Strawbs Live

Oliver's review of 2016


Oliver's review of 2016

Firstly I think I need to apologise for the lack of updates to the website this year. I have spent a lot of time updating my twitter account to keep everyone up to date but as technology has moved on I kept intending to update my website to become an all singing and dancing fully responsive desktop and mobile site. Unfortunately time has got away from me and so the site has been updated a lot less often than I would have liked.

I will be making the best attempt to keep the site more updated this coming year as well as making the move to a responsive site soon.

As years go, I think 2016 will go down as a 'building for the future' year. I released and featured on no new product in 2016 which I think is quite unusual for me. However, I did complete a lot of sessions for other artists who have albums due out in 2017 and so I will let you know as soon as release dates become available.

So what have I been working on? Good question. I worked on the whole on John Vehadija's new album. John is from Canada and contacted me to perform on a track and before I knew it I was playing on about 15 of the tracks which was good fun and I was given quite a bit of freedom to play with my moog!

I also continued work on Rodney Matthew's new album. Some of you may remember Rodney as the artist who created the wonderful artwork for my (and Clive Nolan's) rock opera 'Jabberwocky'. I started by performing keys on a track but I have become a bit more involved and have started assisting with arrangements, production and a little bit of composing. It has been tremendous fun and a privilege to work with an artist I admire greatly.

As well as various other sessions I was also honoured and excited when Dad asked me to perform with him for his reworking of King Arthur at the O2 in London.

I was a great fan of the original and was looking forward to hearing what extra bits he was going to include. The original ran at about 40 mins and so I though he'd add a few extra bits and it would probably run at about 50 mins so a bit of new stuff to learn as well as the original music. If only life was that easy.

The new album ran at over 80 minutes... some of the original music had been re-arranged, oh and we didn't get to play the entire thing through with the orchestra, choir, band and narrator until the actual show... no pressure!

Dad came to visit me a couple of weeks prior to the show and we sat in my music room and went through the parts Dad wanted me to play, lots of interesting stuff to get my teeth into but the main challenge was really the fact that there was so much to learn in such a short space of time.

I spent as much of my free time as possible listening, playing, writing notes and practicing as I could. It all seemed to be coming together and then I went up to the album playback en route to the rehearsals at the Granary in Beccles (where Dad and I performed on Grand Pianos in 2015).

We had a day and a half rehearsal with the band (and I must say thanks to Mike Clark my tech for going above and beyond the call of duty to help me prepare all the equipment and travel up and assist for the whole rehearsal and show period). We then packed up and I headed home (Norfolk to Cheltenham) in order to get some sleep before heading back into London the following morning for rehearsals with the orchestra which started at 9am.

These went well and we had Ian Lavender (Narrator and Pike from Dad's Army) join us for the afternoon sessions with the orchestra. We had a 3rd session booked in the evening for the band and the choir but not the orchestra.

I remember thinking that I couldn't remember ever having spent as much time in a single day with Dad as I went back to my hotel room and switched on the TV... only to turn to BBC4 and see dad presenting a programme about tour buses!

The following day, rehearsals continued until lunchtime where after all the gear was collected and taken to storage in preparation for the show which was a couple of days away. I headed back home for a days rest before a bit of a practice on Saturday before a very early start on Sunday to arrive at the O2 for a full run through at about 10 after set up.

We didn't actually get enough time to run through the whole thing but it all felt comfortable and so we all headed off in our separate directions to entertain ourselves until showtime.

I spent some of my time with Paul Manzi who was performing on one of the smaller festival stages with his new band and it was great to catch up with him. I also met a couple of astronauts who had traveled over from america and so took them on a quick run around London and got a nice photo of them on front of one of London's Blue Plaques (Plaques attached to buildings by the Charity English Heritage to commemorate people of significance who have lived in London).

Then before I knew it, it was show time. I got into my show clothes, had a group band hug and then went up on stage to a large crowd and performed with Dad. Oh, also it was fathers day which made it extra special.

Anyway, we started the first track and all was going ok until my monitors started cracking and suddenly they went silent - I couldn't hear anything I was playing, suddenly they came back on extra loud - this pattern kept happening through the first couple of tracks until my tech, Mike, discovered that someone had spilt a pint of beer over my speakers and the wiring was shorting and creating the problems with the sound. He got to work, cleaned it all up and luckily all was ok from then on.

Suddenly I found myself playing the opening chords on my own (as arranged) in preparation for one of the narration parts, it was a nice feeling thinking that for a few moments it was just me and a keyboard in the O2! Reminded me of the YES days when I used to perform the middle section of Close the the Edge on my own.

