LET IT BE: a celebration of the music of The Beatles
Maddie Daly | Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Do you ever feel like you were born in the wrong decade? That perhaps you were meant to be wearing bell-bottoms or hoop skirts instead of leggings and skinny jeans? Maybe you would rather be jamming to The Beatles than TSwift? Well, there still aren’t any time machines that I’m aware of, but this Thursday you can transport back to the ’60s and experience Beatlemania right here in South Bend.
“LET IT BE: A celebration of the music of The Beatles” will be playing at The Morris Performing Arts Center to bring the music of The Beatles to our country and our generation. Over 800,000 fans have already seen the show worldwide, from venues in the U.K., Japan, Moscow and now the U.S. The show includes over 40 of the most popular songs from The Beatles, including “Help,” “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude” and, of course, “Let it Be.” Even if we weren’t alive during their reign, The Beatles are still very much relevant to our generation today.
I had the opportunity to chat with performer Chris McBurney who portrays Ringo Starr, The Beatles’ drummer, in the show and is from the original Broadway cast. When describing the structure of the show, McBurney said it goes through the entirety of The Beatles’ musical career.
“It’s kind of like a retrospective of The Beatles,” McBurney said. “It’s a culmination of their whole career, mostly music based, and starts chronologically with The Beatles playing in the Cavern Club in Liverpool in 1962, then there’s a scene with the Ed Sullivan Show, all the way up until they broke up in 1969.”
The show also provides historical context so the audience can feel as if they are reliving the era of The Beatles, McBurney said.
“We have three multimedia screens where the audience sees what’s going on at the time. In between or during the songs, things like the JFK assassination, Martin Luther King [Jr.] and the Civil Rights Movement, the hippie movement — to give the audience a full experience of the culture and the impact The Beatles had,” McBurney said.
When asked about the demographics of the audience, McBurney said that people of all ages come out to the show, enjoying the songs whether or not they are huge Beatles fans.
“The Beatles were a band that pretty much spanned across generations,” McBurney said. “Everyone pretty much knows The Beatles, whether or not they listen to them, they usually realize they actually know a lot of the songs. Mostly what we have [at the concert are] Beatle freaks as well as casual listeners. It tends a family affair, so we have grandparents, parents, kids and grandkids — it’s a thrill for us to see an eight year old singing along with their grandparents, and that’s what’s so cool about The Beatles, they span generations.”
In order to prepare for the show, McBurney studied Starr through video footage and close listening.
“I started really studying [the songs], like a student might study history or something,” McBurney said. “It’s not just getting up there and jamming. It’s really about the attention to detail — really trying to recreate not only the music but the mannerisms of who I’m portraying. I spent hours and hours watching footage of Ringo. I’m trying to get the essence; he has very specific movements, I had to change the way I approach drums — he usually tended to sit pretty high. Also listening to isolated tracks, going over them with a fine-toothed comb. It’s one of those things that’s a never-ending journey.”
The fact that this show has been such a success across the world for all different age groups gives testament to the ever-present popularity of The Beatles, McBurney said, and attributing the success to the pure musical talent of the original band members.
“I think first and foremost [The Beatles’ popularity] would have to come down to the song writing of [John] Lennon and [Paul] McCartney,” McBurney said. “They were really musical geniuses, and I consider them our sort of modern day classical composers…like Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. Also just their creativity, their level of experimentation; they were seekers, trying to change up music and trying to do different things in the studio. They were just very creative influences, and they influenced each other in that way too.”
Whether you can name all 40 of The Beatles songs on the concert’s set list or you barely recognize “Here Comes the Sun,” McBurney is confident you will enjoy the show. He describes it as two hours of rock music, and listeners from all backgrounds will enjoy it in their own way.
The show will take place Thursday Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at The Morris Performing Arts Center, located in downtown South Bend. Tickets can be purchased online at MorrisCenter.org or by calling 800-537-6415. Prices range from $37.50 to $60.50, depending on proximity to the stage. Find more information about the show at LetItBeLive.com.