Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at Stratford, Ontario

Gerry Colver

I was at the concert that Procol Harum performed in Stratford. In fact I dug down through my memorabilia and discovered I still have the concert program.

I was going to be home from school that summer and thought I would check out the list of performers who would be appearing in their summer concert series. I ordered tickets for both Procol Harum and a concert later in the summer by Joni Mitchell.

Over the years I saw Procol Harum perform four times, twice at Massey Hall in Toronto, once in the summer of 1970 at Mosport Speedway north of Toronto at a "Woodstock" type weekend event called 'Strawberry Fields'. But the one that stands out is the Stratford concert.

The Festival Theatre was designed for Shakespearean plays. Any seat in the house is a good seat. As I recall I was sitting about two-thirds of the way back, almost dead centre. It was odd seeing a group like Procol at the Festival Theatre because at that time it was considered very much a mainstream venue.

With the band and an orchestra and a choir, there wasn't a lot of spare room. Gary was sitting at his grand piano on the right, Matthew behind his organ on the left. BJ (listed as Barrie in the program) was situated behind his drum kit to the right of centre, with Robin and David Knights stationed to the left of centre.

The orchestra played first, then there was an intermission to allow the band to set up with the orchestra. They played A Salty Dog and In Held 'Twas in I. By the time they finished the whole crowd was on its feet. You could tell that the group was visibly blown away by the reaction. Years later I met one of the young men who had been singing in the choir that day. He said that backstage the group couldn't believe the reaction from the audience and how they had been able to pull it all off.

After another intermission when the band came back and played a selection of their songs all by themselves. The audience reaction to that was positive and polite but not overwhelming. I recollect at least one encore and can remember the band members just beaming, basking in the magic that was created that afternoon

It was definitely a highlight in my concert career. 

Thanks, Gerry

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