Mon, July 22

Beatlemania Live rocks the house in Cottonwood (with photo gallery)

The tag line for this show is Relive "The Beatles" story and music, and that is right on!

Four young men have perfected their re-creations of the sights and sounds that mesmerized America for a decade after The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

Young folks, 20-ish in 1964 are today's 70-ish population. Many of them turned out for the final presentation of the season from the Verde Valley Concert Association at the Mingus Union High School Auditorium on Saturday evening, May 7. And for a couple hours they were transported back in time to those raucous days of rock 'n' roll music and the frenzied awakening of America's youth to political activism and participation.

Beatlemania Live consists of four musicians who have apparently studied the performances of the original group and they accurately use every element of the arrangements and nuances of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Even the body language of each one is an exact imitation of the original counterpart. The equipment - the instruments and the stage settings - are duplicates of those used back then. Robert Ruffing, Paul in the show, learned to play the guitar left-handed to correctly replicate the image of Paul McCartney.

With all that, the music was the thing. For about two hours, Beatlemania Live was so strong an evocation of the music of our youth that the audience was continuously rocking and swaying in their seats. Indeed, there were quite a number of people, seniors, adults, children dancing in the aisles. When have we ever seen that in a concert at MUHS?

Many of the Beatles' most popular songs delighted the audience: I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Yesterday, A Ticket to Ride, She Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, were just a few of the first act numbers that are most familiar. The auditorium exploded when they did Twist and Shout. Everybody in the building was up on their feet twisting and loudly shouting.

In the second half, the four came out in costumes that were used by the Beatles in the Sergeant Pepper era, and they sang numbers from those albums: Penny Lane, Lonely Hearts Band. Solo pieces were included: Ringo doing Yellow Submarine and A Little Help from My Friends, George with Something, and John doing his post-Beatle hit, Imagine. There wasn't a dull moment anywhere in the show.

Robert Ruffing as Paul was the emcee and narrator for most of the show. The other roles were done by Ron McNeil as John, Jimmy Owen as George and John Preston as Ringo. Beatlemania Live has to be considered a high point among so many outstanding shows brought to us by the Verde Valley Concert Association.

By David Kanowsky

Special to The Verde Independent

The wonderful Verde Valley Voices, under the direction of the amazing Beverly Hall, presented their 14th annual spring concert May 7 at the Verde Baptist Church in Cottonwood.

The spirit of springtime was heightened by the performance of the chorus, with the additional talents of the piano accompanist, Nancy Bright, and the Cottonwood Community Band.

The program was opened with Julie Smith directing the Band in well-known music from Phantom of the Opera.

Julie then led the Band in a rousing, almost erotic, rendition of All That Jazz.

The Band finished its prelude with a medley of great tunes from My Fair Lady.

The concert by the Voices focused on the theme of gifts - gifts that are personal, or God-given, or gifts for which our gratitude is often unspoken.

The first segment was a musical tribute to America in folk songs like, This Land is My Land, Shenandoah and Dixie.

Ken Mikell, known for his great performances of music-Americana, accompanied the group on the harmonica in Home on the Range and the old western call to mend your ways, Riders in the Sky.

A moving song, Oh, How Beautiful, This Finely Woven Earth, written to commemorate the 9/11 tragedies, was followed by three hymns of thanks to the Creator. The third of those, Life's Mirror, is a poignant reminder that in life the good things we do are returned to us in like kind.

Steve Schmidt, the narrator for the Voices, introduced the last segment of the concert by paying tribute to all Americans, of all times, who have served our cause in the military.

Those who are serving or who have ever served were invited to stand up and they were hailed by thunderous applause from the audience, grateful Americans all.

That was the introduction to two patriotic hymns that were offered by the voices: Battle Hymn of the Republic and God Bless America, with accompaniment by the Community Band. The latter song brought the audience to its feet to join in the singing. Beverly Hall closed the program with the Verde Valley Voices signature song, Let There Be Peace on Earth.

The title and theme of this concert was Gifts. Certainly, creative leaders like Beverly Hall, Nancy Bright and Julie Smith are a gift and a treasure for us, the residents of the Verde Valley.

We look forward to the annual Christmas concert, with rehearsals starting in September. The Verde Valley Voices is open to anybody who wants to sing.

There is no audition and no age constraint (the youngest singer that was on stage, Joanna Westling, is 9 years old).