Music News & Reviews

Olympia High chamber quartet joins Beatles tribute

Olympia High musicians, from left, Jeremy Ong, Anna Elewski, Arkira Chantaratananond and Jiali Zhang will perform as part of the Beatles tribute show.
Olympia High musicians, from left, Jeremy Ong, Anna Elewski, Arkira Chantaratananond and Jiali Zhang will perform as part of the Beatles tribute show. Courtesy

When the Beatles tribute show “In My Life” stops in Olympia on Wednesday, there’ll be more than one musical foursome on stage.

The Fab Four — as played by Beatles tribute band Abbey Road — will be joined by a quartet of classical musicians from Olympia High School. On stage will be violinists Jiali Zhang, 17, and Anna Elewski, 16; violist Arkira Chantaratananond, 17; and cellist Theodore “Jeremy” Ong, 16. All are seniors except Elewksi, who’s a junior.

The students, all members of the school’s chamber orchestra, will play five songs, including “Yesterday” and “Eleanor Rigby.”

The show is about two-thirds music, with enough dialog to tell the story of the band’s ascent to musical heights.

And classical music is definitely a part of that story.

“Yesterday,” which marked the first time the band incorporated strings into one of its songs, was a pivotal point in the relationship between pop music and classical, Greg Cahill wrote in a 2005 article in All Things Strings magazine.

“Its impact has been huge,” cellist and arranger John Reed of the Hampton String Quartet told Cahill. “ ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ said, in one fell swoop, strings can be cool. … It heralded them into the culture of rock and pop.”

The depth of the Beatles’ music attracts a lot of these kids who are involved in orchestra and band more so than a lot of contemporary pop music.

Joseph Dyvig, Olympia High School orchestra director

So the show’s producers seek out a local quartet in each city where it travels.

Ong said he’s excited to be part of the performance.

“It’s really cool,” he said. “This is my first time performing at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

“The music isn’t too hard, so that’s a plus,” he added.

It’s simple enough, in fact, that the quartet has not yet even rehearsed the tunes together.

“I’ll have them go rehearse it on their own once or twice, and then I’ll listen to them once, and they should be ready to go,” said Joseph Dyvig, Olympia High School’s orchestra director. The quartet will rehearse with the show’s cast and crew just once, Wednesday afternoon.

“They know how to communicate and cue each other and function independently at a high level, so that makes a gig like this very accessible to them,” Dyvig said.

The chamber orchestra has won first place in the state’s solo and ensemble competitions for the past three years, and small groups sometimes play for weddings and parties.

Still, the chance to be part of a professional performance doesn’t come along often, he said. “It’s a rare opportunity.”

The students — all musicians dedicated enough to be at school at 6:45 a.m. weekdays to rehearse — are relishing the chance to play something other than classical music.

“There’s something refreshing about playing nonclassical music on strings,” Chantaratananond said in a news release about the performance.

And three of the four are Beatles fans, so they’re particularly drawn to this project.

“Getting to be involved with something that’s connected to the Beatles was very cool to them,” Dyvig said.

Chantaratananond’s favorite of their songs is “Hey Jude.” “I’m excited about playing this song with the show,” she said.

“The depth of the Beatles’ music attracts a lot of these kids who are involved in orchestra and band more so than a lot of contemporary pop music,” Dyvig said. “A lot of them search out that kind of stuff. It’s really interesting to see the number of kids who are into Led Zeppelin or into the Beatles or into Queen.”

Ong, though, is not among them.

“Sometimes when I relax, I put on classical music,” he said. “Other times, when I have a lot of energy, I just put on top hit songs.”

Still, he said, he enjoys the Beatles music when he hears it.

“All year we do classical stuff, so this is a good change,” he said.

IN MY LIFE: A MUSICAL THEATRE TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES

What: This biography of the Beatles features live music by the Beatles tribute band Abbey Road — and by a quartet of students from the Olympia High School Chamber Orchestra.

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.

Tickets: $35-$55, $25 for students under 17, $30-$50 for seniors.

Information: 360-753-8586, washingtoncenter.org. 

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