Local musicians ‘Go Big’ with Beatles tunes

Local musician Rick Hirsch will present the “Beatles Go Big Band” concert Dec. 1 at The State Theatre.
Local musician Rick Hirsch will present the “Beatles Go Big Band” concert Dec. 1 at The State Theatre. Photo provided

When it comes to music, there are a few contributors over the past 70 years of popular music in America who form what could be considered that base of knowledge. That, of course, not only includes but features the Beatles, whose music will be celebrated at The State Theater on Dec. 1 in what is billed as Beatles Go Big Band, this year’s incarnation of an annual event that celebrates the lives of seminal American musicians, and is co-produced by The State Theater and local musician Rick Hirsch.

“It has been standing room only every year,” Hirsch said. “Recent concerts have celebrated the life and music of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and the State’s first decade as a regional performing arts venue.”

It’s a great thing that’s happening in our community, and one of a handful of truly great shows The State Theater has been producing over the past few years, starting with the theater’s awesome fall a few years ago that featured Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Cabinet, Lucinda Williams, Los Lobos and Keller Williams, among other standout acts.

As good as the headliner music has been at The State Theater, the local music has been equally as good, as is evidenced by The Return of the Native Sons and Daughters series, the Strawberry Fields benefits that feature local musicians covering songs of seminal musical acts, and, for this event, The Beatles Go Big Band co-production with Hirsch.

“This is a great opportunity to present some of our region’s finest musicians on the best concert stage in town,” Hirsch said. “This year’s featured vocal soloists are Ted McCloskey, Elizabeth Webb, Eric Ian Farmer, Noah Figlin, Erin Condo, Natalie Race and Tommy Wareham. The 17-piece Zeropoint Big Band serves as the house orchestra.”

So, it’s clearly an all-star local lineup. I haven’t experienced shows by Webb or the Zeropoint Big Band, but I’ve had the pleasure of catching McCloskey, Farmer, Figlin, Condo, Race, Wareham and Hirsch, and they are all fantastic. We’re blessed to have them here in our community, and to have them collaborating in this way is a local music fan’s dream come true.

“One really unique aspect of this concert is (I work) closely with each of the vocal soloists to write custom arrangements of their favorite Beatles tunes,” Hirsch said. “You can hear your favorite local singers performing classic music in a new setting.”

According to Hirsch, it’s all possible because of the combination of local talent and nothing short of one of the largest and certainly most celebrated catalog of songs in American popular music.

“The Beatles songbook is very rich,” Hirsch said. “Their melodies are strong, harmonies are inventive, lyrics are smart, and sonic palette is eclectic. And, like the Great American Songbook (Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, etc), the Beatles music holds up well when presented in a new way.”

Lastly, although it’s not quite a revolution, Hirsch feels confident there will be something for every bird that can sing at this show, including Beatles fans, Big Band and jazz fans and local music fans.

“Beatles fans will love the fresh interpretations of these great tunes,” Hirsch said. “Big Band and jazz fans will dig the sound of this great band. And local music fans will get to hear their favorite performers in a dynamite setting.”

The Beatles Go Big Band concert will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 1. Visit thestatetheatre.org for more information.

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.