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Canberra Weekly Matinee Magic: Beatles in Symphony

Jolene Laverty

“We were all on this ship in the sixties. Our generation – a ship going to discover the New World. And the Beatles were in the crow’s nest of that ship.” John Lennon

With their songs ‘Yesterday’, ‘I am the Walrus’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and several other MASSIVE hits, The Beatles proved beyond all doubt that rock music and classical instrumentation work extremely well together. Yet, in much the same way that many will at first reject the idea of mixing Vegemite and avocado, the unlikely combination of rock and classics had The Beatles’ Paul McCartney come close to putting his foot down, which he explains on his blog.

“…The time I brought the song ‘Yesterday’ to a recording session… George Martin said to me, “Paul I have an idea of putting a string quartet on the record”. I said, “Oh no George, we are a rock and roll band and I don’t think it’s a good idea”

George Martin believed that a string section would add an emotional quality to the melancholy lyrics that would otherwise be missing, and so coaxed McCartney into at least giving the musical experiment a go, which the author of ‘The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four’ Professor Kenneth Womack describes as ‘daring’:

“Martin clearly heard something different in the unpolished, stage-honed thrashings of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. With his guidance, the Beatles dared to experiment with their sound, to revivify it with irony and nostalgia, to adorn it with a string quartet, a full-blown orchestra, and even a sitar.”

Of course, the tremendous results from this unusual pairing are well documented in the annals of rock and pop history – ‘Yesterday’ went on to become one of the world’s most covered songs, with recording having been made in a gazillion different ways; including this smooth cover by Frank Sinatra , this bluesy cover by Ray Charles , this soulful cover by Marvin Gaye, and this reggae tribute cover by Dandy Livingston which will make your ears bleed.

With so many different directions one can take when performing songs of The Beatles, how has the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Nicholas Milton AM talked the task for the Canberra Weekly Matinee Magic? For starters, Milton has programmed the biggest CSO orchestra on stage for the year thus far – so your favourite song is going to sound HUGE! The selection of songs to be played took a lot of time for Milton to choose

“I spent a lot of time picking out what I thought were the most effective orchestral realisations. In the medleys, sometimes there is a Beatles song every 45 seconds, so in this one Matinee Magic, we won’t hear every Beatles song, but you’ll surely hear most of the ones you know. It’s going to be an extraordinary experience, as the orchestral arrangements I have chosen are also outstanding.”

For the Canberra Weekly Matinee Magic ‘Beatles in Symphony’, the audience is invited to dress up in Beatles fashion, which encompasses a huge range of styles:


Sgt Pepper style Beatles (credit Michael Cooper)


Leather Clad Beatles (photo credit Albert Marrion)

Leather Clad Beatles (photo credit Albert Marrion)


German Surrealist style Beatles (Robert Whitaker)

German Surrealist style Beatles (Robert Whitaker)

Best dressed wins family passes to the 2017 Shell Prom Picnic Concert, so if you’ve ever wanted to get a natty bowl haircut, but had no real reason to do so, now is your chance!

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s Canberra Weekly Matinee Magic is on Saturday October 8 at 2pm. Get your tickets here, or call 02 6262 6772. But do be quick! Tickets are selling faster than black turtle necks circa 1963.


Jolene Laverty

Jolene Laverty was born and raised in Darwin, but has lived in Canberra for most of her adult life. She spent close to twenty years in radio, which took her to the copper outback of Port Augusta to the sparkling aquamarine waves of the Whitsundays. Today she is a member of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra*, ANU student, wife of a high-school teacher/rock-musician, and mother to three children who were each born in a different decade. *not allowed on stage. More about the Author

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