It has been half a century since The Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.

To mark the occasion, commemorative concerts are being organized around the world, including one right here in Winnipeg.

'It's a tremendous challenge because when you're taking on Beatles material, it's like the Holy Grail and you have to be prepared to do it really well.'- Dan Donahue

The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra is presenting a fundraising concert featuring some of the best Beatles tunes, the way the Beatles recorded them, with full original orchestral arrangements.

They are teaming up with some of Manitoba's most talented rock musicians, including Laurie MacKenzie, Bill Wallace, Neil Weisensel, Ilena Zaramba, Greg Gardner and, of course, Dan Donahue.

Rehearsals have been taking place in Dan Donahue's basement recording studio. Donahue acknowledges there are lots of Beatles cover songs out there, but he says this concert is different. "I don't think anyone has really taken it upon themselves to take the original recordings and build the orchestral arrangements around the band," he explained.

"It's a tremendous challenge because when you're taking on Beatles material, it's like the Holy Grail and you have to be prepared to do it really well," he said. "It was important for us to strip down the original recordings, determine what in fact was being played and honour those to the best of our ability.

 

Some arrangements exist already, but in many cases they had to come up with their own. According to Laurie MacKenzie, there was a lot of discussion over accuracy. "Boyd MacKenzie is handling most of the orchestral parts," he explained.

"There are parts that exist that noone has heard so we have to make sure that when we get the scores, we're not playing something that isn't there. To make it authentic we had to make sure that only the things that got used are being used by us," MacKenzie continued.

There are 25 members of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra involved, along with the six member band. There are 25 singers in the World Village Gospel Choir.

According to Laurie MacKenzie, including strings is "one of those things where you wouldn't necessarily notice it if it were in the song, but if you took those strings out, you'd notice."

Hear FAB Beatles and Strings on Tuesday February 4, 7:30 p.m. at Westminster United Church.