The Memorial Hall - Marlborough 17 December 2005 by Liz Shave

Yesterday's events were, for me, truly unforgettable. Members of the RWCC and the public were treated to a day of extremes that will go down in the annals of Rick's career. DAY OF EXTREMES? It was fun; heady; exhilarating; amusing; tiring and exciting in brief! Wholly remarkable to boot! I missed the final of "Strictly Come Dancing" but that show pales in comparison to the spectacle at Marlborough, both in the afternoon and evening. The hard core of attendees went to both events. I had made the suggestion on the Yahoo discussion group that people may wish to acquire name badges enabling fellow fans to identify each other but I saw none! The dining hall was bedecked in true Xmas style and our places marked by a festive tag. Metallic balloons adorned - Rick and his entourage seated at the front of the room. It was cold outside but the temperature and ambience inside was warm.

Paul Chandler, promoter of Marlborough events and his partner Jo were the stars of the day, never taking a breather not even to eat uninterruptedly and one can only marvel at the effort that must have been ploughed into the weekend. They were assisted by co-promoter Gregg Marshall and his daughter Amanda from Colorado who I had the pleasure of sitting next to at the luncheon. Gregg and Amanda were highly instrumental in taking photographs for Rick's chosen charity throughout. I feel sure that this generated a good amount for the cause. I can not fail to mention in sparkling rhetoric the unfailing efforts of "The Wakeman Police" - thus labelled on the arms of their sweatshirts, these individuals being Paul's crew of happy helpers all day long. The list of their endeavours goes on and on. Moving Rick's equipment, ushering, smiling all the time, doing the charity auction, taking tickets on doors, assisting in rehearsals. The officers of the RWPD were made up of Paul's family and friends. THEY MUST be exalted in no uncertain terms! Mike Holden of the RWCC too, as always, competent in the extreme in all duties.

ASHLEY HOLT! In attendance and performing! SURPRISE! A man of steadfast nature, he added to highlights of the day. NOW, the other Wakemans and the Xmas tree. The trees adorned, prettily standing tall in the Memorial and Norwood Halls. As for the 4 Wakemans, aside from Rick we were introduced to three shining stars with oodles of charisma. Rick, you can be proud! They are of course musically gifted and I found myself marvelling at the depth of personality and natural warmth generated by Jemma, Oliver and Adam. Oscar joined us for the party. The poor unsuspecting youth was subjected to a rapture of applause when he arrived a little late as we were already eating and this welcome was Rick's cunning plan! I have never seen such beaming smiles and such pride exuded by any offspring when they stood alongside their father -individually or as a unit. I must mention Rick's spoken delight at the new additions to his family, 2 grandchildren - Skyla and Arthur.

Paul had said on communications through the post "Thank you for supporting this unique event". UNIQUE was an understatement! A "one-off" would better describe it. Further to the lunch party, we numbered about 200. The meal was traditionally Xmas. We were waited on and the meal was most enjoyable. We pulled crackers and chatted over drinks. Rick made some speeches and was presented with a cloak created by a fan. Ashley performed with Rick as did the 3 Wakemans, crowding round one keyboard. Archive material! The charity auction was a resounding hit and raised further funds for charity. I donated a hat resembling "Merlin the Magician's, raising £20! Other items were CDs, Posters, LPs, photos. Rick and co left for rehearsals all too soon but the celebrations went on. In the evening Rick appeared on stage in black, his jacket with a royal blue lining. He was beaming after completing his warm up a trifle late and greeted the Xmas Tree and the audience of 600. "A proper Xmas Tree!", he stated. The North Wiltshire Young Musicians Choir (amazing they were too!) waited in the wings and he performed "After the Ball". I had a great vantage point having ordered my seat in good time. As Rick usually does, he recounted funnies and tonight he recalled PANTO moments. He had had "great fun". Ashley joined him for "Make me a woman" from "Time Machine" after which Jemma arrived performing "Flying Elephants"!? Kissed by her Dad she left and we heard "Jane Seymour". After some confusion with Ashley over printed music a piece from "No Earthly Connection" was delivered. Was it too late for Ashley to "find his music soul"?! Adam joined us next with something from "Tapestry" - very peaceful. Oliver was the last to grace the stage; resplendent in a long burgundy velvet jacket, choosing to give us something from "Heaven's Isle" - aptly named. Now we had a medley of Xmas songs with the choir and 4 Wakemans. The conductor of the choir had broken his arm and it was in a sling. The stage hazy with mist, the walls framing the stage were sprinkled with snowflakes and stars. Rick had a mascot on his keyboard to assist him with his foot tapping! Prior to the intermission "Welcome A Star" was played by all.

Having stretched my legs I found myself seated next to Catherine Burke who had accompanied the group to Cuba recently. I had read her fascinating report and was keen to make her acquaintance; a most enchanting person. Music began with my favourite "Dance of a Thousand Lights" after which Rick made references to The Strawbs and received thundering applause which he couldn't understand! Ashley rejoined us; pieces from "Arthur" were served up. Rejoined by the 3 young Wakemans they assisted when Rick gave us, "Merlin" while he changed instruments. After a furore getting them on stage Dad sarcastically commented-"Ain't choreography a wonderful thing!" Problems now were encountered on the sound front - Stuart Sawney duly arrived on scene to put things right. Time elapsed. Stuart was indeed trying and the hiccup was dealt with. Merlin now emerged in all its glory as a family affair. Impressive. Next, Ashley's take on "Morning has broken" after which we were shown how "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" was put together back in 73. It was the bare bones of "Journey's Journey" but a perfectly formed skeleton. Ashley cried "Save Me-Save me!" but he looked perfectly alright! Later he shouted "Praise God!" - we were no longer worried! This part of the evening was for you and I a dream! "Catherine Howard" was delivered by 4 Wakemans then the choir appeared for festive fun with audience participation. OH NO! It was our turn!

CAROL SHEETS! SHEETS ON SEATS INDEED! Ashley was asked by Rick to "spot" those of us singing well, OR not at all! Those unwise enough not to partake were brought on stage (including Gregg Marshall, Amanda and Catherine Burke!) to join the choir. We all chanted John Lennon's "War is over" I don't usually "do" carols but on this auspicious occasion I did so! Later Rick thrilled us with "Help" (vocals Ashley) and "Eleanor Rigby". To conclude, on a remarkable note, Stuart Sawney had been compared to Groucho Marx; the choir had practised since September and it showed and Paul Chandler was deservedly given a plaque of honour by "The Man Himself" for efforts on this and other Marlborough occasions. We felt honoured to witness Rick with his closest family members. I have to say that we had been welcomed as loyal fans into Rick's extended family. Rick had told of amusing events in the lives of 3 of his offspring. Jemma had been lovingly referred to as, "Jim Jams". Oliver had played football with George Best. Adam joked that he had parked on a meter. HATS OFF TO YOU Mr Wakeman Senior! You brought up three fabulous children!!

Liz Shave