|Marlborough College - Marlborough||19 December 2009||by Stephen Cartledge|
If you’ve never been to one of the Christmas gatherings then you’ve missed out on a treat. These are more like a family get together than a two night concert tour. This was my third time and I stayed again at the Lamb inn in Marlborough the spiritual home and starting place of the radio station Planet Rock. After battling our way out of the cold snows of the East of England we arrived in time for a trip around the shops and a freshen up before making our way to the show via the Wellington for a steak or two. Arriving at the entrance to the auditorium it was already packed with expectant fans. We glanced through the merchandise on display to see what new goodies there were to be had. Sue my girlfriend spotted a stack of limited edition discs from Jemma Wakeman. Signed and numbered all twenty four were so fresh off the line they hadn’t even had time to gain a box. Disc number seven having been purchased there was just time to grab a drink and find our seats.
Marlborough Collage is a private school and the hemispherical auditorium is something straight out of a compendium of school memories, the only thing it lacked was a row of school masters in caps and gowns scowling at the assembled as they drone of a hymn or two. After a small wait however the master who did alight was of course Rick. After a few of Ricks’ ubiquitous tales he turned to the grand piano and gave us a four piece medley starting with a variation on Lennon and McCartney’s Help that was so subtle that even I didn’t recognise it for quite a few bars. Next came a piece we’ve all heard many a time ‘The Birdman of Alcatraz’. Now if you come to Marlborough be warned. These are very intimate concerts not just in style but in substance. The place is small, cosy, and you are very close to the stage even sitting at the back. So when Rick asked us all to add the bird calls to the piece you feel compelled to join in, in fact later you had better do just that. All will be revealed.
This isn’t a Rick only event. The stage gives way during the night to other performances by family and friends. Oliver, Jemma, and Adam Wakeman gave us definitive proof that talent is either genetic or at least highly contagious as all wowed us with pieces of their own. Oliver’s style is very like his fathers, but Jemma’s is distinctly different and has echo’s of Franz Schubert, that isn’t to say that there’s a similarity in structure or style, no the similarity is that as is now customary with Jemma the piece is as yet unfinished. Guy Protheroe and the English Chamber Choir made things very festive with some Carols and old English Christmas songs, then The guitarists’ guitar player Gordon Giltrap amazed us with a performance that showed why he was given that accolade. Amongst his set was a truly incredible piece titled The Dodo’s dream. Making use of ‘ping pong echo’ and a tape loop machine known as studio nine, he performed a one man track in which he played each verse then after a change of settings laid down the next layer on top of the now repeating verse. As the loop returned to the start each layer added a new dimension to this until the room was filled with the most spellbinding music, all performed live by just Gordon himself, and all created with the utmost musicianship and timing.
After the break came the time honoured section known as audience participation time. Here with due reverence to the nature of the setting we all set about singing a carol, and as fitting for a school assembly room we were all required to sing. Head master Rick of course was on the lookout for those not giving it their all and with head prefect Gordon casting an eye sadly four poor souls were soon dragged out in front of all to sing on stage with the rest of the choir. If you do intend to come next time be warned, either be prepared to sing, or at least develop a talent for mime. All in the show topped over three hours and all too soon we applauded the encore and filed out into the chill night. A thoroughly enjoyable evening and as said one that has more the air of a family gathering. Accompanying the two shows there was a Christmas lunch. This year the event was raising money for the Teenage cancer trust.
An auction of memorabilia raised a significant sum with some rare items up for grabs to tempt the die hard amongst us. I did bid but sadly failed to procure anything, although after failing on one item my girlfriend did ask what I had intended to do with the eight foot by three foot banner that read ‘Rick at the Marlborough 19th 20th December’? Special thanks must go to Paul and Jo, and to all their crew for the hard work they put in to make this a truly magic weekend. Far from organised as a purely commercial venture, these shows are put on for us the fans and for the love of it. There is never a guarantee that the same will happen next year but if they do and you consider yourself a fan of Rick’s this is a must do event. Come join us next time, I’ll be there even if I have to get the sleigh dogs out.