I forget if I mentioned here this ridiculous musical undertaking we decided to attempt: We are putting on Delaware's very first Beatles festival, and this festival means that we are playing every Beatles song ever released (and even two that were recorded and never released) over a course of six consecutive nights... this means we do two albums per night, plus any singles that were released around those albums. There is one night we're only doing one album, and that's the night we're playing The White Album since it's a double-album... and one other night we're playing three albums because that's just how the math worked.
The festival started tonight, and we were kinda expecting the lightest crowd tonight since it's a Monday night, and since we just kinda figured this is their less interesting material. But holy crap, we had 130 people tonight, and the theater only holds about 250... so it felt very full, and the crowd was very enthusiastic. One of tonight's audience members was actually in the audience when The Beatles played on Ed Sullivan!! GAAAH!! After our show tonight she said she was so happy she came tonight so she could actually hear the songs, unlike the Ed Sullivan show where all she heard was screaming. :-)
We've been rehearsing this material since January-- two rehearsals per week -- one a vocal-only rehearsal, and the other rehearsal was with the whole band.
The name of the group putting on this BeatleFest is called "The Rock Orchestra," which is an tribute show organization headed up by Joe Trainor and Matt Urban. Joe and MattU (not to be confused with 'my Matt' (aka MattC)) choose what tribute shows they want to perform (basically curating a season's worth of music), and then writes all the arrangements, and hires the right musicians to play it. So there's no set band member list to The Rock Orchestra... but they have an extensive Rolodex from which to draw. :-)
This BeatleFest takes 40 musicians to play all of this music as true to the albums as we can, once you get strings, horns, traditional Indian instrmentalists, harmonica, harp, even sound effects... all in addition to the core band.
Because we're playing these songs in release order, tonight was the "simplest" material, so we only needed the core band tonight. But we've been rehearsing in release order, too... so our most recent rehearsals has been the REALLY complicated stuff requiring all 40 players. We had two final rehearsals this weekend... Saturday was sound-equipment load-in, and Sunday was all 40 of us... and we played all of the hard stuff (we're even doing "Revolution #9" live!) We intentionally left the stage set up with all the (empty) chairs for the strings and horns, all of my 73,000 percussion instruments were out on display, MattC's guitars and saxes and keys were all set up, even though we don't use them until Wednesday. We really want the audience to watch and feel this stuff build in complexity as we move through the Beatles' catalogue and timeline.
So tonight when we got to the theater for Night 1 of BeatleFest to play "Please Please Me" and "With The Beatles" and the surrounding singles, only the seven core band members were needed, and we were like "Where is everyone? Oh, wait, it's just us tonight!"
We've got Joe Trainor singing mostly Paul McCartney's parts and also playing piano and keys; we've got Brendan Sheehan playing guitar and singing mostly John Lennon's parts, Rich Degnars on drums (he's amazing), Josh Dowiak on bass and some vocals, Joey Lopes on lead guitar (he is freakin' awesome), and then Matt and I are the utility players. (Utility players are people who can sing and play many instruments, so they play whatever is needed.) I sing backing vocals on almost everything (I sing lead on a few, too) and I play about 22 different percussion instruments (everything from simple handclaps to timpani and anvil and concert chimes to a motorcycle exhaust pipe), keys a few times, and I also handle all the sound effects (think the animal sounds in "Good Morning, Good Morning"). Matt sings whenever we need 4-part harmony (and he also sings lead on a few), and he's playing guitar, bass, sax, keys/piano, and percussion.
Tonight was an easy night music-wise, and tomorrow night (Tuesday, Night 2) is also just the core band again because we're playing two more " simple" albums: "Beatles for Sale" and "A Hard Day's Night" (plus some singles).
Wednesday night (Night 3) is "Help!" and "Rubber Soul" (plus some singles). Wednesday night is when Matt and are the guest singers, so we sing lead on a few songs. This night is also when more band members arrive... Indian musicians arrive, some horns and strings...
Thursday night (Night 4) s the big night where we do three albums (‘Revolver’, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘Magical Mystery Tour’) and also the point when all 40 musicians are on stage through the rest of the festival!
Friday night (Night 5 of 6, also Matt's birthday): Tonight we only play one album, which is "The Beatles," aka The White Album. It's a double album. We'll also play any singles released during that time. And once we tackle that, we're brought to closing night, which is "Abbey Road" and "Let it Be," plus the singles. And that's it!
During the show, we have fun projections as a backdrop that sorta gives you an idea of what "era" of The Beatles we're in (in Hamburg, the Ed Sullivan stage, their psychedelic stage, the rooftop, etc... and we have another projector with a slideshow that displays the song name, album title, and a counter that counts up the number of songs out of the 215 we've played already.
I'm really proud and excited to play this music with these people-- it sounds great, and best of all everyone gets along, so it's been a very joyful experience! It's also been exciting new really exciting to feel how the songwriting got more interesting and complex as The Beatles' progressed, and also to note how they were able to do all the things they wanted to record thanks to advances in recording technology.
There was more I wanted to type, but I've forgotten because I've fallen asleep a few times while typing this... haha... and it's now 3:55am so I'm gonna post this now.