Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at the Dominion Theatre, London

Post-broadcast Q&A with Chris Cooke, Procol's manager

During a routine telephone call with Chris Cooke on 29 November 2014, BtP took the opportunity of mentioning to him some of the Facebook comments about the previous day’s Dominion Theatre broadcast, thinking it would be useful to get a definitive response to various speculations that had arisen. We also passed on to him the overwhelmingly positive response of the fans on the Forum and elsewhere.

Q: Were there any overdubs or retakes after the audience had left?

A: No in both cases. We had ninety minutes to leave the theatre – that’s everything. Think how much staying on would cost – orchestra, production, theatre hire. I spent the evening in the Sound Truck with a cue sheet, advising the mixers when solos were coming up etc. I left the truck as GB left the stage, and was not involved in any further production. The only second take was A Salty Dog, openly done at the start of Act II. (It could have gone out as first played – Gary was happy with it – but the opportunity was there to correct an error … so why not take it?).

What changes were made to the programme, in view of Geoff Whitehorn’s indisposition?

None whatever. Dave stepped exactly into Geoff’s shoes, and the selection of songs, and running order, stayed the same as originally planned.

How come there were those talks in the middle of the show: did Procol under-run?

We were asked to play two fifty-minute sets; the interval talk is part of the established Radio 2 format [as it also is for recitals on Radio 3 (RC)]. We did think that the various interview bits recorded with Tom Sanders (and shown in the film trailer) would be used in that section of the show; but in the end it was a Radio 2 programme, not a Procol one, and they called the shots

Why did Gary not play an acoustic grand, or use his faux grand piano-case?

An acoustic grand was not appropriate, because some of the settings off the electric piano were needed for the songs without orchestra. Otherwise it was a question of space, pure and simple. When the crew arrived at the theatre at 8am, they discovered that the stage extension was two metres narrower than expected.

Did you make back-up recordings at Abbey Road?

We didn’t make any use at all of the recording facilities at Abbey Road. It was just a convenient, large rehearsal room. The ensemble was learning the songs at that point! We had limited time and mic-ing would have delayed the important work. We had two hours with the choir and four hours with the choir and orchestra, in two sessions. The orchestra loved us, because we finished early in both rehearsal sessions.

When did you mix the show?

No mixing whatever took place after the show: it was all done as it was performed. FOH-sound and truck-sound were handled independently. So, anything not heard in the theatre – if a channel fader on the in-house desk was left down – would still come through to the BBC truck, because the sound feeds split to the truck first.

No mixing, then, just a bit of editing?

A Salty Dog was spliced; otherwise there was a bit of editing to sort out the 117-minute transmission, and Matt Pegg’s acknowledgment of ‘our fearsome, our fearless, leader’ was normalised for the broadcast … though it might have been more entertaining left as it was. All these changes were done under the aegis of producer Anthony Cherry, not at Procol’s urging. His job is to create a show that pleases the Radio 2 audience. Our job is to work with the choir and orchestra, and perform the songs … which we did! I would also point out to those who cannot just enjoy what we do, but have to criticise even the choice of songs, that this was a Radio 2 show featuring Procol Harum, not a two-hour extravaganza of Procol material aimed at the minority.

Thanks, Chris

Procol dates in 2014 | Procol Harum dates with orchestra

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