A fab4ulous Broch tribute to the Beatles

THE Beatles were so much more than just a pop group, they were musical poets who defined an age and a generation.

Like World War I poet Wilfred Owen and painter LS Lowry, who captured a moment in time with words or paint, their musical work continues to resonate and influence down the generations.

When you consider how young the Beatles were when they hit the big time, largely scarcely out of their teens, their music had a diversity and often a maturity which belied their youth.

The Beatles did it all. From upbeat pop songs like 'Love Me Do', to the pathos of 'Yesterday', their skilled story telling abilities inspired by the people and places of their youth in songs like 'Eleanor Rigby', to inspiring and uplifting anthems like 'Hey Jude'.

So it's easy to see why Fraserburgh Junior Arts stalwarts Margaret Adams and Margaret Moffat, wanted to pay their own tribute to these giants of the modern musical age, 50 years after they saw and met the fab four during their concert in the Broch.

The group, who were then called the 'Silver Beatles', were in the early stages of their musical career when they played to audiences in the Dalrymple Hall and Arts Centre on May 23, 1960.

This musical extravaganza entitled 'The Long and Winding Road', which featured a wide range of the old favourites, covering the full gamut of the group's musical abilities, was performed to local audiences on Sunday and Monday evenings.

Among those in the audience on Sunday night was Beatles historian and author Mark Lewisohn who even wrote a foreword in the programme produced to accompany the show.

He said: "That tour in May 1960 in Fraserburgh precisely 50 years ago tonight, was important in the history of the Beatles, and it's a genuine pleasure for me to be back for this celebration, in one of the very halls where it happened ... and, of course, to enjoy once more the music of the band who went on to become the biggest and best there will ever be."

The show was a real feast for Beatles fans. Probably the most difficult element of the whole thing for those involved was actually choosing a selection of their songs which typified their range.

The programme itself, designed by Fiona Buchan, features a combination of nostalgia and up-to-date information, with many old snippets and adverts from the Fraserburgh Herald in 1960, together with the Junior Arts latest exploits taking place in 2010.

Tackling such a challenge were a small team of musicians, singers and dancers varying in age from teenagers, to those in their 50s and 60s. This was fitting in two respects; echoing both the diversity of the material they were covering and proving that good music is always good music, and showing how popular Beatles music is with young folk today, even 40 years after the group disbanded.

The set for such a musical extravaganza was very simple; a black and white theme, in terms of the set and the costumes worn by the peformers. It was also interesting to watch as images from the 60s were used as a backdrop to some of the musical numbers, including various Beatles album covers and photographs of the four, images of classic cars and film posters, television programmes and other famous people from that era, as well as images of the Broch around that time.

The evening was a heady and eclectic mix featuring the whole ensemble, some showing off the talents of individuals, duets and small groups, showing the diversity and depth of talent in an organisation which also has a proud tradition of quality stretching back over half a century.

For around an hour, audiences were treated to a nostalgic, walk down that 'Long and Winding Road' of musical numbers for all tastes; some uplifting and foot-tapping and others thought-provoking, moving and emotional, and surely featuring something for everyone.

With 30 or so songs on the programme, it's impossible to mention every one, so here are a selection of my own personal favourites and highlights from the show, which I think encapsulate what the evening was trying to evoke.

There was the rich, emotional and poignant renditions of songs like 'Yesterday' 'She's Leaving Home' and 'And I Love Her' and 'Carry that Weight' led by Derek Carle or Brian Leel, which really reached into the depths of your soul.

In contast there were uplifting, happy and positive numbers like 'Oblidi Oblida' performed by three of the youngest members of the cast, Colin Clark, Laura Scott and Nicola Brown, who gave a bright and bubbly performance. Meanwhile there was the expressive and often funny partnership of Stevie Chicken and Jean Ritchie singing 'When I'm 64'.

The four young dancers - Stephanie Duthie, Rachel Gordon, Katrina Clark, Rachel Gordon - took centre stage on a couple of occasions to perform while singers and musicians took more of a back seat on numbers like 'I Saw Her Standing There' and 'Ticket to Ride'. Their enthusiasm and bright smiles, together with the slick choreography and spot on timing, really had the stage and audience bouncing.

As well as showing off their dancing talents, they also accompanied solo or group performances. Two of the highlights of these were the upbeat and cheerfully expressive performance of 'Here Comes The Sunshine', and 'Your Mama Should Know' which were the perfect choices of song for the vocal talents and cheery exterior of Gordon MacArthur, whose friendliness really invites the audiences to join in.

Although the singers were in the main taking the lead in the musical numbers, there were occasions where the musicians came out from behind the instruments to take the lead, including the beautiful and uplifting version of 'Let It Be' performed by musical director, Lynne McPherson and Andrew MacKay. They also dueted beautifully with some strong and powerful singing on 'A Little Help from my Friends' with Andrew also accompanying on guitar.

Another great couple were Colin Clark and Irene Buchan who created a really uplifting and warming version of Penny Lane, with Irene also taking up to play trumpet in between singing.

The challenging, moving and tender rendition of 'In My Life' was performed beautifully by John Currie while choreographer Angela Ellis' version of 'Eleanor Rigby' had real emotional depth and poignancy, acompanied by Laura Scott on cello.

The quality of the singing was really tested to the full with 'Nowhere Man'. But Derek, John and Gordon were more then up to the task and did a wonder harmony of this testing number, showing their range and abilities brilliantly.

But probably my absolute favourite, was 'Hey Jude'. The whole ensemble performance, led by Derek, Brian and Stevie of this real 60s anthem was abolutely amazing.

And, of course, the audience were given the chance to join in with a number of favourites, whose words were printed in the programme including 'She Loves You' and 'Twist and Shout'.

The show might have been relatively short in terms of it's length, but it really packed a punch when it came to the weight. The whole ensemble were collectively fabulous with real thought put into which artists voice and personality would best fit each number perfectly.

The versatility of the singers who picked up an instrument and the musicians who took their turn to sing, just shows that the Fraserburgh Junior Arts Society continues to be a real garden of talent, with all the different elements coming together to really bloom.

And it isn't just the people on stage who deserve much credit. The folk who do all the work behind the scenes in terms of their creative and technical expertise are to be applauded too.

And leading the whole thing were two women - the two Margarets - whose vast knowledge of the stage and their joint ability to get the best out of their cast and crew continues to inspire and enthuse every new generation of performer.