I have spent two fun evenings this week singing at London’s magnificent Royal Albert Hall as part of the English Chamber Choir for performances of Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. We were part of a set up including full orchestra – (strings, wind, brass, percussion sections), 2 solo singers, electric guitar, bass guitar, drum kit and Rick Wakeman – the glitteringly cloaked wizard in charge of us all playing on a variety of NINE keyboards! It was a brilliant experience to be part of such a big show with really incredible musicians. There was a great atmosphere at the shows from the audience and the performers too. It also made a nice change to sing different styles of music.
The shows celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of the landmark concept album Journey to the Centre of the Earth and were part of a tour consisting of other show dates around the country.
For the performances I decided to wear my mum’s dress from 1969 (by KATI at Laura Phillips) which I thought was fitting for a 1970s revival show! The photo was taken in the dressing room at the Royal Albert Hall.
Based on the novel by Jules Verne, which also marks its 150th anniversary in 2014, the album is one of the rock era’s landmark achievements – a record that sold 15 million copies and rewrote the rules.
”This is the start of a new Journey” says Rick Wakeman, “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 it into this tour, but I can’t wait to take Jules Verne’s magnificent story on tour again.”
Rick Wakeman’s 15 million selling Journey To The Centre Of The Earth sits alongside the most successful concept albums of the rock era including The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. Its release in 1974 was arguably the high watermark of the progressive rock genre.
Rick’s original album featured the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir, conducted by David Measham.
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was first performed and recorded live at London’s Royal Festival Hall in January 1974. Issued three months later, its success defied everyone’s expectations, including those of Wakeman’s label. The album went on to enjoy gold and platinum sales across the globe. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was also nominated for an Ivor Novello Award.
For many years, the original conductor’s score for Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was thought
to have been lost, making any attempt to revive this seminal work impossible. However, in 2008,
Wakeman took delivery of a box that arrived out of the blue from Australia. At the bottom, he
found the original Journey To The Centre Of The Earth conductor’s score that had suffered severe
water damage. With the help of conductor Guy Protheroe, (musical director of English Chamber Choir) he repaired and revisited the
compositions and put them in a form that enabled him to celebrate its anniversary in an appropriate manner.
Engaging the Orion Symphony Orchestra (whose members comprise The New
World Symphony Orchestra for the UK tour) and The English Chamber Choir as well as actor Peter
Egan (best known for both his Shakespearean work as well as his role as Paul in the British sitcom
Ever Decreasing Circles) he recorded a new studio version of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth at
London’s famed Abbey Road Studios. In November 2012, the expanded work was published as a
limited edition in a fan-pack, together with a copy of the 1974 Royal Festival Hall concert
programme, and has since became a collector’s item.