Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ turns 50: Community musical tribute coming to Mishler
A half-century after the Beatles blew fans’ minds with one of the most psychedelic musical albums ever produced, a tribute concert celebrating “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is coming to the Mishler Theatre in Altoona.
“It Was 50 Years Ago Today!” is being presented by Altitude Entertainment and P&J Productions in association with Forever Media on May 26, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets at $15 each are available at the Mishler Theatre box office.
“It’ll be a rocking time,” said Will Jones, one of the producers. “If you love the Beatles, that’s the place to be, for all generations. It’s a community musical tribute.”
He said the first act will cover the music from the entire album, and a second act will have “greatest-hit type songs” from the Beatles. Short narrations will be interspersed from Beatles expert and former Penn State Altoona professor Kenneth Womack, as well as interpretive dance numbers from the Allegheny Ballet Company.
Besides Jones, vocalists for the show are Aislinn Feathers, David Misera, Steve Oswald, Tyne Palazzi, Matt Pletcher and Rick Wertz, the show’s musical director. The Altitude Rock Ensemble, which was specifically put together for this show, consists of Wertz on the guitar, Harold Hayford and David Villani on the keyboards, Jason Feathers on guitar, Randy Rutherford on bass and Eric Wertz on the drums.
“These are some of the best local musicians in the area,” Jones said.
Wertz, who plays in several local bands, said he enlisted local musicans who were fans of the Beatles and already familiar with their music.
“I started playing the guitar, like 10 million other boys who saw the Ed Sullivan show when the Beatles played for the first time” on television in 1964, Wertz said.
He said he followed their music and read books about the Beatles and remained impressed in particular with the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album.
“It was such a stripped-down basic method of recording back then, and they didn’t have a lot to work with, but they came up with the epic album that stunned everyone,” Wertz said.
Jones said he was listening to music from the album earlier this year when it occurred to him that the music was 50 years old and should be part of the farewell season of P&J Productions, of which Jones is a partner.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have a community tribute to it?'” he said.
Jones said he immediately reached out to Womack, who has written several books on the Beatles, including “The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four” and “New Critical Perspectives on the Beatles.” Womack’s next book, “Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Early Years, 1926-1966),” will be published in September.
A former senior associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State Altoona, Womack now is dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University in New Jersey.
At the concert, he said he will discuss the “lasting, transformative power of the Beatles’ words and music, especially in terms of the extraordinary achievement” of the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album.
It “is still resounding as a cultural touchstone even five decades later,” Womack said. “Theatergoers should revel in the pure joy of the Beatles’ music, which will be on full display during the upcoming production at the Mishler. It will be an opportunity to enjoy the magic and majesty of such enduring songs as ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ and ‘A Day in the Life,’ central compositions in the history of pop music.”
Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.
If you go
What: A Community Musical Tribute Concert celebrating “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
When: 7:30 p.m. May 26
Where: Mishler Theatre, Altoona
Admission: $15, plus box office fee
Tickets: Mishler Box Office: (814) 944-9434 or www.mishlertheatre.org