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Recently on this forum attention has been brought to the fact that some rock stars began life as classically taught musicians - Matthew Fisher of Procul Harum, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson being the ones that spring to mind. Now I discover that Peter Skellern, who had a hit in the 70s with "You're a Lady" is also classically trained and is a church organist. I wonder how many more are out there.....

 

 

Peter

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I don't know about 'classically trained,' but I notice there's an advertisement inside the front cover of the latest issue (21) of Choir Schools Today, for a concert to be given by Hereford Cathedral School on 11th May, featuring "Jon Lord - From Darkness to Light," which is described as a "Newly commissioned Oratorio for massed choirs and orchestra by former 'Deep Purple' musician Jon Lord".

 

J

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Recently on this forum attention has been brought to the fact that some rock stars began life as classically taught musicians - Matthew Fisher of Procul Harum, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson being the ones that spring to mind. Now I discover that Peter Skellern, who had a hit in the 70s with "You're a Lady" is also classically trained and is a church organist. I wonder how many more are out there.....

Peter

 

I think Skellern has something to do with the music in a village church somewhere in Cornwall - there was a slot on a news programme some years a go about a Christmas piece he was doing wth the choir. 'Cant't recall where though.

 

AJJ

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Recently on this forum attention has been brought to the fact that some rock stars began life as classically taught musicians

Peter

 

I’m probably wrong, but weren’t most of Queen classically trained?

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Recently on this forum attention has been brought to the fact that some rock stars began life as classically taught musicians - Matthew Fisher of Procul Harum, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson being the ones that spring to mind. Now I discover that Peter Skellern, who had a hit in the 70s with "You're a Lady" is also classically trained and is a church organist. I wonder how many more are out there.....

Peter

 

 

---------------------------------------

 

We open this particular can of worms at our peril, bvecause so many "shadow writers" exist as both composers and arrangers; so getting to the truth may be a little fraught with difficulty.

 

However, there is Annie Lennox, who studied for a while at either the RCM or the RAM in London.

 

One singer/composer/arranger I admire greatly, and whom I once met, is Barry Manilow, who studied for a considerable time at Julliard, before becoming a first rate pianist accompanying Barbara Streisand. He went on to record a string of smash hits, including his most famous record "Mandy."

 

The problem of to-day is that of commercial interests and "big money" image-making, and what may be attributed to one, may in fact be the work of others. There was a fascinating Radio 2 (possibly 3?) programme about one composer/arranger, who does a huge amount of work for a number of top-hit names.

 

It wasn't always like this of course, and in the past, the composer was as revered as the singer(s). One of the most relevant composers was Percy Fletcher (he of Toccata fame), who spent most of his professional life as a composer of light music. Sydney Torch (one time theatre organist) was a brilliant arranger, organiost/pianist and composer, whist Robert Farnon even has a society devoted to his memory.

 

If we enter the world of film scores, broadway and musical shows, we immediately bump into Andrew Lloyd-Webber. The musical-director for the tour of "Cats" (I forget his name, but have met him many times) holds a doctorate in music, and the last time we met, he played a Rheinberger Sonata from memory on a bloody Wurlitzer theatre-organ! (Rheinberger must have been turning in his grave, when the fugue subject strode out on the diaphones!)

 

MM

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Hugh Banton - chorister and organ student at Wakefield Cathedral, organ/keyboard player with Van der Graaf Generator, now one of the best custom-builders of digital organs in the country.

 

Francis Monkman - studied organ and Harpsichord at Westminster School, later played with Curved Air and Sky.

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Um, it was August, probably 1998 or 99 when I surprised myself.

Through a series of events involving a pub, a mooring buoy and the Vicar's dinghy, I found myself playing at St W****w for Peter Skellern to sing the psalm (as a cantor, with the congregation singing a response every few verses) to a chant of his own devising. I still have the 'autograph score' somewhere. The parish at that time had a local teenager playing regularly.

 

The Vicar was, apparently, formerly flight crew on Victor nuclear bombers.

 

Peter at that time had a first floor composing room, with big patio doors looking out through the double-height conservatory over the harbour, with a leather-topped desk at right angles ( a big stack of blank music-ruled paper) then a Steinway to the side. The ferry, tugs, yachts and dinghies provide an ever-changing view, with the occasional big freighter for variety. As a location to compose, it was probably unparallelled.

 

We holidayed there for several years, and when the teenager retired and PS took over playing we were able to give him a Sunday off (CK's father and son, 2 hymns each, on one occasion). The last time we went (2004?), he played Sunday morning service.

 

He is a terrific musician, and a very nice bloke. Has composed some Christmas stuff - 'So Said the Angel' appears in the 'Noel!' collection. Could use the 15th more, though.

Ian C-K

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  • 2 weeks later...
I don't know about 'classically trained,' but I notice there's an advertisement inside the front cover of the latest issue (21) of Choir Schools Today, for a concert to be given by Hereford Cathedral School on 11th May, featuring "Jon Lord - From Darkness to Light," which is described as a "Newly commissioned Oratorio for massed choirs and orchestra by former 'Deep Purple' musician Jon Lord".