Then the rest of the show rocketed past and suddenly there we were, all stood at the front of the stage taking our bows and heading back stage.

Lots of smiles and hugs all round as the crew packed everything away.

After a bit of a get together with guests after the show I met up with a producer friend who is working with me on my new musical project for a chat and I gave him a lift home. He directed me through the centre of London on a late and quiet Sunday evening and so I enjoyed a late night tour of a lot of the tourist hotspots from the comfort of my car with no traffic!

I arrived home at about 3ish to meet up with Mike and we unloaded the cars and then I went off for a well deserved sleep!

There are plans for another big show in 2018 of Arthur which I am hopeful to be involved in again and if you follow me on Twitter you will have seen some tweets about a site visit I undertook for the show...

Later in the year I was delighted to be asked by Rodney Matthew's to provide the musical entertainment for his wedding to the lovely Sarah up in Scotland. I had to perform the music for the ceremony including a couple of hymns which was very enjoyable. The main part of my involvement was performing a solo show to the assembled guests. I put together a show featuring a lot of pieces from my solo albums and from the collaboration with Gordon Giltrap along with the obligatory stories! The set list was (if my memory serves me correctly)

  • A Perfect Day (Ravens & Lullabies),
  • Heaven's Isle medley (Heaven's Isle),
  • The Forgotten King (3 Ages of Magick),
  • Lutey and the Mermaid (3 Ages of Magick),
  • LJW (Ravens & Lullabies),
  • A Mayfair Kiss (Ravens & Lullabies),
  • Tachwedd Priodas (translated 'November Wedding' a piece specially composed for the big day),
  • Memories (Heaven's Isle)
  • Wondrous Stories (Piano arrangement)

I travelled up the night before with the mild panic of missing the flight when the motorway became completely gridlocked but, thanks to a quick couple of route calculations, I was back on track. I got parked, transfered to the airport just in time to see that.. the plane was delayed...

Eventually I boarded and flew to Aberdeen only to arrive in pouring rain. After waiting an age to collect my bag and then an hour taxi ride further north I arrived at a Manor house in the middle of nowhere at about 12.30am expecting to find the house in darkness.

Only instead of darkness I was greeted by lots of Sarah's family and Rodney's family who were a very kind and enjoyable group of people to be around. A plate of food was placed in front of me and we all then spent another couple of hours chatting and getting to know each other before everyone slipped off to their beds in preparation of the big day.

The wedding was held in a lovely little church and I was involved in playing various classical pieces whilst people were arriving and assembling in the church. The plan was for this to be for about 5 mins (ended up being about 20!) after which I would start playing my track 'A Perfect Day' as Sarah walked up the aisle.

I had re-arranged the piece to be timed correctly for her arrival at Rodney's side which was all going to plan until Sarah stopped briefly to receive a compliment from a family member in the congregation... A quick bit of re-calculating and a little bit of impromptu re-arrangeing to account for the extra time and we were back on track and the final notes rang out just as Sarah arrived at Rodney's side.

The Vows were followed with a couple of Hymns, the signing of the register to a rough mix of a piece from Rodney's new album and then I performed some more pieces as people left the church for the photographs.

The evening solo went down really well and everyone was very complimentary which was a huge relief and the highlight was when I finished performing the piece which I composed for the happy couple and I saw Rodney and Sarah's faces light up and Rodney shout out 'That's going on the album!'. High praise indeed.

I then joined the festivities for the evening and somehow ended back on the piano playing blues and light jazzy bits for a chill out half hour which was then followed by a rousing sing along of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah which was even more poignant due to his passing away a short time before the weekend.

After a late night and a half decent nights sleep I headed back to the airport and back home.

The year finished with a few more sessions, some more recording for Rodney's album and then some recording of Dad's piano parts for one of his orchestral pieces in which I played the role of engineer...

And to top it all off I got asked to be an endorsee of the new Dexibell VIVO piano range. I had an S7 delivered to my house and I am performing a demonstration of the keyboard on the weekend of the 21st/22nd Jan in Kent which I am very much looking forward to.

So that was 2016 and already 2017 looks like being a busy year...

I have realised that it is Heaven's Isle, (my debut solo album) 20th anniversary in 2017 and I intend to celebrate that somehow, I haven't decided how yet but I think it is a special milestone that requires acknowledgment.

There is my large scale musical project which I have been working on all year with a well known music producer and my business partner. We are confident that it will see the light of day this year.

There may also be a few other surprises along the way.

Watch this space...

Oliver Wakeman
Dec 2016/Jan 2017