Procol Harum

the Pale

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Gary Brooker's music certificates

Piano examinations in 1952 and 1953

Amazingly enough, the formal music qualifications of  Gary Brooker – the composer of Whaling Stories among other extraordinary songs, the orchestrator of A Salty Dog among many other spectacular arrangements, and the player of the piano on almost all Procol Harum's brilliant catalogue – are represented in these two humble snapshots of his exam certificates which, somewhat foxed under glass, are propped on a ledge in the rehearsal-studio in the barn adjoining his home.

Gary was taught the piano by Miss O Walker, who prepared him for the examinations. 'Trinity College of Music, London' is the authority running the exams, and issuing the certificates.
There's no implication that GB attended a music college. This Board was favoured by piano-teachers in many parts of the world: read its history here.

For this exam, which he passed in November 1952, at the age of seven, GB would have had to play some elementary pieces (using both hands), a couple of scales, and probably tackled a little sight-reading.
Ear-tests in addition were an easy way for a musically-gifted child to gain marks. In this instance, Gary was awarded 'Honours': the highest category of achievement.

Miss O Walker – she who smote his knuckles with a ruler for fingering infractions – again presented the young Gary Brooker, at the Edmonton and Tottenham Centre, in the higher
'First-Steps' Division. By July 1953, however, the eight-year-old did not reach the heights of 'Honours', and was graded at 'Merit' level, the second stage from the top.
Miss Walker herself held the qualification ATCL – Associate of Trinity College London – which was the humblest of three Diplomas offered by the Board.

At this point Gary eschewed further piano examinations. The family moved from North London to Southend on Sea, and it was not until Gary came under the
tutelage of Ronald Meachen – whose song-based, chord-friendly methods differed markedly from those of Miss Walker – that his piano-playing took off again.

Perhaps, in some future upload, 'Beyond the Pale' will reveal something about the Hitherto-Unnamed Benefactor whose intervention (following
the death of Gary's musician father Harry Brooker) subsidised and encouraged the young player's performing ambitions.

Gary Brooker's page at BtP

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