Active people of a certain age often create a ‘bucket list’. That is, a list of things to do before he or she “kicks the bucket”, before leaving this earth. With time passing so quickly these days there is mounting urgency for Marti and me to see and do the things of our passions and dreams.
At the top of my bucket list are these two items:
1. Experience Procol Harum in concert with symphony and choral accompaniment.
2. Meet the members of the band, up close and in person.
In January 2011 we travelled to Copenhagen from Indianapolis to follow Procol Harum around Denmark. We witnessed them in concert in Copenhagen, Arhus, Vejle and Aalborg with The Danish National Concert Orchestra and Choir conducted by David Firman (as heard and seen on the 2006 Ledreborg DVD).
“That’s a long way to go for a band.” Friends and family don’t understand the power of the music and the lyrics. They don’t “get” how songs, which have played like personal background music for the last four and a half decades, can give continuity and meaning to our turbulent lives. And, they don’t understand how the music can trigger our best moments … and comfort us in our worst. We are sexagenarian groupies, to be sure.
Denmark is a gentle and creative country. It’s a land of bicycles, bakeries and public art. Polite, English-speaking people, fine Danish design and clean, well-ordered cities. We traveled smoothly via the efficient and economical national rail system. Each city offered a wonderful mix of historic and contemporary attractions, unusually convenient pedestrian shopping avenues and great dining. It was winter but the weather was not harsh. In all, Denmark is a wonderful destination, any time.
Along with the excitement of the concerts, was the opportunity to meet fellow Procoholics. We were thrilled to break bread with Charlie and Elspeth Allison on our first night in Denmark. The Allisons are great folks from Scotland, and model fans of the music we love. We met up with BtP webmasters Roland Clare and Jens Anders Ravnaas along with their wives Linda and Titti respectively. It was apparent from their on-site interaction with the band and crew that Roland and Jens are more than documentarians: they are trusted and active members of the team that bring us this music.
Peter and Ingelise Justesen, our Danish friends whom we met in Chicago last summer, are gracious and nice people and a major source of Procol knowledge. It was a joy to meet David Ball, a creative, amiable former member of the band. Unsteady Freddie was delightful and proved to be as excited about life as anyone I have ever met. Pia and Mogens Vinther, Heidi and Jakob Widmer and many others joined together in a kind of community with a shared appreciation. Is this what Heaven is going to be like?
Every fan should know that the musicians and crew of Procol Harum are a most gracious and accommodating bunch. After the concert in Arhus, we met the band members in the hotel bar. On this particular night the band had given the appreciative audience two encore performances – Into the Flood and Grand Finale. There was excitement and celebration in the air, as the tour was winding down. They gave us autographs, allowed photographs and were generous with their time and conversation. We kidded Matt Pegg about his new silver shoes, which were given to him by his “mum”. Gary spent considerable time talking with us about a variety of things, including his favorite worship music. Mr & Mrs Whitethorn were on hand – Geoff, I really will buy you that drink. I promise. Josh Phillips took pictures of us! Geoff Dunn and Chris Cooke also joined the fun. Each one was a delight. It was a great party. [Pictured: The Commander gives an autograph to Marti and Gene Deverick in Aarhus, Denmark]
As for the concerts, others more musically sophisticated than I have already brilliantly reviewed them. We felt right at home being welcomed into the Grand Hotel, the theme for the evenings. Before Procol Harum came on stage the orchestra and choral ensemble treated us with some classic Vivaldi, Bach and Bizet and we sang along with the rest of the audience (in English), We’ll Meet Again. We also used our toy horns to have some fun with David Firman, the conductor. It felt a lot like a family birthday party. When Procol Harum took the stage, the band, orchestra and choir seemed to operate as one organic entity. Each of the shows was progressively better than the previous one as band and orchestra refined their parts. And the boys had a lot of fun on stage with each other. There was simply more power, more majesty, more feeling in the music we have come to love over the years. For me The Symphathy for the Hard of Hearing and Into the Flood were the songs that brought me to the mountain top. (As a Minister of the Gospel I can worship to this music!)
The experience of being on tour with Procol Harum was extraordinary. I am ready to do this again. After all, we’re not getting any younger. New entry on bucket list: Attend a 45th Reunion!
(thanks, Gene, for your bucket-list piece – it'll be many years before you'll be Beyond the Pail)
Procol dates in 2011