Arts & Culture

Jazzed for the Beatles: Concert re-imagines famous tunes

Friends University jazz groups to perform Beatles classics

Lisa Hittle is leading members of the Friends University big band and jazz band classes through a show of jazzy arrangements of some classic songs from the Beatles. (Oct. 20, 2016/Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle)
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Lisa Hittle is leading members of the Friends University big band and jazz band classes through a show of jazzy arrangements of some classic songs from the Beatles. (Oct. 20, 2016/Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle)

Beatles fans have heard “Eleanor Rigby” a zillion times. But have they heard it with a Latin beat?

They know they like “Blackbird.” But might they like it just as well re-imagined as a funk tune with a samba flair?

Fans can get an idea of what the famous band’s hits might have sounded like had they been jazz musicians rather than 1960s pop stars when Friends University puts on an inventive show called “Jazz Meets the Beatles.” The show will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday in Sebits Auditorium inside the Riney Fine Arts Center at Friends.

The show will be performed by Friends’ two big bands as well as its vocal ensemble, and it will offer jazzy arrangements of hits like “Help,” “Day Tripper” and “Come Together.” The performers will dress in 1960s-era costumes, and anyone who attends the concert in a similar costume will get in free.

Lisa Hittle, Friends’ director of jazz, said she formulated the idea after hearing a jazz arrangement of “Eleanor Rigby” at least year’s Kansas Music Educators Association all-state jazz concert.

“It was really cool, and I thought, ‘Hmm. I bet I could find a lot of jazz charts on Beatles tunes,’ ” she said. “I got a whole new appreciation for their music. Those guys wrote almost 300 songs, and that’s pretty amazing. Some of them were pretty complex.”

Hittle said she was a little young to appreciate the Beatles at the height of their popularity. And when she polled her students at the beginning of the semester, half admitted to never having heard some of the Beatles’ original recordings.

She asked them to listen and also raid their grandparents’ closets and thrift stores for 1960s garb. The more her students have learned about the band, she said, the more excited they have become.

Hittle said she wants the concert to feel like a party, which is why she’s offering free admission to those who dress the part.

She said people in the audience will definitely recognize the melodies of the songs, and fans will appreciate the unique take on them.

“I always say that good music, no matter what kind of music it is, stands the test of time. And those tunes have stood the test of time.”

Denise Neil: 316-268-6327, @deniseneil

Jazz meets The Beatles

What: A concert by Friends University jazz students featuring jazz arrangements of famous Beatles songs

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24

Where: Sebits Auditorium inside Riney Fine Arts Center, Friends University, 2100 W. University

Tickets: Free admission to those dressed in 1960s costumes, $9 for adults, $6 for seniors and students. Available by calling 316-295-5677.

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