Imagine a concert uniting the solo careers of the members of one of history’s most legendary bands, and you’ll have just what the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic plans to offer at its next pops concert.
The orchestra will present “Imagine: The Beatles Solo Years” on Saturday, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. in F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre. Guests artists Joe Boucher, Christopher Eastburn, Gary Backstrom and Steve Hodgkin will join the philharmonic for the night, conducted by Mélisse Brunet, interim music director.
“There’s a lot of Beatles tribute bands out there, and none of them have really focused on this music,” said Nancy Sanderson, the philharmonic’s executive director. “And there’s just such good music that this particular group that’s coming in to perform with the orchestra decided it was time to (do) that approach to looking at the Beatles. There’s so many wonderful titles that will be performed.”
Those songs include Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Live and Let Die” (which he performed with his other group, Wings), Ringo Starr’s “Photograph,” John Lennon’s “Imagine” and George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” among many others.
When it came to bringing in Portland Symphony Orchestra-affiliated Boucher and his group, Sanderson said, the orchestra knew a good thing when it saw one.
“He did the ‘Piano Men’ (concert) two years ago here, and that featured the music of Billy Joel and Elton John,” she said. “People went wild. They just loved him.”
The concert comes just a couple days after Valentine’s Day, too, making it an opportunity for audience members to include it in a belated celebration.
“What’s great is that there are so many restaurants nearby that either before or afterward it could just be a wonderful date,” Sanderson said.
The audiences for the orchestra’s pops and masterworks concerts tend to differ, Sanderson said, but the pops concerts can help the orchestra grow its audience for future shows.
“Some of the people who come to the pops concerts say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize I liked live symphonic music so much,’ and then they start coming to the masterworks concerts,” she said. “The pops concerts, in addition to being great entertainment, are a way to expose this music to more audience members.”
Things also have been going well for the orchestra this season, its first since suspending operations for 2017-18 so it could develop a plan to stay financially viable, Sanderson noted.
“We are definitely back on our feet, and we have a five-year strategic plan that has been working so far,” she said. “We’ve been able to address some of our debts, and by the end of year two of the strategic plan, we will have addressed all of our debts.
“The strategic plan really has been designed so that every step of the way we can determine how big of a season this community can support. And what’s been really encouraging is that community members and businesses have not withdrawn their support. They’re really stepping up and sticking with us, and so the message that we’re getting is that people want the orchestra here.”