CHALICE - THE HISTORY
Chalice are something of
an enigma in their hometown of Southend on Sea in Essex, which has
more of a tradition of R&B based bands, Eddie and the Hot Rods,
Wilko Johnson, the Feelgoods etc; but nevertheless are well respected
by their fellow musicians and have cultivated a loyal following.
Keyboard player and founder, Rob Pearce, was already well known for
running the local "Monkey Business" music shop, a very
successful and popular gathering place for musicians, and his
activities with "Trace Elliot" the world famous bass
amplification manufacturer. His brother, Ian, was and still is, a
highly respected session guitarist which further helped Rob's
inaugaration into the local music community. Incidentally, Ian was
originally going to play guitar with Chalice, but commitments always
prevented him from finding the time until recently.
Although often put in the progressive/classical rock genre,a
description of the music style of Chalice is not easy, there is no
specific category they can easily slot into.The music is very English,
and very baroque. Traces of folk and new-world,as well as
rock, are sometimes evident, and the lyrics more often than not,
contain obscure story lines. The melody lines are very strong, and the
emotive arrangements with liberal use of dynamics, time changes and
chord turnarounds, borrow much from the classical world. That is not
to say Chalice are not a rock band! Finger burning guitar solos, teeth
rattling bass notes, locomotive drums,soaring vocals, all against a
wall of atmospheric keyboards, are part of the necessary ingredients
of their music.
The idea for a band like Chalice, was formed byRob
Pearce as long ago as 1967!
At that time,Rob was writing material which did not fit the usual
rock/pop mould. The lyrics were deep, often abstract, and the tunes
and structure were more involved. Instead of the usual verses and
chorus, there were bridges,middle eights and codas.
These songs were first aired with Green Wallace, a trio
formed and fronted by Rob on guitar and vocals.This band became
surprisingly popular on the local scene( which was within a ten mile
radius of Chelmsford!) given that the mainstream bands were playing
blues or soul covers at the time.As the music developed, the band
changed their name to The Artist and further increased their
popularity, which now extended to the college and university
circuits.Favourite songs included The Mirage, Murgatroyds Passions
and Semi-Circle World, a ten minute tour-de-force, which
closed their set.The Artist performed concerts with many legends of
the time, Free, The Andy Bown set, Blodwyn Pig,
Quintessence and The Third Ear Band amongst others.
However, the compositions were now acquiring a more baroque
structure,and Rob felt limited by writing for guitar. This feeling was
further reinforced when he saw The Nice. This was the first
band he had seen fronted by a keyboard player ( Keith Emerson )
and who combined classical and rock music into their
arrangements.Other keyboard bands started to surface, Pink Floyd,
Genesis, Barclay James Harvest generically known as progressive
rock bands. but the impoverished Rob could not afford the ubiquitous
hammond organ, which cost half as much as a semi detached house and
weighed not a lot less! The whole universe changed when Rob heard an
early Moog synthesiser, a musical instrument with a sound like
nothing on earth, and more importantly, the advent of the electronic
keyboard. Within a short space of time keyboards would become
affordable and manageable.
In the meantime,Rob worked with the usual selection of cover bands,
and found himself on a summer season in Jaywick, near Clacton on sea.
Here he met a drummer by the name of Rick Wills , who he discovered
lived just down the road from himself! It soon became apparent, that
Rick also shared a passion for the progressive rock genre, and thought
it worth considering forming such a band at a later date.
About a year later, now based in Southend, Rob at last bought his
first keyboard.A whole new world of melody and texture opened up, and
he started composing with a new found sense of freedom and a renewed
enthusiasm. At this time he was working with a local female session
singer, Lorraine Trew, in a covers band.Rob discovered that Lorraine
also preferred a deeper form of music, so he played her some of his
compositions. Lorraine liked the material instantly, and helped record
the songs and subsequently form a band to play them.
It also occurred to Rob that using a female vocalist gave the music a
new dimension. Music of this type, was dominated by male vocalists. He
was influenced by Kate Bush, Jonie Mitchell and later
Máire Ni Bhraonáin with Clannad. He was
aware that a combination of atmospheric vocals and dramatic
arrangements would better suit his ideas.
The line-up at this stage was: Rob,Lorraine. bassist Mark
Blazey,drummer Colin Smith and guitarist Alan O'Rourke ( MD of
Ruark Acoustics!) The band never really took off. All the
musicians involved had commercial commitments to honour and the
material could not be learned quickly. A studio recording of The
Keeper and the Reaper, Don't Frighten Me and Seeds
of Doubt, was made with Martin Burrows on guitar and local session
drummer Alan Clarke.Under the name of Opus, one live
performance followed with this line-up.
Rick, in the meantime, had become available and suggested they join
forces and form a permanent band around Rob's compositions. As word
got around, other high profile musicians expressed an interest in
joining the band . A major set-back occurred, when Lorraine ( now
Reinsch) left the band to concentrate on her family. She and Rob had
worked some considerable time together and had become ( and remain)
good friends. Eventually vocalist Lyn O'Hara ( actress and
session singer) joined along with current bassist Russ Strutter,
and USA guitarist Jeff Green ( Illegal Eagles).
Chalice, although originally called "Solstice",
was now formed and rehearsals started in earnest. Lyn unfortunately
moved out of the area and Jeff found less time for the band now that
the Illegal Eagles were becoming more and more successful, and
replacements were found with Stephanie Stringer,Ian Pearce and Tony
Sandeman joining.Later in 2004, Ian left to fufill other commitments
leaving the band with a void to fill.Word got to Jeff Green who wished
to rejoin. With some rescheduling of dates he was now Chalice's
guitarist once more. Unfortunately, Jeff emigrated to Ireland and
found his commitments more and more difficult to maintain. This left
Challce off the road for some time until a record producer introduced
Steve Liberty to the band. The Party in the Park at Tiptree will be
the first performance with this line up.