Paul was instrumental in helping The Sunflower Jam create this unique musical evening – a successful celebration of Jon Lord and his life of music.
Paul Mann discusses the concert’s second half as well as the aftermath and the emotions that ran through the Royal Albert Hall during the concert.
by Rasmus Heide
As we move into the second half of the concert, the orchestra wasn’t involved in the Artwoods segment with Paul Weller singing. His involvement puzzled a few people. What was his connection to Jon?
– I think that Jon and Paul Weller were friendly, met occasionally and were mutual admirers, but I don’t think there’s necessarily any reason why we should have been restricted in our choice of performers only to people who were especially close to, or associated with Jon – especially when you have the chance to have someone like Paul Weller to do those songs.
– When we decided to include Artwoods material, he seemed the perfect choice, and besides which, I’ve always been a huge Jam and Weller fan.
How were these two particular Artwoods tracks chosen?
– I think Paul Weller must have chosen them himself, in conjunction with Wix.
The Paice Ashton Lord pieces were a great surprise. How did you choose those two tracks?
– Everyone had always wanted PAL represented. I love that album, and Phil Campbell was the perfect vocalist. He couldn’t have been more right for those songs. I think the shortlist also included Dance With Me Baby, and maybe a couple of others, but it was Phil who chose the two we finally included.
– I’m Gonna Stop Drinking evokes very strongly a few memories of my occasional encounters with Tony Ashton. I remember the first time I met him – Jon wasn’t around so I introduced myself and said something about how great it was to meet him and he said, in genuine amazement, “But you don’t know who I am”.
– I sometimes have read unkind things about him, and seen phrases such as “pub singer” bandied about. But in preparation for the show, I watched again those films that exist of him with PAL, and there’s something about his very vulnerability I find very appealing.
– And after all, that’s one of the acid tests of a frontman: can you look anywhere else while he is onstage? Tony Ashton passed that test with flying colours.
– Incidentally, I also think PAL was very important to Jon. He and Ian sank a huge amount of commitment (and money) into that band, and I think he felt they had been underrated.
Singer Phil Campbell was another guest at the concert who contributed greatly but had never worked with Jon.
– Yes. As a result of the concert, I’ve been listening to The Temperance Movement. Great band.
Soldier of Fortune was done many times by Jon at his concerts. Did you use his own arrangement for this?
– Yes, it was the same one he always used – just with the newly prepared material for the new edition. It’s a beautifully subtle arrangement, and Jon makes perfect use of a relatively small orchestra.
– Choosing the Mk. 3 songs was fun. I was staying for a couple of days with the Paices, and we sat round the kitchen table one morning sampling Mk. 3 albums and deciding what would work. This was before we knew we’d have Glenn at the concert.
– Of course we knew Mk. 3 would have to be represented, and I think we made the right selection. Stormbringer might have made it, but didn’t. (I always remember Jon’s slight reservations about that song: “What is a Stormbringer, anyway?”)
– So, Richard Whilds did the orchestral arrangements for the other Mk. 3 tracks, and the one he finished first was Burn, which I’ve already talked about. Richard also had the idea of writing a short orchestral introduction to This Time Around, as a kind of teaser before that famous piano riff. Of course I could see from the score that it was a beautifully judged piece of writing, but without knowing Glenn, I wasn’t sure how it would work.
– Glenn’s reaction in the rehearsal was something wonderful. As soon as he heard the orchestra playing, he started vocally improvising over it – the spontaneity of what he did was a wonderful sign of his acceptance and appreciation of this treatment of one of his most iconic songs.
– Unfortunately, Richard couldn’t be at the concert, but that’s a moment I’d like him to have seen. I guess he’ll at least see the DVD!
Did you have a chance to show Deep Purple the orchestration you’d done to Uncommon Man and Above and Beyond before the rehearsals?
– I sent them to Don [Airey] about a month before, just to get his feedback. They arrived on a day in which Sunderland had won at home, and so his email response was “that’s three good scores today.”
– I was especially concerned about finding an opening and an ending to Above and Beyond, because of course the recording fades. The solution came in the form of the guitar harmonics that Steve [Morse] plays on that fade. I had the idea of orchestrating those notes as violin harmonics, doubled with celesta, harp and various celestial bits of percussion, and then throughout the song re-using that colour somehow to suggest Jon’s presence. (It also appears briefly on the line Am I getting through?, for example.)
