Oliver Wakeman & Gordon Giltrap
It's a cold Thursday and I thought I'd write a report on the recent Ravens & Lullabies tour as it has been quite a special one for me to be involved in.
Since I stopped working with Yes and the Strawbs I have spent the majority of my time working on 3 different projects. The one with Gordon being the one currently getting the most interest. We have now nearly finished the recording of the album which is due out next year.
In preparation of the album release Gordon and I decided to see if there was any interest in us performing together as a duo. Our agent starting looking into a short 4 - 6 date run and before we knew it we had offers for 13 shows across the whole of the UK and we knew that the idea of us working together had created a bit of interest!
We started rehearsing once a week about 6 weeks before the first date in a Church in Bishops Itchington (where incidentally we finished the tour). At first we spent quite a bit of time just playing different pieces to each other and before long we had an idea of the shape of the set and the pieces we were going to play. After a few weeks we were almost there with the set list and it was all coming together quite nicely.
Our first show was in Worcester was at the wonderful venue Huntingdon Hall and I was particularly looking forward to it as I had enjoyed performing there with the Strawbs back in 2009. Gordon and I were suitably apprehensive before we walked out on stage as we didn't know how the set would work or would the chemistry we'd achieved working in the studio translate to the stage.
We walked on stage and then 50 minutes later we walked off the stage for the interval and looked at each other listening to the applause still going on and we allowed ourselves a small smile....
The second set went just as well and we finished the show with an encore which was very gratifying. We had one prepared but your don't always know if it's going to be used or not!!
We finished the evening by signing lots of CD's and meeting lots of lovely people. My car was then loaded with all my equipment and I made the short trip back home feeling very pleased with the response. The next morning I started to get emails from people that had been to the show saying how much they had enjoyed it which made it even more special.
The following Thursday we headed off to Weston-Super-Mare for our second show. I really enjoyed this show as my mum and Step Dad John came to the show. The Playhouse is a really nice venue and it was lovely to see the sea again!
Saturday arrived and I headed off to our show headlining the Trowbridge Arts Festival. The organisers of this event have to be commended for trying to raise the awareness of the Arts in Trowbridge. They also made us feel extremely welcome. We had some interview filming carried out whilst we were sound checking which is now available to view on my YouTube channel.
The show was really enjoyable and the audience response was quite exceptional. Again it was lovely to meet so many people after the show. We also had a great meal with Andrew and Tracy who had been organising the Festival.
We then had a few days break before we started the next section of the tour which took us to Manchester and then on to Cumbria. We arrived in Manchester struggling to park and unload the equipment but luckily a few friends were on hand to help sort everything out. I found somewhere to park quite close to the venue which is apparently quite unusual! The show again went well with no real difficulties and following a drive up and down a darkly lit road to find my hotel and a good nights sleep I headed northwards towards Cumbria.
Of all the dates on the tour, these were the couple of shows I was really looking forward to. Having never been to the Lake District and having heard such wonderful things about it I was quite excited. I headed up the motorway and stopped at what has to be the most individual and nicest service station I've ever come across. The food was great and the scenery was beautiful. Little did I know just how the view from the cafe was just the beginning of the exceptional scenery to come.
I remember years ago being on a train with my nan and her saying to me constantly, 'why don't you look at the scenery - it's beautiful'. I was only young and really had little interest in that sort of thing. However, now as an adult I can totally understand her thoughts as I've come to really appreciate the beautiful countryside this country is blessed with. I even found myself saying to my son Arthur on the way to school the other day - 'just look at the scenery Art, it's so beautiful', 'Dad I'm playing with my iPod - don't disturb me...' came the reply. Ah the wheels of life keep turning...
Anyway, back to the tour. We were booked to perform 2 shows at the Hunter Hall school which were both very well attended and we also performed for the school children a little mini concert which was surprisingly nerve racking - but they all really enjoyed it, particularly listening to the strange noises the keyboard can make.
Regular readers to the website will be aware that a few years ago I wrote some incidental music for a series of poetry CD's and the gentleman organising the shows, Peter Sorton, had asked me if I would perform the piano part while 3 girls from the school read a poem at each of the concerts, which they all did remarkably well. I also managed to spend a bit of time with our host Peter and he kindly showed me some of the wonderful places in the Lake District. I can't wait to go back!
The following week saw shows in Grantham and then a show in Maltby for our old friends at the Classic Rock Society. The journey was fun as I got to go to Roche Abbey on the way which is a very impressive sight. The Maltby show was the only show on the tour which featured a support slot which was ably filled by Chris and Dan Fry. Chris is well known as the guitarist from the Progressive Rock band Magenta and it was great to catch up with him again. He also gave me a copy of his new solo album - very good it is too!
We were now over half way through the tour and we had the next little flurry of gigs which took us across the south of the country through Farnham, Chatham and Fareham. Farnham was interesting as I was driving through places I used to live near and it felt a bit strange being back in that area.
Chatham was also really interesting as we all stayed with friends of Gordon's who lived near the Historic Dockyards. I had a very enjoyable morning following the show having a look round the old battleships and exhibitions. I didn't have too much time though as I had to then head off to Fareham near Portsmouth for the next show. This would normally be a 2 hour drive but for some reason the traffic was appalling and it took us 5 hours to make the journey, arriving with just enough time to set up and sound check before we were back on the stage for the show. After another great evening I then decided to drive home as it was only a few hours away. It makes it a long evening but I do like being at home when I can to see my wife and help with the children.
So we were then on to the last 2 scheduled shows on the tour, Goole and Bishops Itchington. Goole was fun and also made slightly nerve racking due to the fact that snow started to fall and to the possibility of having to head home after the show as our new born daughter wasn't well. My wife insisted that I stayed overnight and I headed off very early in the morning instead in order to get home to make sure everything was ok, which thankfully it was.
I spent the next day with the family and then on Sunday set off for the last show of the tour at the Church we had rehearsed in back in August. This show was sold out and we had a very pleasant and relaxed evening in the company of many friends and people who had already seen at least one show. We also recorded the show (as well as the previous Goole concert) and some of the results can be heard on the 2 disc special edition of the new album due in the new year. I won't spoil it by telling you what they are at the moment but they sound really nice and a nice reminder if you came to any of the concerts.
We finished the show and spent quite a bit of time chatting to people afterwards. It was great to have so many happy faces at the end of the tour and Gordon and I felt quite proud and humbled by the comments that people were expressing about the quality of the music and the concert.
And that should be where the tour finished... but we did perform one more private show for the children at my son's school. Since which Gordon and I have been working really hard to finish recording the album in time for release in the New Year - but that's another story...
There were many other people involved in the tour who we should thank in particular Sue Webster out agent for organising the tour, Malc Welch and Hilary Giltrap for the merchandising and Mike Clarke for working so hard to fix my piano which broke two days before the first show!
And last but not least, thank you to you if you came to a show. It really was appreciated, maybe we'll see you again next time round!