Behind the scenes of a Beatles’ tribute concert

Above: The horns section. At right: Jim Bredouw.

The Islands’ Sounder is running a three-part series on “Across the Universe: A Celebration in Concert,” a benefit for Orcas Center. The production weaves Beatles songs into a tale of love and revolution. Directed by Grace McCune and Jake Perrine, the concert will feature the Rock on the Rock Choir, local dancers and a live band, which is profiled below. The show will run Friday and Saturday, May 8-9 and 15-16 at 7:30 p.m.

Jim Bredouw started playing the guitar in junior high school as a way to impress girls, but he soon realized that he loved the instrument. And he really loved the Beatles.

“I didn’t have a social or athletic life, so every day after school I would deconstruct the Beatles’ albums on my bass guitar,” he said. “I have many  musical influences, but the Beatles are in a whole other league.”

Bredouw and fellow musicians Martin Lund and Oliver Groenenwald have been busy working on the live band component of “Across the Universe: A Celebration in Concert” coming to Orcas Center in May. The production showcases Beatles’ songs and brings together the Rock on the Rock Choir and local dancers and musicians.

“This is community theatre at its best,” Lund said.

The performers will be backed up by Bredouw on bass, guitar and piano, Lund on keyboard, accordion and woodwinds, Lek Thixton on guitar and Jeff Horton on drums. The horn section includes Lund, Craig Canine, Dimitri and Lorena Stankevich, Gregory Books, Steve Albouc, Dennis Cullen,  Mathew Jenson and Charles Porter.

The band spent four days laying down the basic tracks in Bredouw’s studio, later recording the horn section. By creating recordings, choir members are able to practice with the band’s music without full band rehearsals. All of the musicians will perform live at the concerts.

“Going into the studio to record almost 20 songs over four nights with three guys you’ve never played with before seemed crazy,” Horton said. “Once we got started though, it all just seemed to work. Most of the recordings we did were finished in just a couple of takes, and our sessions ended so much earlier than we expected. Working with musicians of this caliber is a real treat for me, and I can’t wait to take the stage with them.”

For Bredouw and Lund, collaborating on music is nothing new. They began their life-long friendship in 1973 in a Seattle recording studio, and since then they have played together in multiple bands and sessions, been roommates several times and worked together for 11 years in Los Angeles writing music for commercials.

Bredouw says overseeing the band has been “exhausting and wonderful.”

Bredouw says coordinating the Across the Universe band has been “exhausting and wonderful.”

“Getting back in touch with my 15-year-old self has been cathartic,” he said. “For a long time I thought McCartney was more the musical visionary and Lennon more the social visionary. But after charting out John’s ‘For The Benefit of Mr. Kite’ and ‘I am the Walrus,’ I stand corrected. Their musical complexity kind of shocked me. I had my own narrative of the band and now it’s changed.”

During his career in LA, Bredouw met both George Harrison and Paul McCartney at different sessions in one of his studios. Despite being a massive fan, Bredouw says he “tried to play it cool.”

Lund first heard the Beatles’ song “She loves you” on his car radio as a senior in high school in 1964.

“I thought, oh my god, this is going to be a huge hit,” he said. “It sounded old and new all at the same time. The Beatles didn’t sound like any other band at the time.”

Bredouw credits that same song with turning his musical tides.

“When I heard the last chord of that song, it converted me from Beach Boys to Beatles,” he said. “The Beatles understood the value of a hook while simultaneously developing their musical and harmonic complexities. They could sophisticate the listener’s ear while still staying commercial – not an easy thing. ]And sociologically,  it’s entirely possible we might not have the yoga craze today if it wasn’t for George Harrison’s avid interest in Eastern culture.”

Thixton first heard the Beatles as a boy when his dad brought home the album “Help!”

“I’ll never forget how awesome that record was and how it made me feel: like I wasn’t 5, but the same age as the Beatles,” he said. “It made me want to grow up. Between listening to the music, looking at all the photos on the album cover from the movie, I remember just wanting to be a Beatle – not John, Paul, George or Ringo – I just wanted to be a Beatle too. I would sit out on our front porch and listen to that record over and over, faking it with my toy guitar and trying to show the whole navy base neighborhood that I was cool.”