– Then, after the band stops, there were to have been a few more these harmonics, dying away, but I always knew it would be a tall order getting them heard over the applause, and so it proved! We might be able to lift them out a bit in the live recording.
– Obviously, making such a thing work needed the band’s co-operation, and as always their flexibility was very impressive. But I think it worked, and I was told that when Steve heard his harmonics being stolen by the orchestra, he gave out one of those wonderful big smiles of his.
– In Uncommon Man, there is a strong momentary (and I think deliberate) reference to Child in Time. At that moment, I hid a tribute to Jon’s organ solo in the orchestra, with the first three notes hidden in the flute part, marked “pppp, secretly”.
[Compare studio versions of Child in Time at 9:09 and Uncommon Man at 5:59.]
Where did the idea of the extra violin in Lazy come from? Was it to ‘relieve’ any one keyboard player of the role of replacing Jon’s parts on that song?
– No, I think it was just that the band wanted to have Steve Bentley Klein involved, to reprise the role he had on their more recent orchestra tour. He’s a brilliant musician – the arrangements he did for that were really skillful and effective. He also helped me out by letting me use his version of Hush on which to base my own version for the full-size orchestra.
– When A Blind Man Cries was another obvious inclusion – just to resurrect the version with the Samuel Barber quotation that Jon often used and loved so much, and that spine-tingling interaction there always was between Steve [Morse] and him at the beginning. I completely re-worked it from the Concerto tour version, trying to make it warmer, and in the closing chorus a bit more dramatic.
Perfect Strangers was another particularly strong piece.
– We did Perfect Strangers largely because I wanted to use Jon’s orchestral intro, a sort of Liszt‘s Hungarian Rhapsody meets Deep Purple. It had never been used in its entirety before, and I can see why: it’s seriously tricky for the orchestra! But very effective, especially the way he sneaks in the Hammond entry, and allows the orchestra to continue to invade that opening solo.
– Jon’s orchestration of the song as a whole is far darker than the more showbiz one we used on the Concerto tour, which I think he rather came to dislike.So in his own version, made in 2008, he took away all the wind parts and left just string accompaniments, especially in the verses. I added horns and trombones with the low strings to strengthen the textures, but the overall effect is much more in keeping with the spirit of the song. It sounds even more dark now anyway, in the very heriocally Beethovenian key of C minor!
The majestic feel of Perfect Strangers – even without orchestra – syncs in my mind with Jon’s appearance – the way he commanded the stage during the intro which always notched up the excitement level.
– Indeed. The opening of Perfect Strangers was a quintessentially Jon moment in any show. And that piece of theatre that Don and he concocted in his final shows with Deep Purple back in 2002 is something that we’ll all remember forever.
Black Night might occur to some as not a particularly ‘Jon’ song to include…?
– It was a last-minute addition to the set, and I think it was just good to have another classic song in there that was Deep Purple on their own – possibly with an eye to compensating for the absence of Smoke on the Water. It also provided an orchestra-free encore for the band.
One final point on the set list. The omission of any Whitesnake material was noticed by some people – particularly when such a large part of the classic lineup were present – only David Coverdale missing really.
– It was one of the thrills of this concert for me to get to work with such people as Micky Moody, Neil Murray, and Bernie Marsden. All fantastic musicians and part of the extended family I’ve always wanted to get the chance to meet.
– I suppose there were two considerations at work on the Whitesnake issue: one is that the concert ran more than three hours long and could easily have been four or five. The other is that we wanted to represent Jon as a creative artist principally, and I guess we thought that Jon’s involvement in Whitesnake was more as a performer than as a composer.
– In the event, I’m sorry if people felt there was a missed opportunity here – with something on such a scale, it’s impossible to make all the right calls.
How much have you felt people’s reactions to the concert – both towards yourself during the concert, and from the other musicians, the audience, and the press?
– Press-wise, I haven’t seen much, but the audience reactions were overwhelming and immediate. Before I’d got out of the suit in the dressing room I was getting texts and emails from people, just sending their photos and finding ways to express what the whole thing meant to them.
