A Q&A with Glen Burtnik about Jersey Beatles Bash V coming to the State Theatre on Sat., July 23 at 8pm
Q: What can the audience expect to see different at this year’s Beatles Bash?
A: Enhanced orchestration. I pretty much know all Beatles albums by heart. And so before I carefully went over it, I originally—and absent mindedly—thought doing a note-for-note performance of Revolver could be fairly straight forward, executed by a simple ‘rock band’ (just bass, a few guitarists, pianos, and drums backing the vocals) as the Revolver album seemed to feature somewhat straight ahead, uncluttered arrangements.
But then I remembered “Eleanor Rigby”, the one and only song on the album with a string section. A song that’s a big fat landmark in the marriage of pop music and classical arranging. A masterpiece for sure.
Now, I love working with live strings and have grown fond of the group of players I’ve been working with—a quartet consisting of violinists Dana Marchioni, Linda Heffentrager, Taylor Hope and cellist James Celestino.
Upon informing them of my plans to tackle “Eleanor Rigby”, violinists Dana & Linda appealed to me that we go the distance with this important song and do it for real. To me, this would mean using the absolute correct orchestration (on the record, George Martin had arranged it for 8 strings: 4 violins, 2 violas, and 2 cellos).
Loving such enthusiasm, I took the bait, deciding to expand the string section by double. But upon going through the process of hiring eight classical string players to play for only one tune seemed an inefficient use of musicians (or kinda stupid, as we rock musicians would say).
Instead of missing an opportunity, since I’ll have all these cellists, violinists, and viola players hanging around backstage with nothing to play all evening except “Eleanor Rigby”, I figure let’s add some of the more orchestrated Beatles material to the show. It seemed a good idea to include other, more ambitious productions. The bigger, more classical & symphonic songs like “She’s Leaving Home”, “Yesterday” and “The Long And Winding Road,” “Across The Universe” as well as the wilder “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “All You Need Is Love,” “I Am The Walrus,” and “A Day In The Life.
Of course, once I got the ball rolling in such a direction, it behooved me to assemble a large horn section (featuring James Egan) and a 25 voice female choir. This music deserves 100% effort and the audience certainly deserves such as well. This event is as much a celebration as anything, and I’m planing to fill the State Theatre with the sound and passion of 40 musicians all joyfully performing this amazing music from the soundtrack of our lives.
Q: How was it different preparing for this with Revolver as opposed to other Beatles albums?
A: The Beatles began experimenting during the making of this 45-year-old album. George Harrison delved much deeper into his eastern influence with “Love You To,” a song featuring Indian instrumentation of sitar and tabla. Then there’s the beautiful French Horn of “For No One.”
And most importantly, there’s the avant gard “Tomorrow Never Knows”—an iconic breakthrough for rock music, featuring tape loops, and guitars played backwards.
Q: What is your favorite Revolver song?
A: Very difficult to say, as it’s such an interesting album. “Good Day Sunshine” makes me happy.
Q: How has Beatles Bash evolved over the years?
A: Each year the stakes are higher, at least in my mind. It is a self imposed task to try to recreate this classic music as meticulously as possible, and with each year I strive a little harder to get closer to this “holy grail” type journey. We, my fellow musicians and I, up the ante a bit each time—we get into more and more heated discussions about how each sound was produced. We’re truly music nerds about this material, and each brings their own knowledge and research to the table. There’s a sort of competition and because of this, the attention to detail grows each time.
I’ve been approaching each year as an Anniversary. In 2007 it had been 50 years since Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. 2008 was the 50th birthday of what’s known as The White Album, 2009 was the anniversary of Abbey Road’s release. Each year we performed those albums. And since last year it had been 50 years since Let It Be and 45 years since both Help! and Rubber Soul (both came out in ’65) we performed all three.
But here’s the real deal; as our musical drive and ambition for perfecting this great music has grown in intensity, so has the audience. The evenings have become a bit of a love fest—attended by both aficionados and music fans all sharing my passion for what is truly some of the most important, powerful and beautiful music ever made.
For tickets to Jersey Beatles Bash V with Glen Burtnik & Friends on July 23, 2011, visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/jersey_beatles_bash_v