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Procol Harum gets ovation at Bach Rock concert

W J Pitcher in Kitchener Waterloo Record, Monday 7 July 1969

Stratford – the ‘dramatically altered concept’ for the music season at Stratford may have hit some classical fans right between the eyes Sunday's opening concert.

It was advertised as a Bach Rock programme.

There was no doubt the rock enthusiasts won the day. They were there in the largest numbers. And it was the contributions of the Procol Harum rock outfit which brought the big ovations.

Whether the real Bach fans were at all pleased by the rock is a question. It is probably just as doubtful that many rock enthusiasts were won over to Johann Sebastian.

Anyone with an idea that the Bach and Rock could be joined in a program which would find the rock fusing into anything closely related to the music of Bach may have been rather disappointed.

The Procol Harum's A Salty Dog and In Held ’Twas in I certainly didn't bend far towards JSB.

The second of the two ended off with some choralism which might have been said to resemble a Bach choral work in slight degree. But it was easier to recognise the few bars of Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven.

The only clearly identifiable Bach in the proceedings involving the rock group was a bit of the opening Prelude in C from The Well Tempered Clavichord. This was heard in Retrospect [sic], the final Procol Harum encore.

Where the great sympathies and appreciation lay was completely evident by audience reaction after the first intermission, as against second.

The response to the straight Bach by the Festival Orchestra on the opening part was politely warm.

But when these top professioinals [sic] were joined by the rock organ, guitars, drums, piano, soloist and ‘volunteer choir,’ with shattering amplification, the crowd went wild.

I would be the last to suggest that the rock group was anything but a sensational success with the majority of the audience.

But whether the combination of Back/Rock [sic] is something which many of the straight classical fans would be wooed back to again may be another matter.

It might be more acceptable to both sides to leave rock to rock and Bach to Bach.

The Festival Orchestra under Laurence Smith wasn't up to best festival standards in the opening Overture from Suite No 4 in D major.

The playing lacked clarity and a degree of intensity or ‘tension’.

The next number, Concerto in C minor for violin ond [sic] oboe, brought very fine solo work from Ray Sill, oboe and violinist Charles Libove in lesser degree. The overall performance of this classical offering was considerably superior to the opener, and the final Allegro had plenty of rhythmic bounce.

However, the orchestra didn't impress as being up to the form that has applied at some season opener concerts in the past. This was not too fortunate in view of the unusual nature of this concert when two types of fare were being compared.

The rock boys had a good deal of trouble getting their mics and sound sysystems [sic] in place. There seemed to be close to a dozen mics all over the stage, boxes, wires, switches and so on.

After the second intermission of about twenty minutes, the chief soundman was flitting about the stage from mike to mike and box to box for about ten minutes, while the audience waited, before everything was ready. This end of the Procol Harum special scene in need of more organisation.

In their final group of selections without orchestra, the Procol Harum produced at their dynamic peaks a type of din seldom if ever before heard in the Festival Theatre.

From the standpoint of covering a concert, it's usually an advantage to have a seat in the orchestra section. But for this rock business, the Blair was for the most part of such intensity that one wonders how the ears would survive if subjected to day after day absorbtion [sic] of this type of sound.

Opening Bach concerts at Stratford have been highlights for some years. No doubt a large percentage of those on hand Sunday would label the new look mixture as another festival triumph; others may have had feelings they were in the wrong pew for part of the afternoon at least.

More about Procol Harum at Stratford, 1969 

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