Würzburg ! From an interview Haupt had done with Eberhard Schoener years before, he knew about the 80s collaborations of Gary Brooker and Schoener and became very interested in having Gary taking part in his project.

Eberhard Schoener made the contact and Gary at last agreed. On 6 October 1990 the concert premiere took place in the St Johannischurch in Würzburg (tickets here). The concert comprised typical "symphonic "pop classics like Nights In White Satin (Moody Blues), Music (John Miles) and Eloise (Barry Ryan) in the first part. After the interval all songs were performed by Gary Brooker and mostly were taken from the Procol catalogue. Only Love Hurts mixed with Pachelbel's Canon was a song new to Gary's repertoire. The concert, performed on two nights, was a huge success and immediately the decision was made to add further concerts and start a small tour through the southern parts of Germany. Twelve months later eight concert dates were confirmed: Würzburg again, Stuttgart, Ulm, Munich, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Nuremburg and Freiburg were the cities chosen by Haupt concert promotions.

The extended tour brought some personal changes to make the whole more professional and more attractive to people outside of Würzburg. Barry Ryan came to sing his Eloise himself (this song was a mega-hit in Germany in 1968 and Ryan had some further successful songs in this country) and some changes were made in the band. Gary brought with him Henry Spinetti on drums, Dave Bronze on bass and German Paul Vincent, who already had played with Gary in Rock Meets Classic in 1980 and 1983 under Eberhard Schoener, joined in on guitar. As in the premiere concerts in 1990, Hermann Haupt himself played the Hammond.

The project got a big promotional support by Thomas Gottschalk, Germany's 'TV Caesar', who had Gary plus the whole ensemble and choir in his Saturday night show Wetten dass, which is the most successful German TV show for more than twenty years now. Gottschalk, being a dedicated fan of Gary and Procol, made a short interview about the forthcoming tour with Gary and Haupt and let them play AWSoP (playback with Gary singing and playing live). [2004: Gottschalk hosts Fifty Years of Rock including AWSoP: see here]

Maybe the time was right, or maybe this promotional help did the trick - the RMC tour became a huge success too ! Even the "old opera" in Frankfurt, a most prestigious place (2500 capacity) and the Circus Krone in Munich (here Gary played Rock meets Classic under conductor Eberhard Schoener in 1980 and 83), with its nearly 3000 places totally sold out. Gary's part of the show brought the audience to greatest excitement, so that encores had to be played. Since no further Procol material had been rehearsed and orchestrated for this series of concerts, Land Of 1000 Dances, Rip It Up and What'd I Say, nowadays regular parts of orchestral performances of Procol Harum, had their début in this context.

Again the success encouraged Haupt to make plans to extend the tour over whole Germany in the next year, 1993. This time 29 gigs were planned in hardly more than a month's span. It was obvious that such a tour could not be handled with amateur musicians and singers, on the other hand it did not seem realistic to earn enough money to travel with the 100 people who had to be accommodated and paid. There was only one chance to solve this problem: After the iron curtain had fallen, it was possible to employ orchestras from eastern Europe at reasonable prices. Also Jon Lord, from this background, thought about touring with an orchestra, in order to perform his "classical" compositions again: (this did not happen before 2000, when he toured with Deep Purple for the 30th anniversary of his Concerto For Group And Orchestra with a Romanian orchestra). The Bohemian Symphonic Orchestra and Choir from Czechoslovakia were at last chose to accompany the Second Rock meets Classic tour through Germany in January 1993.

Whitehorn, Brooker, Spinetti, Cottle ... all sometime ProcolersThere were some changes in the program and line up again. Bobby Kimball, Toto's singer and a solo artist at that time, became the key person in the first part of the show: apart from some classics from the previous year's set list, he mainly sang Toto material. On guitar Geoff Whitehorn replaced Paul Vincent and Laurence Cottle filled in on bass. Hermann Haupt, who was committed to presenting Jacques Loussier in Germany at the same time, was replaced by Mathias Weiss, who also had written the orchestral scores for the material, for numbers not already existing in Gary's archives.

Again Thomas Gottschalk, the TV host, who just had invented his late night format, gave promotional help with studio playback performances of Toto's Rosanna and Procol's Into The Flood (the Edmonton II soundtrack). The tour went well, though less triumphantly than the '92 predecessor. Not all venues were sold out, one concert had to be cancelled and it was obvious that the RMC format had many more fans in the south than in the north of Germany. The audience was fully satisfied at all places, and especially Dresden (Kulturpalast) and again Frankfurt (Jahrhunderthalle) were remarkably successful.

The German press reaction was mixed: some critics deemed the whole concept dated and in no way revolutionary anymore. Others claimed it to be entertainment for a middle-aged middle-class public, unacceptable for lovers of original "classic" music, boring for fans of rock music. Interesting enough, all comments known to the author make an explicit exception of Gary Brooker, whose voice and charisma impressed all critics.

Table of the events mentioned in the article above

1989 onwards (does anyone have exact dates?)

Recording sessions for The Prodigal Stranger

6 October 1990

Gary with 'Rock Meets Classic' in Würzburg

20 December 1990

Gary Brooker's Ballet Premiere in Copenhagen

September / October 1991

Procol Harum Prodigal Stranger tour North America starts

September 1991

Procol Harum Prodigal Stranger promotion, US: Johnny Carson

October 1991

Gary Brooker 'Rock Meets Classic' tour 8 dates (tickets)

December 1991

Gary Brooker's No Stiletto Shoes: two nights at Chiddingfold

15 January 1992

Procol Harum Prodigal Stranger tour of Europe starts in Germany (ends 14 February in Paris)

May 1992

Procol Harum USA tour starts

29 May 1992

Procol Harum Edmonton II

July / August 1992

Procol Harum concerts in Europe

October 1992

Gary Brooker 'Rock Meets Classic': eight dates, South Germany

Christmas 1992

Gary Brooker's Stiletto Shoes in Chiddingfold and Sweden (GB on Willie And The Poor Boys CD)

January / February 1993

Gary Brooker 'Rock Meets Classic': 29 dates Germany

May 1993

Procol Harum: Portugal, three dates (tour here: more detail needed!)

June 1993

Procol Harum supporting Jethro Tull in Germany 3 dates

August / September. 1993

Procol Harum supporting Jethro Tull in America

October 1993

Gary Brooker featured at the Heineken Night of the Proms in Belgium and Holland

Christmas 1993

Gary Brooker's Chiddingfold Christmas party, two nights

 Thanks, Hermann!

Gary Brooker's page at BtP

Rock meets Classic, Part I

Some striking Brooker / RMC pictures

Pictures from the 1993 'Rock Meets Classic programme'

More striking Brooker / RMC pictures


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