Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 16, 2014

SSO's Sgt. Pepper's/Beatles Tribute

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA
October 13, 2014
by Eric Sutter

An undertaking of such magnitude as the sophisticated rock and pop of "Sgt. Pepper" in combination with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra was completely adaptable on a grand scale. Peter Brennan's "Jeans 'n Classics" groups' concept of this combination proved admirable in Springfield. Along with the group, vocalist Jean Meiller sang superb arrangements with a fun spirit. Meiller possessed a robust timbre that provided many comfortable memories to an appreciative audience. The band began with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" with two female backup vocalists in Kathryn Rose and Leah Salomaa. By the time of the orchestral sweep of "She's Leaving Home,” many nice high notes were hit with fine musical accompaniment by keyboardist John Regan. The rhythm section was tight and effective.

At times, some electric guitar passages were not audible enough. As a whole, the carnival ambience sound of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" and the jaunty "Lovely Rita" were fabulous and provided high entertainment. Group founder Peter Brennan supplied a unique psychedelic vocal sound to "Within You, Without You" with familiar tabla sounding drum parts. Paul McCartney's "When I'm 64" had the audience singing along. The orchestral strings built a crescendo of dramatic musical tension on "A Day in the Life" to its astonishing climax and release for the end of the first half.

The second portion brought the harmonic joy of the Springfield Symphony Chorus, under direction by Nikki Stoia, performing the John Lennon solo classic "(Just Like) Starting Over." A nicely played acoustic guitar intro by Brennan signaled "Across The Universe." Excellent orchestra string work propelled "Eleanor Rigby" to majesty. The George Harrison song "My Sweet Lord" was out shown by a melodic mimic of slide guitar by Dave Dunlop. "Because" featured the lovely dream-like harmonies of the Symphony Chorus. The scope and unimpaired brilliance of their inventive sound was impressive. The group dazzled with the Beatles, classic rock of "The Long and Winding Road" and "Let It Be" for an exhilarated finale. Vocalist Meiller shared an intimate encore with a warm rendition of Ringo's "Goodnight."