In a tiny box-like room deep inside Tacoma’s Ted Brown Building, four young musicians are rehearsing a classic string motif. No, it’s not Mozart or Beethoven. It’s the sharp minor staccato of “Eleanor Rigby,” with a cello singing the familiar Beatles tune. The string quartet from the Tacoma School of the Arts is taking a break from classical to play classic rock onstage at the Rialto on Friday (Oct. 16) with the touring Beatles tribute show “In My Life” — and they’re loving it.
“It’s really cool,” says cellist Julian Bennett, 17. “We heard about the opportunity (to play with the show) over summer, but I didn’t realize what a big deal it was.”
This SOTA quartet — including Madeline Meek and Emily Hutchinson on violin and Abbie Foulon on viola — is a recent combination, a chamber music class that starts in fall and culminates with a December concert and the statewide solo and ensemble competition in January.
But it’s not your average group of teenagers: Most have professional musicians in their family. Bennett’s father is the dean of the School of Arts and Communication at Pacific Lutheran University, and his mother is the violist of nationally-touring string quartet Carpe Diem. All play at a high level, performing in the Tacoma Youth Symphony and the Second City Chamber Players series.
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But for this week, they’re replacing the headlong sixteenth notes of the third movement of Dohnanyi’s String Quartet no. 3 with songs their parents loved: “A Day in the Life,” “Hey Jude,” “Eleanor Rigby” and the sad, organ-like chords of “Yesterday.”
Dressed in black, they’ll join the actors of “In My Life” as the recreate the Beatles story with costumes, multimedia and vintage instruments, told through the eyes of manager Brian Epstein. The show, featuring Chris Paul Overall as Paul, Nathaniel Bott as John, Zak Schaffer as George and Axel Clarke as Ringo, along with tribute band Abbey Road, has toured for years, hailed by critics as the most original Beatles tribute.
The song “Yesterday,” for instance, is played as a scene where McCartney plays the song for producer George Martin, describing the string quartet accompaniment he’s envisioning.
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Wherever the show goes, it recruits a local string quartet to add that layer of sound.
And while playing in a 700-seat house with a professional rock band is still a little intimidating, says Foulon, it’s an exciting thing to do, especially as the quartet members are Beatles fans themselves.
“It’s so much different than what (we’re) used to playing,” says Bennett.
IF YOU GO
What: “In My Life – A musical theater tribute to the Beatles.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday (Oct. 16).
Where: Rialto Theater, 310 S. Ninth St., Tacoma.
Information: 253-591-5894, broadwaycenter.org.