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Classical Mystery Tour featured at music festival

The Classical Mystery Tour — a Beatles tribute band — features, from top, Tony Kishman as Paul McCartney, Jim Owen as John Lennon, Chris Camilleri as Ringo Starr and David John as George Harrison.
The Classical Mystery Tour — a Beatles tribute band — features, from top, Tony Kishman as Paul McCartney, Jim Owen as John Lennon, Chris Camilleri as Ringo Starr and David John as George Harrison.

NATCHEZ — Fifty years after they launched an invasion into the United States, the British — or at least their impersonators — are coming again.

The headline event of this year’s Natchez Festival of Music is “All You Need is Love,” a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America. The group The Classical Mystery Tour will perform the show on May 10.

Natchez Festival of Music Artistic Director Jay Dean said the Classical Mystery Tour performance will likely be the largest event the festival has ever presented.

“They are absolutely the best in the business,” he said. “They are top-drawer musicians, they look, sound and perform just like the Beatles, they talk like the Beatles, they have the same accents and they play all over the world.”

The appeal of the Beatles is more than just that of a pop and rock music group, Dean said.

“I was at one of the Beatles first concerts in the U.S. in 1964 at Fulton Stadium in Atlanta,” he said. “I didn’t know who the Beatles were, but my parents bought me tickets; I went and they changed the world. The Beatles are more than a band, they are a global phenomenon.

“John Lennon and Paul McCartney have written music that the world will never forget. They are iconic figures, and they have a permanent place in history — not just music history, but global history.”

This is a chance to be a part in the global Beatles phenomenon, Dean said, which even now is garnering new fans.

“This is Natchez’s chance to participate in that and the celebration of these musicians who literally changed the world of music,” he said. “There hasn’t been anything like the Beatles since (they ended).”

Natchez Festival of Music Chair Mary Lessley said the festival has been very fortunate to be able to book The Classical Mystery Tour.

“When people heard we were going to do (the Beatles show), they were asking, ‘When will tickets go on sale, because I want front row seats,’” Lessley said.

The Festival of Music will also feature “A Night at the Oscars” its opening weekend, which will begin with a red carpet reception at the Historic Natchez Foundation followed by a performance of the greatest songs of Hollywood at First Presbyterian Church.

“We will actually have red carpet out in the street,” Lessley said. “It will be a grand entrance.”

The song performances will be musical numbers that either won an Academy Award or were nominated for an Academy Award, Dean said, including iconic tunes such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “The Way You Look Tonight.”

“The show has 15 musical numbers, and we will be starting with the song for the first year the Oscar for music was given and stopping in 1941,” Dean said. “It is a style of show that, if it is successful, we will do five or six versions of it in future years, doing ‘Night at the Oscars II’ and ‘Night at the Oscars III’ each year until we work our way up to the song that won the award last month.’”

The festival will also have a performance of “HMS Pinafore,” the Gilbert and Sullivan comedy.

“There is some really wonderful talent headed our way,” he said.

Lessley said the HMS Pinafore performance will be the first performance in the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center since the crew for Tate Taylor’s James Brown biopic “Get On Up” converted the auditorium into a set meant to resemble the famed Apollo Theater.

“When you walk into the auditorium, it doesn’t feel like a high school auditorium anymore, you feel like you are in a beautiful theater,” she said.