What is it about the Beatles? Boston U. prof explores Fab Four


LENOX - Four decades after Beatlemania swept the world, the groundbreaking group of four mop-top lads from Liverpool continues to fascinate music lovers of all ages.

The reasons for the Beatles' genre-defying appeal will be explored this Sunday in a multimedia presentation at the Lenox Library by Boston University music professor Jeremy Yudkin, a Stockbridge resident.

Yudkin's expertise extends from medieval and renaissance music to Western art music in all its forms, as well as jazz and rock. He specializes in the connections among music, culture, history and social forces.

The event, a fundraiser for the Lenox Library, is at 4 p.m. on June 22. Suggested donation for "The Beatles, the Sixties and Popular Culture" is $15 per person or $20 per family.

Having offered a variety of Beatles-themed programs for the past few years, on this occasion his aim is "to show people why the music of the Beatles is so great, not just say that it is, but try to point out specific musical aspects."

Yudkin plans to examine specific songs and their relation to the volatile 1960s, using audio and video interviews and clips of live performances.

"It's the Beatles' story from before they came to the States," said Yudkin, who grew up in London around the corner from the Fab Four's Abbey Road recording studio. "Most people think they started on the 'Ed Sullivan Show' in 1964."

"Beatlemania hit so quickly, they became immensely popular, so fast," he observed. "The fact that kids still listen to the Beatles now, generation after generation of people who love the music so much, that was inconceivable at the time."

If you go:

What: "Beethoven and Bonaparte"
When: Saturday, June 21, 10:30 to noon.
Where: BCC, Koussevitzky Arts Center, Room K-111.
Admission/info: Tickets $10 (OLLI members), $15 (non-members) in advance or at the door. Email: OLLI@berkshirecc.edu or (413) 236-2190. Berkshire OLLI website

What: "The Beatles, the Sixties, and Popular Culture."
When: Sunday, June 22, 4 p.m.
Where: Lenox Library, 18 Main St.
Admission/info: Suggested donation, $15 ($20 for families). (413) 637-2630. Lenox Library website

What: Tanglewood Pre-Concert Lectures
When: Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 to 4, July 5-Aug. 23.
Where: Lenox Library.
Admission/info: $10 per session in advance or at the door. Email: YudkinJaf@gmail.com

Yudkin will explore how the arrival of the Beatles in the U.S. helped heal a still-grieving nation just three months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

"I think that was terribly important," he said. "Americans and everybody needed some joie de vivre."

Added Yudkin, "I also talk about the way the music is put together, why the music is as good as it is." The songs he examines span the group's 10-year career up to their 1970 breakup, including "Love Me Do," "P.S. I Love You," "Eleanor Rigby," "A Hard Day's Night" and "Come Together."

How does Yudkin account for his wide-ranging interests encompassing so many genres of music?

"I think music is so miraculous that it's a pity to close off any parts of it," said Yudkin. "I want to understand how all kinds work."

During his 30 years at BU, he has developed 40 different courses - medieval and renaissance music, Bach, Beethoven and Bartok, a history of rock, a "wildly oversubscribed" Beatles class and another on jazz.

"I think music has so much to offer that I don't want to miss out on any of it," Yudkin said. But he has encountered resistance at times: It took 15 years to gain approval for his Beatles course from the College of Fine Arts.

"There are people who think that students listen to rock music all the time anyway, and we should be spending more time on only art music," he said.

"You can't compare Beethoven and the Beatles, because they inhabit two different worlds," Yudkin said. "So one has to understand that music fits into particular genres, and one needs to compare them with other rock or pop musicians. Within that world, their music is absolutely superb."

He tours his program regionally - so far, twice for BU's Alumni Association and for a One Day University presentation in Philadelphia. He will be presenting it in New York City this fall, followed by other cities.

Also this weekend, Yudkin will present his annual lecture for OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at BCC. The topic on Saturday from 10:30 to noon at the Koussevitzky Arts Center, Room K-111, is "Beethoven and Bonaparte: Friends, Foes or Frenemies." Tickets are $10 for OLLI members and $15 for the general public, available at the door.

"What Beethoven admired about Napoleon was that he was a great general, a great strategist," said Yudkin, "That's what Beethoven does, he's also a supreme strategist, deciding how to open a piece, planning out the trajectory in great detail and constantly refining it."

Beginning on Saturday, July 5, Yudkin will present his 31st annual Tanglewood Pre-Concert Lectures, given on Friday and Saturday afternoons from 2:30 to 4 at the Lenox Library. He said he has reduced the price to $10 per session "as cheap as possible."

Based on previews of the weekend's concerts at the Boston Symphony's summer home, Yudkin described the series as "aimed at people who love music, they need to have no musical knowledge whatsoever. I pride myself on being able to talk about music to everybody."

To contact Clarence Fanto: cfanto@yahoo.com or (413) 637-2551. On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


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