Deep Purple performed on this day in 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. They were joined by the Royal Festival Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold.
This concert, which came early in the life of Purple’s Mark II lineup, was built around the premiere of Jon Lord’s Concerto For Group and Orchestra. This work featured a concerto with a rock band as the solo “instrument”. During the piece, several of the members took instrumental solos accompanied by the orchestra.
The rehearsals had been plagued by some problems, as both the orchestra and the band refused to take the project seriously. While Malcolm Arnold managed to chastise the orchestra members by telling them that the young musicians in Purple were clearly taking the work more seriously, Jon Lord was unable to get his bandmates to cooperate. One of the most famous examples of their aversion to the work comes from singer Ian Gillan, who admitted he wrote the words for his short vocal portion on a napkin the night of the concert!
Despite the group’s unhappiness with the work, it seems to have been reasonably well-received.
Besides all of this, the Concerto is a massive achievement in musical history. To my knowledge, it serves as the first time a band and orchestra took the stage together. While the Moody Blues began the experiment of marrying symphonic work with rock ‘n roll with their landmark album Days of Future Passed, the band and orchestra on the album apparently recorded separately. Keith Emerson and the Nice had continued the experiment with Ars Longa, Vita Brevis. They would perform live with an orchestra themselves a handful of days after this performance.
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