Classical Mystery Tour

Louisville Orchestra
Bob Bernhardt, conductor
Jim Owen, Tony Kishman, Robbie Berg, and Chris Camilleri, guest artists

A review by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.

I am sure that you would agree that The Beatles helped to shape the music culture as we know it today. Although famous as a rock n’ roll band, their reach can be heard in almost all popular music. As they continue to influence, they were influenced by American rhythm and blues, standards, and classical.

As we know, The Beatles used strings and horns for many of their songs, so the Classical Mystery Tour, borrowed from the song Magical Mystery Tour, is a natural progression. And what a fun tour it was.

Beginning with an orchestral rendition of In My Life, Conductor Bob Bernhardt and the Louisville Orchestra provided a satisfying amuse-bouche to an evening of some of The Beatles’ most enduring hits.

The program is billed as “note for note” recreations. While I know every one of the songs performed backward and forward, I know them from their original records that I still listen to. I heard variances from those recordings, which begs the question, did our guest artists really do things note for note?

For example, multi-instrumentalist Jim Owen and the creator of Classical Mystery Tour was clad in the iconic white suit and straight hair made famous by John Lennon and balancing guitar and piano rather fluidly. In his performance of Come Together there was a full stanza of lyrics missing, that being “One and One and One is Three, hold you in his arms till you can feel his disease.” Another sticking point was in A Day in the Life. After the lyric “looking up I noticed I was late” the scraping of the broom across the top of a snare drum was missing, but at least the alarm clock was there as was the orchestral cacophony of sound.

Speaking of orchestral sound, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band just wouldn’t be the same without the weird tuning of the orchestra and shouts of happiness and glee and clapping from the instrumentalists, which our merry music makers did with verve and fun.

While most of the pieces chosen for the evening focused on the works of Lennon and McCartney, there were some gems from George Harrison, performed solidly by Robbie Berg, who absolutely nailed Harrison’s guitar sound, especially in Something. And where would the band be without their drummer, portrayed by Chris Camilleri, who has performed with notables such as Joe Walsh and Mickey Dolenz. It was nice to hear his vocals on Ringo Starr’s Good Night, and his drum solo in Golden Slumbers was a barn burner.

Tony Kishman, in the role of Paul McCartney, had the lion’s share of the lead vocals of the evening and he delivered on all of the selections. While he didn’t play bass left-handed like Sir Paul, he had similar mannerisms, vocal inflections, and extemporaneous ad-libs, as did Jim Owen. With a rip-roaring Lady Madonna on the piano to a heart-wrenching She’s Leaving Home, the dexterity of Mr. Kishman was on full display.

Speaking of fabulous displays, let’s hear it for the trumpet solo on Penny Lane and cello for Eleanor Rigby. Essential notations and instrumentations for those songs, for sure, perfectly executed.

It was nice to see Mr. Bernhardt and the orchestra be able to take a break and enjoy the foursome as they performed a set, sans orchestral accompaniment, with Mean Mr. Mustard, Polythene Pam, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, the aforementioned Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, and The End.

Before the band’s encore of Hey Jude, complete with audience participation, Mr. Kishman sadly noted that The Beatles never had the opportunity to perform live with a full orchestra. Could you imagine? I would have camped out for tickets to such an event. 

Fortunately, we have Classical Mystery Tour that fills that void and provided a most enjoyable skip down memory lane, and allows us to hear these tunes in a new way.

Bravi Tutti!!!

Classical Mystery Tour

March 19, 2022

Louisville Orchestra
Kentucky Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.