– This is a reflection of how much Jon affected so many people in so many different ways. He had a way with people – I saw it so many times when he was approached by fans: he always had time to give each one his undivided attention, making them feel, even just for a few moments as if they were the most important person in his life.
– So when Jon died people felt the loss very personally, whether they were close to him or not. This extends to the music, the intensity of feeling that filled the Albert Hall. How much love does it take to fill the Albert Hall? I think we found out that night.
Do you want to mention any particular reactions you got – either based on who they came from or what they said?
– Naturally, the most important reactions to me were from Jon’s family, who sent beautiful messages in various ways. But that aside, it wasn’t so much particular reactions as the sheer outpouring of emotion that started when we hit that first chord of Sarabande and still seems to be resounding now, months later.
– As in 1999, I was amazed by the number of people who travelled from all over the world to be there. This, especially to a classical musician, is an amazing thing. Now that the likes of Kleiber and Bernstein are gone, how many classical musicians can you really think of that you’d cross the road to go and listen to? In 1705 Bach walked 400 km to hear Buxtehude play. I wonder how many people would do that nowadays. Well, OK, maybe if Bach had had the option of flying, or at least taking the train, but you know what I mean.
– But it’s a different thing altogether in the rock world. The performers are not so interchangeable, and of course one of the reasons for this is that they are usually performing their own music, rather than someone else’s. So the loyalty they inspire is altogether in a different league.
But back then, Bach couldn’t have just popped a recording into a machine and listened back. He had to physically be there…
But I wouldn’t mind betting that even if he could have had a recording he’d still have wanted to be there. After all, the 6,000 or so people in the RAH will also have a recording.
Which brings me to the point of people feeling they needed to be there – even after it had been announced that there will be a DVD.
– There are big questions here about the way we experience live music, versus listening at home. This is one major difference between rock and classical concerts: at rock concerts, so much more depends on the collective experience, the atmosphere, the live event with its visual as well as purely auditory elements.
– Control freak that I am, I don’t much like going to movies, especially ones I’m likely to be moved by, where there’ll be phones going off, people rattling popcorn boxes and noisily explaining things to each other. I’d rather watch it at home, where I can control the environment.
– With concerts, I’m a bit the same, which might sound contradictory coming from someone who makes their living from giving them. But for an event such as this, in which we tried to combine the best of both the classical and the rock worlds, there was undoubtedly something special about being there.
– The Albert Hall is a special place in itself, and this whole event had the feeling of a huge family gathering. I must also mention as well how much everyone onstage appreciated the audience – they were quiet and concentrated at the right moments, but noisy and demonstrative the rest of the time. Their appreciation sustained us all on stage, and Jon would really have loved that.
I certainly noticed at different points when there was no orchestral parts how you turned around and watched the band play.
– This is a huge perk of the job, being able just to turn round and watch everything from the best vantage point in the house. I always loved doing that in the Concerto shows too!
People talked about feeling Jon’s presence at the concert. What was your experience?
– This is a difficult thing to talk about because it’s something people experience in different ways and those feelings can be very spiritual and personal.
– Some people have told me that they sensed Jon’s actual presence at the concert, and also at some of the rehearsals, and I also know how real this is to them. I can only say that for me personally, the true reality of Jon’s presence is in the music.
– I’m very fortunate to have this role in keeping Jon’s music alive both through performing it, and the lengthy process of editing it for publication. His spirit, his way of thinking about things, all his expectations as a musician and as a man is something I’m therefore constantly aware of, checking everything I do against them.
– There have certainly been times in the past two years when I have longed to be able to pick up the phone to him, and I’ve struggled to remember, really to remember, how it felt to be able to do that – when the everyday reality of hearing his voice wasn’t something so distant and magical and impossible.
– Of course this is normal when a friend dies. You miss them because they aren’t there any more. But for me, he’s still here in the music – in things like that little phrase of the Durham Concerto.
– That comfort is there in every contact I have with him, through his music and also – just like everyone else who knew him – the influence he had on my life. Jon had the habit of making his friends into better people – well, at least this friend!
He certainly set a very good example on many levels.
– He was kind. He always thought of the kindest thing he could do, and then did that. Even when he was ill and in pain. He was always fending off our concerns and fears for him.
