Richard Kaufman led the Santa Barbara Symphony for this pops tribute to the music of the Beatles, joined by Classical Mystery Tour, a successful Beatles cover band with a unique angle: They perform the Beatles’ music exactly as it was written, but with the assistance of various symphony orchestras around the world. The concept originated with Jim Owen, who has sung and played the part of John Lennon in the Broadway musical Beatlemania! and in other Beatle bands since the early ’80s. The other members of this Fab Four replica are the best of those who make their living re-enacting the world’s most popular music. Tony Kishman is Paul, Tom Teeley is George, and Chris Camilleri is Ringo. They aim to reproduce the original music, right down to the vocal tone, timbre, and embellishments, and for the most part, they succeed, even if some of the songs are taken slightly fast.
In fact, the evening was not devoted entirely to the Beatles. Conductor Richard Kaufman constructed an ingenious frame for the familiar soundtracks associated with England and the 1960s. Although the audience participation on “Colonel Bogey’s March” from the film The Bridge on the River Kwai was energetic, the “Shagadelic Suite” compiled by George S. Clinton from his soundtracks for the Austin Powers films was even more warmly received.
The band came out swinging with “Got to Get You into My Life,” one of the Beatles’ most R&B-influenced songs and a strong, upbeat opener. The orchestra made a major impression on “All You Need Is Love,” and its contribution on “Penny Lane” revealed new layers of sophistication and soul in that familiar favorite. The evening’s highlights were the magnificent “A Day in the Life”; “Eleanor Rigby,” which reduced some audience members to tears; and the irresistible, long medley from Abbey Road: “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.” Two wonderful encores-“Hey Jude” and “Twist and Shout”-got everyone up and dancing, then sent them away singing, heads full of melodies and memories from pop’s all time greatest group.