'The "Other" Coronation Concert'
A charity concert to raise funds for two local schools
So, the morning of the show arrived and my keyboard tech Mike (some of you will remember Mike from the Yes and Ravens & Lullabies tours) arrived around 10.30 to load up the equipment required for the show. He headed off whilst I loaded up my car with the various raffle and auction prizes for the night. Due to the generosity of the donors, I nearly didn’t have enough room in the car for them all!
I then headed to the venue and caught up with Mike who had been very busy and set up the keyboard rig and mic’ed up the piano with the house crew Martin, Will & Charlie and working hard to get the sound and lighting set up for the show.
Gordon and Carrie had also arrived, and it was lovely to catch up with them both as it’s been a while since we all saw each other in person.
We had two runners helping in afternoon, my son Arthur and a school friend of his called Daisy who both worked tirelessly all day setting up dressing rooms, getting drinks and helping with the front of house set up.
Dad was due to arrive around 2.30 and just to make the day busier, we had agreed to both be filmed for a documentary film being made about the Strawbs band (which we have both been members of). The film director and cameraman (Niel & William) arrived and started to set up shortly after which dad arrived.
He disappeared off to be filmed and so Carrie and I sat at our respective instruments to have a play through (and a session working out the music charts so we wouldn’t forget when it came to showtime!) for her lovely track End of Story from her latest album. I have been fortunate to play on all of Carrie’s records so far and this song is another of her wonderful compositions and it was nice to play a piece of hers which I performed on the record.
After a few run-throughs I felt we had it in a pretty good shape and so decided to have a run through the other track we had planned for the evening. I wanted to play Glimmer of Light from the Jabberwocky album and Carrie very graciously agreed to sing it (with very little notice I must say). I also needed some strings to be performed and so I’d asked my son Arthur to perform with us as well.
We ran through the track a few times, tidied up a few sections and were happy and so I disappeared off to be filmed whilst everyone else finished off their sound checks.
Once filming had finished (which involved me being asked one question and me talking for an hour and then apologising for probably answering every question in advance) we needed to organise coffee runs. Many thanks to Charlie who worked out how to turn on the coffee machine after Martin and I had almost given up after 15 minutes. Who designs a coffee machine that has 2 on switches? Especially when one of them is hidden under a secret trapdoor flap…
Luckily keyboards are less complicated… (hold that thought)
We then had the Head of Music and the young ladies from Cleeve School arrive who had also agreed to help. They all busied themselves sorting out the raffle prizes and programmes.
Dad meanwhile had finished being filmed and so headed off to the lovely Tewkesbury Park Hotel (who were providing accommodation for the evening)
I busied myself doing all the last-minute preparations, checking the clothes to wear on stage, everyone knew what they were doing etc and then before I knew it I was popping back to the hotel to pick Dad up for showtime.
I was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening but before we got to that we had all the meet and greet guests arrive and so we had a very enjoyable hour chatting to people and signing stuff. Also, my wife Lisa arrived for the evening, which was particularly special as, due to our daughter, she usually always has to stay at home with her however on this occasion we had a lady who was able to look after her for the evening and so Lisa could enjoy the concert for once.
We then finished up the meet and greet and I prepared the headteachers for their on-stage introduction as they started the evening with some information about each school so people would have an idea of where their funds were going to be used. Cleeve were going to use the funds to get more music equipment and Milestone were going to use the money to create an intervention room to help special needs children calm down when things or situations were becoming overwhelming. Both very good uses of the funds.
The show then started with Carrie performing a lot of beautiful material from her previous albums and I joined her at the end for the piece we had rehearsed earlier in the day. It was a beautiful set and a terrific start to the evening.
I then stayed on stage to perform my set which involved quite a few stories and a varied set list from various albums and some currently unreleased music. I played LJW and A Mayfair Kiss (from the Ravens & Lullabies album) as well as Glimmer of Light which I mentioned earlier. I followed these up with 3 relatively new pieces, Flower of England which was originally a commissioned piece I was asked to write and I also played a new piece which I had written for my daughter called Lottie’s Tune. I finished the evening with November Wedding which I had written for my good friends Rodney and Sarah Matthews for their wedding.
And before I knew it, the show was over, and we were preparing for the interval and the charity auction section of the evening.
Dad had graciously agreed to act as auctioneer and did a wonderful job. We raised money from lovely guitar which was donated by Vintage Guitars and also a box set of the Steven Wilson mixes of the first 6 Yes albums which was donated by my management company QEDG.
We had one more item to auction, a lovely signed high-quality print of Rodney Matthews' Trinity album artwork. Rodney joined us on stage to talk about the image and the story behind it and then the bidding began, and we ended up north of £600 which was an amazing amount. The winning bidder joined us on stage for photos and to the receive his print from the artist himself! A very special moment indeed.
We finished up the auction and then moved onto the second half which started with a wonderful set from my long-time friend and musical collaborator Gordon Giltrap. Gordon performed an absolute blinder of a set which received rapturous applause and was over far too quickly.
Dad then entered the stage to perform music from his varied career including pieces from his early session days interspersed with the usual funny stories which always go down well with the audiences.
He finished the night by asking all who involved to join us on stage to reveal the preliminary total to the audience from the funds raised from the ticket sales, raffle and auction. This was a massive £12,000 which exceeded our expectations, and I was so grateful to everyone for donating their time for this concert and making it such a wonderful event to be a part of.
Maybe we’ll do it again at some point!