– One day, when he had undergone a treatment, I wrote a quick email, just asking how he was. His reply was a little fragment of music: the opening bars of Erik Satie’s (typically quirkily-titled) “Trois Morceaux en forme du poire”, which of course he knew I’d recognise. So that’s how he told me he was feeling ‘pear-shaped’.
– When I sorted through the hard drive with all his music in it, after he died, I found the jpeg of those few bars, sitting there, where he had created it. That was a sad, sad moment.
Let’s go back to the concert. As focused and in control as you had to be on that stage, were there moments where the music was flowing so effortlessly that it allowed you to (just a little bit) be swept along with it for a bar or two?
– Performing is always a balance between involvement and detachment, and that balance shifts sometimes several times a second! In the first half it took a while to relax. By the time we got to the Bourree and I could also feel the energy of the audience, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and the roar that went up at the last chord was great confirmation.
For me, that first half was probably the more demanding of the two – especially knowing that the Jeremy Irons moment was coming!
– The second half was more relaxed, in spite of the occasional things that didn’t quite go to plan. As my old piano teacher used to say, “wrong notes only matter if there’s nothing else to listen for”, which is a comforting but very true concept. When the music is truly there, the small technical glitches count for much less.
– We had a huge amount of music to cover in a very short amount of rehearsal time, and with so many people involved, we were definitely sailing quite close to the wind at times, which is as it should be!
I’d still like to know if you allowed yourself to be swept away even just once. Like the rest of us!
– Put it this way: I was swept away quite a lot of the time, but not to the extent that I couldn’t be swept back again at any moment. What I really wish is that we could have done it all again for a second night – that would have been much more relaxed, as was the case on the second night back in 1999.
When you first listened to the recording, what were the bits you looked most forward to hearing again – not to check for mistakes but for sheer personal joy?
– It would be hard to choose moments in that way – everything we did had meaning for me. But I’d say that in spite of all the noise for which we were responsible in the course of the night, the thing I’m proudest of is “Afterwards”. This was the moment that brought me closest to Jon.
The recording is now close to being finished, and I’m looking forward to hearing it.
– We have a pretty amazing Abbey Road team working on this. Most of the instruments of the orchestra were individually miked, so it is possible to be quite specific with the balance, as well as dealing with the general ambience. Of course I had no way of judging, or even really controlling the overall balance live – this was something I needed to trust the sound engineers for, and they seemed to do a fantastic job.
It’s hard to get all the audio elements in something like this working in the right relationship to one another. Everything needs taking on its own terms – obviously the placing of the orchestra in the mix varies a lot depending on the music. It’s especially important to make the orchestra sound natural. This was something that Jon himself was very insistent about for the Concerto concerts, bringing the band slightly down to meet the orchestra, rather than making an acoustic thing sound too ‘electrified’.
That’s amounting to hundreds of channels…!
– Even in 1999, I think there were 104 sound channels on the recording. (And on huge reels of tape – must have been the dying days of analogue recording.) It’s a far cry from sticking a couple of mikes over it all and hoping for the best, as it was in 1969.
This recording, and the film is going to be a very special thing for all of us.
You were at the heart of this event. How do you see things progressing from here? Another Celebrating Jon concert?
– I’m not sure. Others are planning concerts of their own, in various parts of the world – there was one in Germany – and of course this is something Jon’s management does everything possible to encourage.
– I’m happy to say that performances of Jon’s music around the world are starting to gather momentum, now that the pieces are becoming easier to access in the new editions. We’ve had some teething troubles in various ways, but people will soon start to see the physical evidence in the form of newly minted published scores very soon. Many of the works are also now available via Jon’s website JonLord.org.
– I also have plans to conduct and to record various works of his over the next two years, and of course the edition will continue until every note of his music is out there in properly edited form.
Finally – this concert was a huge team-effort, a large number of people did an immense amount of work to make it happen. I know that the Sunflower Jam are about to announce the final total that the concert raised, and what a wonderful way this is to keep Jon’s memory alive. I’m very proud to have been part of it.
Don’t miss out
This interview ran in 3 parts. Read parts 1 and 2 via the links below.
Part 1: – I gave myself goose-bumps just imagining it – planning the concert.
Part 2: – To my friends pictured within – the concert’s first half.
The set: How we celebrated Jon Lord – full setlist and artist credits.