It’s been more than 40 years since the official breakup of The Beatles, yet their music endures today, with each generation bringing a new crop of listeners along to discover the magic for themselves. The sheer power of that musican incredible catalog of more than 200 songs, composed and recorded in less than a decade lies in both its diversity and timeless quality. And for those very reasons, the original rock band was at the same time a perfect choice and a very challenging assignment for Maestro Bob Lappin and the Palm Beach Pops for their 19th season debut.
While the Kravis Center opener Friday night was for the most part enjoyable — with assistance from the Grammy award-winning vocal group The Nylons and stellar performances by several Pops regulars — there were a fair share of misses served up with the hits.
Charts obtained from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra provided a more than credible foundation from which to work, but an overall lack of energy in their interpretation allowed the magic to spark only in sporadic moments throughout the evening.
The orchestra opened with a Beatle medley that included hints of those small doses to come: the string section, led by Concert Master Mary Lowell and principal cellist Cornelia Brubeck, nailed the passion of Eleanor Rigby, and the horns turned Paul McCartney’s lesser-known, flapper-flavored Honey Pie into an all-out Dixieland romp. After a rather flat reading of the zippy two-step Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Lappin followed up with a tasteful spin on a solo piano introduction to the classic Yesterday, bringing in the rest of the group — and a beautiful layer of strings — on the second pass.
Unfortunately, outside of a neat take of George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun, The Nylons’ performance never really took off in the first half, with a few dropped lyrics, missed cues and some out-of-sync choreography. But this Canadian quartet can definitely sing, and they proved that in spades after the intermission.
The second half opened with the Sgt. Pepper Suite, a medley of tunes from the landmark 1967 LP that brought a number of highlights: the orchestra captured all of the carnival whimsy of Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, Brubeck returned for a simply gorgeous duet with bassoonist Laura Winters on the melancholy ballad, She’s Leaving Home, and then the cellist carried the melody on John Lennon’s iconic A Day in the Life.
Then each of The Nylons took a solo turn, and some of these numbers were among the strongest performances of the program. On Penny Lane, Garth Mosbaugh’s tenor was complemented by some tasty counterpoint on the piccolo trumpet by principal trumpeter Scott Melamerson, who even included the seldom heard, seven note end phrase that was left off the original hit single version by mistake. Gavin Hope sang a heartfelt Let It Be, during which the strings played Harrison’s original guitar solo note-for-note. The concert climaxed with a rousing rendition of Hey Jude that brought the audience to its feet, singing along with the familiar never-ending fade-out.
After all that excitement, the encore, All You Need Is Love, seemed like a letdown and made an already long program even longer — and therein lies the biggest problem of the evening. With such a large catalogue of material from which to choose, do we really need to hear With A Little Help From My Friends or When I’m Sixty-Four three times? While you will not be able to please every Beatles fan, certainly a more diverse song selection — or at least a little editing — would have gone a long way.
While the Pops deserves credit for attempting to cover more modern-day classics, the concert Friday night didn’t quite “come together” — albeit not for a lack of trying on the part of the musicians, which were, as always, first rate. And in the end, the program lacked that certain “something” that kept the evening from being as Fab as it could have been.