Monday, July 24, 2017

Classical Mystery Tour was my chance to see the Beatles with the PSO

It's been my aspiration, to see the Beatles in person, yet I knew that could never happen. I was too young to see them in person before the band broke up. What's the next best thing, to experience a band so very near like the original Fab Four, in appearance, in sound, and in aspect, as to be the best I could possibly achieve given my seemingly impossible dream.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was able to fulfill this wish. On Friday, the organization presented and performed with Classical Mystery Tour, a group that performs as the Beatles. It's hard to believe that it's been 50 years since the album, 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,' first debuted.

They played the entire album, and as I took notes, I knew each song seconds after they started playing. I had plenty of 'savings' remembering the lyrics as well, but this wasn't teenagers standing, waving and madly cheering. This audience was enthusiastic, but not like that.

However, a few of the songs they encouraged the audience to sing along.

Here are a few of my favorite selections from the evening, based on the tonal quality of the band, or the classical music mixed in to form a greater sounding mix than the original music.

"A Day in the Life" - the vocals from 'John' / 'Paul' were amazing, this definitely sounded just like the original. The eclecic sing-song lyrics are an element I've often emulated in my own writing, same for the next favorite.

"I Am The Walrus" - again, the vocals really rocked. What I particularly noticed was the way the Pittsburgh Symphony added strings and other elements to this version, a welcome addition sounding fantastic at Heinz Hall.

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - when I was young, working at Hardees in Murrysville working my way through college, After close I'd clean up, and I'd play this song over and over, it's just that good. And here with the PSO it was better. Here I was finally hearing it performed live and in-person, sounding just like the original.

"The Long and Winding Road" - again the vocals from 'Paul' were fantastic, and here the entire Pittsburgh Symphony blended the full bodied classical element to fullest effect.

"Live and Let Die" - technically a McCartney creation, this Beatles group and the PSO rocked the heck out of this one - wow!

"Imagine" - this one a Lennon creation, yet it was done so very well, the orchestral strings added so very much to the sound.

"Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End" Abbey Road Medley. What can I say, it was just awesome.

Needless to say, I was really impress with the new 'Fab Four':
TONY KISHMAN, bass guitar, piano, vocals, played 'Paul McCartney'. His classic smile was pat, and the vocals were strikingly similar, with the tonal quality you'd expect.

The band performed most of the later albums, with the only exception being 'Twist and Shout' as an encore. So you could definitely hear the quality of individual voices as they sang, which was more striking in the later songs. On several occasions Tony would mention Pittsburgh, and of course the Steelers. Who could help but smile at that?

JIM OWEN, rhythm guitar, piano, vocals, played 'John Lennon'. His rendition of 'Strawberry Fields Forever' was amazing in its quality and stirring affect over my psyche. One of my favorites, I sat and relished in it's quality.

Jim would often use the two finger peace sign with his hand high in the air, he definitely brought-off the 'air' of John Lennon. He wore three different outfits and hair styles to portray his role, capturing well the transitions the character exhibited throughout his career.

DAVID JOHN, lead guitar, vocals, played 'George Harrison'. His best song of the evening was 'Within You and Without You' which came with it a sitar recording that the band and the orchestra played along with in wonderful synchronicity. Again, his ability to recreate the original vocals sounded just like George. It was very impressive. The song's lyrics are very hopeful and uplifting.

CHRIS CAMILLERI, drums, vocals, played 'Ringo Starr'. He had several chances to shine. 'Yellow Submarine' was spot-on. I enjoyed the vocals. But his best chance to show off was the drums for the medley from Abbey Road "Golden Slumbers."

Wow, it was rousing and thrilling, bringing chills up along my spine, as if I was there with the original band. The whole medley was exciting. "And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love, you make."

So by now you realize I'm a big Beatles fan. And I'm a big Classical fan. So yes, the two mix very well indeed! Thanks to Andres Franco for seamlessly conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony so well blending the two sounds.

And of course I took plenty of pictures!

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