Rick Wakeman ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ Newcastle City Hall 24th April 2014

Rick Wakeman ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ Newcastle City Hall 24th April 2014
rickprogThis was the 40th Anniversary Tour for Rick Wakeman’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’. Rick is taking his famous story telling piece on the road again. A very brave move, as it involves putting together, and touring with a band, full orchestra and choir. The show featured the Irion Symphony Orchestra accompanied by The English Chamber Choir and a rock band giving a live presentation of this classical-rock work. Last night at Newcastle City Hall was the first night of the UK tour, and Laura and I went along. The concert was in two parts, the first with Rick alone on stage telling some stories about his career; and the people who influenced him. He talked about Cat Stevens, and played a piano instrumental of “Morning Has Broken”, which he played on a session musician. He then treated us to a rendition of “Life on Mars” with Hayley Sanderson on vocals (Hayley was one of the two vocalists in the second half of the show), and talked about the time he spent with David Bowie working on “Hunky Dory”, and how David’s advice of being true to yourself has stuck with him throughout his career, and was one of the reasons he persisted with the “Journey” concept when many were against it. ricktixHe then introduced his old friend Ashley Holt, the second vocalist in the concert. Rick explained that he played with Ashley in the ’60s at Watford Top Rank and they performed one of the songs that they used to sing “Summertime”. Rick closed the first half paying tribute to his father, who took him to see “Peter and the Wolf” when he was 8 years old. It was that performance, and seeing a story in music, which planted the seed of the idea of doing a musical version of Rick’s childhood favourite book “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”. He finished by playing “Eleanor Rigby” in the style of Prokofiev, explaining that the composer was a big influence on his music, coming from his classical training at the Royal College of Music. There was then a short interval.
rickflyerThe second half of the concert relived the original album and tour, with the Orion orchestra (who I saw three weeks ago at the Albert Hall performing in the Jon Lord memorial concert), the English Chamber Choir and a rock band featuring Dave Colquhoun on guitar, Matt Pegg (Dave’s son) on bass, and Tony Ferdandez on drums. Philip Franks narrated the performance from the back of the stage, and Guy Protheroe conducted. Guy has been instrumental in putting together the show, helping recreate the score from an old and damaged copy of the original that was found some time ago. Vocal duties were shared between Hayley Sanderson and Ashley Holt, who were both excellent. I must admit that I am not familiar with the album, and didn’t realise how powerful a piece it is. Both Laura and I really enjoyed the concert, and came away both converts to Rick and his music. The audience loved it and gave the performers several standing ovations. An encore of a small piece from the album’s 1999 follow-up “Return to the Centre of the Earth” closed the evening; the audience were on their feet again, and Rick seemed genuinely moved by the reception that his work received.
‘This is the start of a new journey’, says Rick Wakeman about the show, ‘the original score for the album had been lost for so many years, making any new performances impossible. But after it turned up without warning, we managed to restore it and add previously missing music that was not included in the original performances. It has taken another half decade to develop, but I can’t wait to take Jules Verne’s magnificent story on tour again’.
A great concert and much better than I had anticipated.

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