Procol Harum

the Pale

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'Nothing But The Sea Between Us'

Liner Note from the first Palers' Band album

This is the liner note, by Roland from 'Beyond the Pale', that was printed inside the first 2CD album from The Palers' Band – now sold out – entitled Nothing But The Sea Between Us. It commemorates the excitement and daring of that first foray into playing Procol music with a scratch band of Procoholics on the slightest possible rehearsal time. The liner note makes numerous references to Shakespeare – read the play in question by clicking here; the main scene referred to is here.

In the final scene of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare’s ‘Rude Mechanicals’, a motley bunch of enthusiasts, get the chance to present a play of their own in the presence of the Duke of Athens. For them it’s a dream come true, although their audience rate it as a genial makeweight, simply helping them ‘ease the anguish of a torturing hour’ before the long-delayed consummation of some enchanted love-affairs.

And so it was at the ‘Beyond the Pale’ Convention, when a multilingual throng of Procol Harum lovers, foregathered on the eve of the Millennium Concert, beguiled the time with these two sets from the enthusiasts who came to be known as The Palers’ Band.

Cover art: collage of all the players, by Richard Beck (lead guitar)e-Volunteers came streaming in from mid-July, when BtP floated the idea of a scratch ensemble: in the end we had to draw the line at twenty. There seemed no point in playing safe, so we decided to tackle a reckless mix of standards, cobwebbed classics, and real finger-twisters (some ‘conned with cruel pain’!), augmenting the five-piece core with acoustic guitar, female voice, violin, trumpet, recorders, even a kosher bosun’s whistle, so as to counterfeit some favourite moments – some never heard live before – from Procol records.

Roles were apportioned on the basis of each musician’s self-assessment, then we focused our best x-ray ears on the original arrangements and it was ‘Every man look o’er his part’ for the intervening weeks, until that stormy Friday evening when our Bristolian equipment-van (defying the petrol strike!) rolled up at the Jarvis Hotel, ‘a marvelous convenient place for our rehearsal’. With a handshake, strangers in space became partners in crime. We had players enough to start assembling a few songs that night (a thrilling business!), extending our repertoire with each jet-lagged arrival next morning. Yet there were still gaps at the afternoon’s soundcheck (our drummers’ first glimpse of the kit), and the evening’s brave performance featured players who had missed all the preliminaries, and a couple of numbers that had never been communally glanced at.

The audience-recording was unplanned, but everyone involved has kindly consented to its release as a souvenir of Guildford; it must, of course, be ‘listened to in the spirit in which it was made’, since nothing has been edited at all. The various clams and clangers, which added to the drama and excitement at the time, would probably have succumbed to another rehearsal, even another soundcheck. Still, ‘Never excuse!’: it was all tremendous fun, and had its share of fine playing, not least from Dave Ball, a genuine Procoler whose jovial talents were an inspiration to all concerned.

From a convener’s perspective, the warm humour and mutual respect that marked our potentially-hubristic endeavours were a relief and a delight. Having introduced the Palers’ Band with a hopeful quotation from Shakespeare’s Duke, ‘Never anything can be amiss / When simpleness and duty tender it’, it struck me all the more Dream-worthy when Gary Brooker made his unexpected entrance at the Convention, and, Duke-like, played musical match-maker to Richard and Donna … who ‘shall eternally be knit’. In an astonishing and memorable reversal, he then became our audience for a clutch of Harum songs, and Franky reports that he was ‘touched to tears’ by our offerings.

We’re most grateful for permission to include Gary’s A Rum Tale (sung with the whole congregation) in this memento of a wondrous event that already seems ‘like far-off mountains turned into clouds’. For a fleeting weekend six decades of Procol fans, representing well over a dozen nations, convened for a frolic on the fringes of a great music, then revelled in the great music itself. The distances travelled by the Palers’ Band alone would ‘put a girdle round about the earth’ almost three times – yet a bond was forged in those brief hours that mere mileage would be hard-put to dissolve. I think we can all agree that, thanks to Procol Harum, there truly is Nothing But The Sea Between Us.

Thanks, Jill, for the typing

The Palers' Band

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