By Faith Duarte
Last June, when the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio and 12 local bands collaborated to perform their rendition of Radiohead’s epic 1997 “OK Computer” album, the event was highly regarded as one of the city’s top music events of the year, because it integrated aspring young classical musicians with a sampling of the different flavors of the city’s music scene, recreating one of the most solid rock albums of the last 20 years.
Fast forward nine months later, and expectations were just as high for YOSA Music Director Troy Peters, the 59-piece youth philharmonic orchestra and a dozen groups performing March 14 at Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. They were about to follow up on recreating that magic from last summer, but this time with The Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” considered one of the most classic greatest rock albums of the 20th century from arguably one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
After the success of OK Computer, Peters, who has been conducting YOSA since 2009, felt that Abbey Road was the “perfect” next project for the orchestra “because of its stylistic variety and the opportinities it offers to feature the orchestra.”
Excitement and anticipation lingered in the air while throngs of attendants–dressed in either business casual or Beatles T-shirts and sneakers–waited in the foyer of the auditorium for the almost sold-out concert to start. A mother chatting with two others before the show told them that her child, one among the philharmonic, rehearsed for the past three days in a row, including one more final run-through earlier that day.
And indeed, did they deliver. Despite few minor technical difficulties, Abbey Road Live was majorly successful for everyone involved, paying homage to musicians who made an incalculable impact western music and pop culture. For many of those taking witness, the closest one could get to actually experiencing the Fab Four live without seeing any cover band. Or perhaps the Fab Five?
The project was dedicated in memory of longtime Beatles producer Sir George Martin, who had passed away less than a week before at the age of 90.
Considered by many as the “Fifth Beatle,” Martin used his expertise in classical music to arrange some orchestrations of their material, including “Eleanor Rigby” and “Penny Lane.” After getting hired at EMI in 1950 as an assistant to the president of the then-insignificant Parlophone Records, he became the new head of the imprint five years later, and produced primarily comedy records and recorded classical music. In 1962, Brian Epstein, The Beatle’s manager, who had discovered the band during its residency at The Cavern in Liverpool, was struggling to get the band signed to a label, having just been rejected from Decca Records. Epstein gave Martin a song demo they had previously recorded at Decca. Martin, whose expertise at the time was primarily in classical music, was initially unimpressed. However, he was intrigued by Epstein’s tenacity, and assigned them their first recording audition before signing them in June of that year.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
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