The Dayton Philharmonic and the Classical Mystery Tour
By J.T. Ryder
There is no real mystery about how classically magical the Beatles music is. It has become an ingrained part of our collective subconscious and a benchmark by which some rate all music and how others perform their own music. Taken in context, the affectation of orchestration by other groups was a nonlinear novelty back in the ‘50s and ‘60s and it wasn’t until the Beatles begat the baroque rock movement that strings and horns were utilized as an integral part of the musical arrangement and not just as a background filler. Looking back, we see not only the social commentary and lonely aspirations held within the lyrics of Eleanor Rigby, but we also see the expanding use of the orchestra used as a singular instrument, as another voice adding a textured layer to an already vibrant story.
In 2006, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra hosted the Classical Mystery Tour, which is comprised of Jim Owen (as John Lennon) on rhythm guitar, piano and vocals; Tony Kishman (as Paul McCartney) on bass guitar, piano and vocals; John Brosnan (as George Harrison) on lead guitar and vocals; and Chris Camilleri (as Ringo Starr) on drums and vocals. They were so well received that the Philharmonic decided to bring them back to open up their Rockin’ Orchestra Series. I was able to talk with David Bukvic, director of marketing and public relations for the Dayton Philharmonic, who educated me on the innate orchestral arrangements of the Beatles and revealed who the true fifth Beatle actually was.
DCP: I think this lends itself perfectly to an orchestral interpretation.
Bukvic: Well, it was orchestrated. Most of their work started out with a full orchestral accompaniment which was arranged by George Martin who was a genius. A lot of this program, in many ways, is a tribute to the skills, tastes and the level of musical ability of George Martin who you would have to say is the fifth Beatle.
DCP: Oh, everybody claims to be the fifth Beatle.
Bukvic: (laughing) Well, George Martin really is the fifth Beatle. He was with them right from the first note. I think Brian Epstein brought him in as their producer (Writer’s note: Martin produced every single one of the Beatles’ original albums except “Let It Be,” and he even played piano on some tracks). George Martin knew the talents and skills of each of the four Beatles and was really able to develop and mature them and each one of them brought a big set of skills and talents to the table. He was really able to mature and blend and use them properly. They really had a good sense of arranging themselves, so by the time they had come to George Martin, their skills had been honed by two years of performing in the clubs of Hamburg, which is a pretty seedy area. They had this tremendous amount of innate talent and then George Martin just added a whole new layer.
DCP: So how does the Classical Mystery Tour pay homage to that?
Bukvic: This show really shows off not just the melodic, lyrical and musical gifts of Lennon and McCartney and the other Beatles, but also how they melded together with George Martin as an arranger. With the show, obviously we pick and choose through a lot of the Beatles repertoire that works well in the orchestra hall. It’s kind of funny as an early Beatles fan and an early rock fan, from the moment I heard Day In The Life, I’ve always wondered what that would sound like live with a big, giant orchestra and that big, giant piano chord at the end. It really is an amazing moment to witness live in our orchestra hall.
DCP: When do you think the Beatles started to really lean towards full orchestral arrangement for their songs?
Bukvic: I think it was with Eleanor Rigby off of Revolver, which was just the Beatles vocals, with a string quartet. Now, it’s hard to get much more classical than that. This was the first time that a string quartet had been used in a rock setting with a chart placing hit. I mean, this was all George Martin. I think that the Beatles’ willingness to experiment and their willingness to extend their musical persona into the orchestral world was something that set them somewhat apart from the rest
DCP: So tell me about the musicians who are in the Classical Mystery Tour.
Bukvic: These guys are so good that when they play without the orchestra, they are note for note, spot on like watching the Beatles perform. They have studied them and can project the Beatles attitude, so even when it’s just the four of them, which there are some parts of the show where it is just the four band members and maybe a little back up here and there, they are just solid. One of the highlights for me is when they are doing pieces from Sergeant Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour where you have the full blown orchestra.
The Classical Mystery Tour is coming to Dayton’s Schuster Center on Saturday, November 20th at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $22 to $76 with student and senior discounts available. You can also purchase a series ticket that will allow you to see this show as well as upcoming shows paying tribute to the Eagles and Led Zeppelin. For more information or to purchase tickets, you can call 1-888-228-3630 or go online to www.daytonphilharmonic.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at email@example.com