Next month, Beatlemania will be grabbing ahold of Skidmore College once again—and this time, with an eye to The Beatles’ swan song albums. Skidmore’s annual, student-run Beatles tribute concert, Beatlemore Skidmania, is returning to the college’s Arthur Zankel Music Center for three Beatles-packed performances, spanning from Friday, November 22 through Saturday, November 23, where albums Abbey Road and Let It Be will get the covers treatment.
Now in its 19th year, Beatlemore has annually paid tribute to the Fab Four—i.e. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr—by playing songs from the iconic English band’s popular catalog. And this year’s series of covers will be focusing in on The Beatles’ final years as a band. “What we’re really doing is representing the Beatles in 1969,” says Joel Brown, distinguished artist-in-residence at Skidmore. (Brown also teaches guitar there and serves as Beatlemore’s director.) “It’s kind of a 50th-anniversary show, because both of those albums were recorded in 1969, even though Let It Be came out in 1970,” he says. The setlist for this year’s Beatlemore was finalized only a few days ago, and will include a bevy of hits from Abbey Road, including “Come Together,” “Something” and “Oh Darling”; as well as a handful of tunes from Let It Be, such as “The Long and Winding Road” and an as-yet-unnamed grand finale, which Brown isn’t giving away just yet.
All songs at Beatlemore are interpreted and performed by Skidmore student ensembles, and this year’s concert will include 14 campus acts, with musical styles ranging from rock to a cappella. For example, one group will perform George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” as a vocal duet and another have created a string band arrangement, complete with fiddle and upright bass, for one of The Beatles’ shortest tunes, “Maggie Mae.”
In addition to being a Beatles tribute concert, Beatlemore’s also a fundraiser for Skidmore Cares, a campus-wide initiative that encourages students to find creative ways of contributing to local charities. “We have a lot of fun, but we’re also able to raise a fair amount of money and do some good,” says Brown.
The first Beatlemore show (then called “All Together Now”) was staged in November 2001, as the spontaneous result of a Beatles seminar taught by Dr. Gordon Thompson, then-chair of Skidmore’s music department. “I think that the coincidence of 9/11 and the death of George Harrison at the end of November lent poignancy to that first show,” says Thompson. “It functioned as a kind of emotional release, but that’s not how it originated. It was a way for students to play music that the Music Department otherwise didn’t support.” Brown officially took over as director of Beatlemore just last year (he previously served as co-director), and it’s definitely a dream job for him. “My musical life literally changed forever when I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was eight years old,” says Brown. Not only did Brown grow up with the Fab Four’s music, but years later, with his own burgeoning music career behind him, he had the opportunity to record with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios—and meet Paul McCartney while there. “I was playing with Chris Brubeck’s Triple Play, and Paul McCartney just happened to be there recording,” recalls Brown. “It was pure coincidence—the staff said that he never came there anymore. And when he asked me what I played, I said, ‘I play guitar because of you.'”
Even with Beatlemore’s 2019 show a little over a month away, Brown says he’s already planning next year’s show, which will be Beatlemore’s big 20th anniversary. For the 2020 program, Brown’s planning on taking the concert back to its roots. “It’s going to be the sky’s the limit—any Beatles song, any album, any style,” he says. “That’s the way it was at the very first show—you could do whatever you wanted.”
Interested in attending this year’s Beatlemore Skidmania? Tickets cost $10 and are currently available here.