Your ticket to ride: The Bay-Atlantic Symphony and Beatles tribute band Classical Mystery Tour to present a Beatles show that should have been.
There is one thing the Jed Gaylin, music director and conductor of the Bay-Atlantic Symphony doesn’t want to hear as he prepares for a Beatles tribute and show at the Borgata this Sunday, Sept. 26.
And that’s anyone telling him that performing the Beatles is out of character for the orchestra — or for that matter, any orchestra.
Or that such a performance is just for fun, a “pops” performance staged simply to expand the symphony’s fan base.
For the symphony, whether it’s the Beatles or Bach, Benny Goodman or Beethoven, its mission is always the same, he says.
To entertain and, most importantly, connect with the audience.
“I kind of reject the idea that what a symphony is supposed to do is kind of uptight and it’s a stretch to do something different. Whatever we play, whether it’s Brahms or something less traditional — and at times we’ve played things more out there than anything the Beatles did — we dig in and give it our full energy. Just because this show is kind of rocking and doesn’t fit with that other symphony reputation, we still view it as people hearing culture, and we want to share that.”
The symphony performs this Sunday with Classical Mystery Tour, a Beatles tribute band that focuses on working with orchestras to recreate the feel and the sound of the Fab Four.
This is the third year in a row that the symphony has performed a show at the Borgata in Atlantic City and each year the symphony has gone with an untraditional approach. In 2008, the symphony performed with Cirque de la Symphonie, which included acrobats and high-wire acts on stage with the orchestra. Last year, the symphony offered up a big-band performance saluting Benny Goodman.
The different themes have fit well with the casino venue. During its regular season, the symphony plays at the Stockton College PAC, Cumberland County College and Rowan University. But for the now annual Borgata program, the symphony and casino go for something less traditional.
“This is our third year at the Borgata and it just wouldn’t be possible if they weren’t such a great partner,” says Paul Herron, executive director of the symphony. “They understand us and they understand our audience and what we’re trying to do. When we sit down with them and tell them our ideas, they always say, ‘That’s really interesting and let’s see how we can work to make it a great event.”
Herron is a little more accepting of the “pops” label for the performances, but most of all, he says the performances offer up a unique and very fun afternoon.
“Last year, for example, we basically turned a symphony orchestra into a giant classical swing band. The finale was ‘Swing, Swing, Swing’ and that’s a very jazzy piece. To hear that with a full band and then you add in things like a concert timpani or the strings and violins, it was just so much more than you could hear in a sleepy little café.
“And it is a lot of fun,” he says. “I remember [seeing] Jed Gaylin — and he’s a wonderful and energetic performer — but by the end he was dancing on the podium. That’s not something you usually see.”
For this program, Gaylin gets to explore a Beatles catalogue that is replete with classical interludes and sounds.
The Beatles, especially after 1965 when the group stopped touring, incorporated classical sounds into their later albums with the noted help of producer and arranger George Martin. “Penny Lane,” for example features a piccolo trumpet, “Eleanor Rigby” features orchestral strings and “Yesterday” is backed by a string quartet. And that’s just for starters.
Gaylin, however, says the concert won’t just focus on the more obvious selections.
“Everyone thinks that it was just George Martin who came in and did these arrangements,” he says. “But you can go back to their earlier recordings and see that the Beatles always had something going for them. It’s like when people say to me, well, Beethoven didn’t really get going until after his first few symphonies. It’s not true. Even in their earliest work you can hear that something is there.”
Classical Mystery Tour has performed with orchestras around the country. The full show presents about 30 Beatles tunes from the beginning to the end of the band’s run.
“We do start the show in the black suits that you would have seen on say the Ed Sullivan Show,” says Jim Owen, who represents John Lennon in the group. “But we don’t do too much from those early days because we don’t want to create something that wasn’t originally there. Then we move onto the Sgt. Pepper look, and obviously we do a lot from Sgt. Pepper, and the last change is the late ’60s, sort of how they looked on Abbey Road. We do things from the White Album, Let It Be and we also do some of their solo work, such as Lennon’s ‘Imagine.’”
Atlantic City is about to get a healthy dose of classical culture courtesy of a very unlikely source.
Beatlemania Now not only captures the essence of the Fab Four’s sound and style evolution in a 22-song set list and a half-dozen scene and costume changes, there’s a visual collage on three giant screens behind and flanking either side of the band that is nearly, if not entirely, as mesmerizing.
Members of the Bay-Atlantic Symphony will present a three-day free musical extravaganza at various indoor and outdoor venues in Atlantic City Friday through Sunday, Oct. 14-16.
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