Drawing: Gary Brooker and Procol Harum

“We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor…” The opening lyrics to one of the great anthems A WHITER SHADE OF PALE, the debut single by the British rock band Procol Harum. It was released in May 1967, in the ‘Summer of Love’, reaching number one across the globe, including the UK, where it stayed for six weeks. Written by founding member Gary Brooker, with Keith Reid and Matthew Fisher it is one of fewer than 30 singles to have sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone magazine listed it at number 57 in its top 500 songs of all time and it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of fame in 1998. As part of the 50th Anniversary tour Gary and the band played one night at London’s Royal Festival Hall earlier this month. It completed their set list and received a standing O. Afterwards he and the rest of the band signed my sketch.

The poignancy of posting this today – 16 March –  is that my dear friend Bronwyn Blackstock would have celebrated her 60th birthday. She was part of our Light Fandango Company, a small group of friends who shared and enjoyed life. It was coined after this song and she was our treasurer (assets nil). Fandango three (F3). Sadly she lost her brave battle with cancer a year ago. This is in memory of her. Happy Bday B.

Drawing: Joss Stone

Joss Stone

The 29-year-old soul-infused British songstress Joscelyn Eve Stoker, better known by her stage name Joss Stone was Burt Bacahrach’s special guest at last night’s one-off concert in London’s Royal Festival Hall. In his five-star review for the Evening Standard, Andre Paine wrote, “There may be an age difference of six decades, but the pairing of 88 year-old songwriter Burt Bacharach and a supremely soulful Joss Stone was an outstanding success. Stone’s knockout voice was tough and tender and Bacharach seemed beguiled as he played the grand piano.”

Described as a mix of R&B, reggae and blue-eyed soul, Joss has won two Brit Awards and a Grammy. She rose to fame with her 2003 debut, multi-platinum album ‘The Soul Sessions’ followed by the equally successful ‘Mind,Body & Soul’ which topped the UK charts. The album’s lead single ‘You Had Me’ was Grammy-nominated and reached the Top 10 Singles chart in 2004.

I met Joss when she arrived at the Royal Festival Hall and she a bit of fun with the sharpie signing my sketch.

Drawing: Venera Gimadieva

Venera Gimadieva

Hailed as the star of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, young Russian opera singer Venera Gimadieva is one of the most sought after sopranos in Europe.

This sketch is based on Venera in the role of Violetta in Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata at Glyndebourne Opera House in East Sussex, England in July 2014. It followed her UK debut at the 2013 BBC Proms.

Guardian critic Andrew Clements wrote, “She is a soprano of huge presence, compelling to watch with a voice of thrilling security and a special quality to her quieter singing that makes you hang on every note.”

Venera joined conductor Guerassim Voronkov and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra for a celebration of recent works by composers from Tatarstan alongside masterpieces by Tatar descent Sergey Rachmaninoff at the Royal Festival Hall last week, where she took time to sign the drawing.