 

J

 

I can't remember where or how Jon Lord trained, but as I've mentioned in a previous post on another thread he's a highly competent organist and composer. In the very early 70s he was responsible for the (in)famous "Concerto for Group & Orchestra" which was premiered by Deep Purple with Malcom Arnold conducting one of the big London Orchestras, can't remember which one. Although the actual musical material is certainly an acquired taste, the compositional and arranging skills on display are impressive. Not like the McCartney "Liverpool Oratorio" or the recent Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd) oratorio which are orchestrated (and thus co-written) by others. Jon Lord's rock version of the non Dorian D minor T & F ("Bach Onto This") on his solo album "Before I Forget" is awesome - fantastic demonstration of how to get the most out of a Hammond B3.

 

Tim Ridley

Marlborough

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  • 2 months later...

I recently came across a CD (Naxos) of music by the former Genesis keyboard player Tony Banks called simply "Seven", an orchestral suite in seven movements (in which he had help with the orchestration). It certainly has some attractive music. Has anybody else heard/got this one? Incidentally, Jon Lord's Concerto for Rock Band and Orchestra featured as a question in this week's Counterpoint.

 

Peter

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Ah, Genesis ; you have stumbled onto one of my passions.

 

On a point of order, I am delighted to confirm that Tony Banks is no longer the 'former' keyboard player with Genesis, as the group has reformed. Having seen them three times live already, I will be there at Twickenham for the reunion concert in London in July.

 

Tony Banks is a stunning musician with an extremely acute sense of melody and harmony. So far as I am aware, he is largely self taught, Genesis having already been formed in essence by the time they all left school (famously, Charterhouse). He could play all of the Beatles songs by ear from a young age.

 

The early Genesis material betrays, in Banks own words, large debts to Rachmaninoff and Ravel, and in Seven there is a lot of Vaughan Williams as well.

 

He is also a very adept player as well, if you listen, for example, to the introduction to Firth of Fifth, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, or any of the epic solos in The Lamb.

 

Having, as I say, heard the group live in concert, they play with a virtuosity, passion and, frankly, joy in music that knocks most classical performances I have been to into a cocked hat.

 

M

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  • 3 years later...
---------------------------------------

 

One singer/composer/arranger I admire greatly, and whom I once met, is Barry Manilow, who studied for a considerable time at Julliard, before becoming a first rate pianist accompanying Barbara Streisand. He went on to record a string of smash hits, including his most famous record "Mandy."

 

MM

 

Did he not write a song based on the Chopin c minor prelude (maybe that was Mandy)?

 

I think his best song was Copacobana, which was later expanded into a musical.

 

Another contemoprary composer with a foot in the rock music door is Ad Wammes of Miroir fame. He had his own rock band a couple of decades ago. I have the score of his Toccata Chromatica which certainy displays hints of rock both in terms of rhythm and harmonic sequences. You can hear it on his website. He is also a very nice chap who has communicated with me a few times expressing gratitude for my being interested in his work.

 

Peter

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I had heard that Wakeman was/is an organist for a Baptist church on the Isle of Man (and also that he made a few appearences in Dictionary Corner in Countdown!).

 

Perhaps Tony N could confirm or otherwise the former suggestion?

 

Peter

 

=====================

 

 

I don't know about Rick Wakeman's church connections, but he is quite into theatre organs for definite.

 

MM

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=====================

 

 

I don't know about Rick Wakeman's church connections, but he is quite into theatre organs for definite.

 

MM

 

Hi

 

As far as I know, Rick was never regular organist anywhere (but I could be wrong). His Christian roots are at South Harrow Baptist Church (2m Compton extension job - recently restored and a couple of extra ranks added) and he did play there, and IIRC used that organ in the first version of his recording "The Gospel". He is certainly a pretty competent organist and has used organ in several of his recordings, aside from the Lincoln CD already mentioned, which is an interesting set of improvisations.

 

Mander organs even built a 2 rank transportable organ for him, which he still owns, although he says it's in need of some work to make it playable again. These days on stage he uses samples.

 

Organ is quite prominent in several of his tracks, notably "Jane Seymour" from Six Wives. The recent live production of this at Hampton Court Palace featured an organ console suspended above the orchestra's head level. From his web site, he's currently involved in a group of Anglican churches near his home in East Anglia. There's probably more info in the biog section of his website.

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Many years ago he made an album "Criminal Records" and I am sure this featured on one track a Swiss organ. According to the "bumph" I saw, ther organ was in a church but linked somehow to the recording studio so he was able to use the church organ whilst simultaneously other musicians were playing in the studio. Pity I hsve lost that album as I recall it was very good. Indeed, most of his stuff is remarkable. I saw on Sky recently a live concert he gave - he and about 4 keyboards with backing instrumentalists.

 

Thanks MM and Tony for the additional info.

 

Peter

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What is Mike Batt's musical background? I have one of his songs - the War Song of the Urpneys, from the Dreamstone - going through my head at the moment. (The Three non-Tenors he used for the vocals in this song were Ozzy Osbourne, Frank Bruno and Billy Connolly - what a combination! And the Big Yin actually seems to have quite a musical sense to him.)

 

Rgds

MJF

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What is Mike Batt's musical background? I have one of his songs - the War Song of the Urpneys, from the Dreamstone - going through my head at the moment. (The Three non-Tenors he used for the vocals in this song were Ozzy Osbourne, Frank Bruno and Billy Connolly - what a combination! And the Big Yin actually seems to have quite a musical sense to him.)

 

Rgds

MJF

I think Billy Connolly started out singing in clubs. He can certainly do a mean parody of Country music.

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