Rick Wakeman joins Ipswich Hospital Band as Patron

Rick Wakeman with Ipswich Hospital Band

Rick Wakeman with members of Ipswich Hospital Band on Tuesday night. - Credit: Ipswich Hospital Band

He may revel in the reputation of being a Grumpy Old Man, but East Anglian-based superstar Rick Wakeman delighted members of the Ipswich Hospital Band this week.

The Prog Rock icon - best-known as the keyboard player for Yes and his theatrical shows and albums in the 70s - became patron of the band this summer and was determined to be more than just a figurehead.

On Tuesday night he paid his first visit to the band's practice session at St Peter's Church near Ipswich Waterfront.

Now Rick lives near Diss on the Suffolk/Norfolk border and has become an active member of the community - he is a strong  supporter of fundraising for Norfolk churches.

Earlier this summer he became Patron of the Ipswich Hospital Band - and made it clear to chair Maggie Porter and Musical Director James Symington that he would like to play an active part in the band's life.

James Symington with Rick Wakeman

Rick Wakeman met Ipswich Hospital Band Musical Director James Symington. - Credit: Ipswich Hospital Band

Ms Porter said: "We met over a coffee and Rick said he would like to get involved so he came down to the rehearsal on Tuesday night, met James and the band and everyone was really pleased to see him.

"He would like to get involved a lot more and we are looking to see what we can do - but he has a lot of commitments and needs to fit anything he does around that."

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Rick continues to tour regularly - although now mainly with just a piano. And he remains a firm favourite in concert halls and on the chat circuit.

His regular appearances on the BBC's "Grumpy Old Men" show brought him to a new audience - with his shows now describing him as "Grumpy Rick" - but in fact there are few celebrities less grumpy in real life!

Ms Porter said: "He would have liked to come to our Remembrance Concert, but that is just when he is starting his tour, but we are looking to see what we can do next year."

The Ipswich Hospital Band is actually an umbrella group that includes three bands - the Hospital Band, St Peter's Band and the Saints Community Band.

All are based at the St Peter's Church which is at the entrance to the Waterfront opposite the Novotel - and all hold regular concerts.