The Classical Mystery Tour will stop at the Deer Valley Music Festival
July 14, 2015
The Classical Mystery Tour is coming to take audiences away to Beatlemania.
The concert, presented by the Deer Valley Music Festival, will feature four lads — Jim Owen (John Lennon), Tony Kishman (Paul McCartney), David John (George Harrison) and Chris Camilleri (Ringo Starr) — who will perform Beatles songs backed by the Utah Symphony.
Owen, who talked with The Park Record during a telephone interview from Los Angeles, California, said being in a Beatles tribute show has been his dream since he was 8.
"That’s when I picked up my first guitar," Owen said. "I heard the Beatles and those songs were great the way they were. That’s what made me want to play."
Prior to that, Owen was learning classical piano.
"The idea with studying piano is playing music the way the composer wrote it," he said. "We don’t have the original recordings from the 1700s, but the composers wrote pretty specifically about what the tempo and dynamics should be.
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"That carried over to my wanting to play Beatles music," Owen said. "I got a Beatles album for every occasion — birthday, Christmas, whatever — and started playing the music by ear. I would read and watch whatever I could about them on TV and you got a visual about how they talked and played."
When he was 11, Owen and a friend who like the Beatles would get other musicians together and emulate the Fab Four.
"I was into George Harrison at the time and while the other guys wanted to play Led Zeppelin, this was the 1970s after all, we would just have them play Beatles," Owen said with a laugh.
About that same time, "Beatlemania" premiered on Broadway and toured the country.
"What was great about the show was by that time, the Beatles had broken up and no one would ever see them play a show together again," Owen said. "So, the show gave you the chance to imagine what it would have been like. I went to see it and it was exactly what I wanted to do since I first picked up the guitar."
In the mid-1980s, Owen got his chance to join "Beatlemania."
"I had connected with a couple of guys who were in the show and they needed a George Harrison to go on the road and they recommended me," he said.
After a decade in the show, Owen decided he wanted to do more.
"It stopped being satisfying playing the orchestral Beatles songs on just a keyboard, because as a classically trained musician, it seemed natural to want to play the songs on the right instruments," he said. "So, I thought maybe we could get a string quartet to play ‘Yesterday.’"
That seed of an idea sprouted into the idea of doing a show from the Beatles’ original music charts.
"I tried to get the originals from Sir George Martin in England in 1995," Owen said. "I wrote about the show and asked if I could lease or rent the charts, but they declined."
The other option was finding someone who would listen to the albums and transcribe the orchestral arrangements.
Owen found that person in Martin Herman, who will conduct the Deer Valley concert.
"I happen to be taking classes at Cal State University, Long Beach and went to the music department and asked if anyone could do this and they referred me to Dr. Herman," Owen said. "I met him and not only was he a composer, conductor, but also a Beatles fan."
Herman couldn’t wait to get started.
"We are lucky to have him, because you really can’t tell the difference between his transcriptions and what is on the original scores," Owen said. "So, it’s always been nice when he conduct the show."
The first Classical Mystery Tour opened in 1996 and has been touring ever since.
"The challenge of the show is also the gratifying aspect of the show," Owen said. "The challenge is playing the songs as close to the originals as possible. While satisfying to do that, another part of the gratification is having the audiences hearing the songs the way they remember them."
The show features between 25 and 30 songs each night.
"The set list is determined and the music is sent to the orchestras in advance," Owen said. "Over the years, we have settled into a good format of the show that does include a couple of early songs.
"We found that we couldn’t give a complete Beatles experience without those early songs that don’t have orchestral arrangements, so we do wear costumes to help with the illusion," he explained. "We open the show in black suits and play a couple of early songs and then quickly move into ‘Yesterday’ and then get into our ‘Sgt. Pepper’ costumes and do songs from that era."
After intermission, the group comes out in late-Beatles costumes and does songs from "The White Album," "Abbey Road" and "Let It Be."
"We play songs that the Beatles never played live, and as time passed, we realized that we are playing a show that they never did," Owen said.
Even past orchestra members have gotten giddy.
"Some of them have told us how fun it was to play these songs because the charts are so close the originals that they imagined themselves recording the sessions at Abbey Road Studios in London," Owen said.
The guitarist doesn’t have a favorite album, but, instead has favorite albums from each Beatles era.
"I like ‘Meet the Beatles’ from their early days and ‘Rubber Soul’ from the middle era," he said. "I would pick ‘Abbey Road’ for the late era."
Picking a favorite song is much more difficult.
"When we do the show, my favorite song is ‘A Day in the Life,’" Owen said. "It’s such an interesting song because you have John Lennon intro and then the orchestra build up and then the Paul section, before returning to John for the last couple of verses before the last crescendo. It’s an incredible construction of a song and to be able to do it with an orchestra makes it amazing."
The Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival will present the Classical Mystery Tour at the Snow Park Amphitheater on Saturday, July 18, at 7:30 p.m. The concert will feature a Beatles tribute band and the Utah Symphony, conducted by Martin Herman. General admission tickets are $34 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.deervalleymusicfestival.org.
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