February 2013

Rick Wakeman – Rock Legend and Freemason

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Legendary keyboard player and rock musician, Rick Wakeman, visited Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch as he took his show “An Intimate Evening With ...” on a whirlwind tour across the southern hemisphere. The one-man show featured Rick accompanied only by his grand piano, upon which he performed several of his classic compositions, annotated with anecdotes from his long career, as a classical pianist, a session musician (to such luminaries as Cat Stevens, David Bowie and Elton John), as member of The Strawbs, a composer and member of the progressive rock band ‘Yes’, and as a solo performer. In spite of his incredibly tight schedule, he agreed to meet with ‘Degrees South’ magazine editor, Richard Taylor, to share his views on Freemasonry and his experiences as a member of Chelsea Lodge No. 3098 E.C.

Having been initiated into the London-based, Chelsea Lodge, some five-years ago, Rick now finds himself occupying the Junior Warden’s chair of this world renowned “Entertainers’ Lodge” and looks forward to being Installed as WM in 18 months time. “I’m not the sort of guy to join something simply to say, “I’m a member” - I have to involve myself as much as possible.”

Contrary to what you might first imagine the Lodge derives it name not from any links to that part of West London but from a group of entertainers who, in 1905, were appearing at the old Chelsea Theatre in London’s West End and sought dispensation to form a new Lodge. I asked Rick how he manages to fit his masonry into his working life. “It helps that my manager, Roger de Courcey (see Famous Freemasons – A-L elsewhere on this site), is also a member of Chelsea Lodge and a Grand Officer. I live in Norfolk and Roger tends to arrange all my work related meetings for a Wednesday morning. I have kind of set up office at Wolfe’s Restaurant on Great Queen St so that I’m able to have meetings over coffee or lunch and then, in the afternoon, step across the road to Grand Lodge for Chelsea’s LOI.”

The Chelsea Lodge meets officially five times a year but it holds 42 LOI’s! They work the Logic Ritual, and this demands a very high level of competence, particularly in floor work.

Famous for their charitable giving the Chelsea Lodge has raised over £100,000 (NZ$200,000) in the past five years and this is one aspect of Freemasonry that appeals to Rick. He went on to quote many examples of the Lodge coming to the aid of members, while supporting a wide range of charities including, the London Masons Cyberknife Appeal; Prostate Cancer; Brain Tumour UK; Mercy Ships and The Forces Children’s Trust. The Lodge also contributes an annual bursary to the Sylvia Young Theatre School. Much of the money is raised through ‘The Chelsea Lodge Road Show’, a loose grouping of Lodge Members who will attend a Lodge meeting and give a talk on the history of Chelsea Lodge followed by a cabaret at the Festive Board.

Rick went on to talk with some affection of the current WM of Chelsea Lodge, W.Bro. Mick Abrahams. Mick Abrahams was the original guitarist with the band ‘Jethro Tull’ and went on to form ‘Blodwyn Pig’. Two years prior to his Installation, at the age of 65, he suffered two heart attacks and a mid-brain stroke. Thus struck down, he has had to learn to both walk and talk again. Mick was, however, determined that his installation should go ahead, as were the other Lodge members. He stayed focused on his recovery and, eventually, was able to walk unaided up to the pedestal to take his obligation.

Chelsea Lodge currently has five candidates awaiting initiation, another six or seven with their Second Degree pending, and five more ready to be raised. Rick has four sons and would not be surprised if one or two of them followed him into the Craft.

Regular meetings of the Chelsea Lodge feature a post-Festive Board cabaret and, with a dining fee of only £40, on average the Lodge hosts around 200 visitors at each meeting which, I suggested, might give the “ostensible steward of the lodge” a few headaches! Rick pointed out that Chelsea was the only Lodge that had to issue tickets to visitors and that the biggest problem was the Brethren without tickets who just turned up on the night. He explained, “For next year’s Installation we have been allowed to move into the main temple in Great Queen Street. This is because at previous installations we have had to cap numbers due to space limitations. We have already sold a number of tickets, and as we expect over 700 to attend, there is no other room in the building with that capacity.”

When time permits, Rick makes a point of visiting other Lodges and will often take an acting office where the Lodge might be struggling in terms of numbers. He feels that often a Lodge might need a helping hand through a quieter period, hopefully to recover as more candidates come on board. He is also a Royal Arch Mason as well as having joined the Knights Templar. Both orders, he believes, hold synergy with his strong Christian faith.

Rick was also eager to hear something of the history of the South Island District and of the Lodges therein. Consequently the interviewer became the interviewee and our allocated half hour session drifted into one hour, resulting in a very harassed promoter calling time on two aging rockers’ reminiscences.

Also see: Youtube video

Copyright: © Degrees South magazine – Used with permission.

For further information, please contact:

V.W.Bro. M. N. Darling, The Secretary,
Lodge St. Patrick No.468 I.C.
Dunedin Masonic Centre,
43 Manor Place, Market reserve, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand

Useful Links

Rick Wakeman’s website:

Lee Wilkinson Photography:

SPARKS Children’s Charity:

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