You don’t have to be a diehard Beatles fan to notice the group’s music and legacy are experiencing another revival this holiday season.
This resurgence has been heightened by director Peter Jackson’s new Beatles documentary, “Get Back,” and the release of Paul McCartney’s new book, “The Lyrics 1956-Present.”
And a small club near Lewes, The Room at Cedar Grove, owned by noted local musician Paul Cullen, was filled to capacity Dec. 2 as Cullen and three of his talented professional musician friends took the stage to pay tribute to the Fab Four in an event titled Get Back! A Night of Beatles Music.
It was a special night of music that raised money for Paul Kares, Cullen’s newly formed nonprofit organization benefiting kids pursuing careers in the musical and culinary arts.
Spotlighting that mission, the event poster featured an early photo of future Beatles bandmates John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, with the caption, “They too were once young aspiring musicians, supported by friends and family….”
“Since Paul Kares is about supporting and encouraging young people in music and the culinary arts, we will always look for opportunities to involve younger musicians and aspiring chefs in our events and programs,” said Cullen. “The Beatles celebration was a great occasion to get us started. Everyone knows the Beatles. Their music is not just infectious, it’s inspiring. They are one of the most beloved rock bands in history. And the fact that so many of the younger musicians know and love them, that tells you all you need to know about their influence across generations.”
Accordingly, two young local musicians, brothers Drew Fitzkee, 17, on guitar/vocals, and Alex Fitzkee, 14, on percussion/vocals, were invited to kick off the festivities. Much to the delight of the audience, they opened the show with “Back in the USSR” and “Nowhere Man.”
After that warm-up, Cullen and his band bounded onto the stage to take the crowd on a musical journey covering an additional 15 songs from the extensive Beatles catalogue.
As a former member of the rock band Bad Company, Cullen, also an accomplished chef who performs at small dinner parties, was easily able to enlist an A-list of musical soul mates for the Beatles evening. They included: Tony Sciuto, formerly of the Little River Band, on keyboards, electric guitar and vocals; Robbie LaBlanc on acoustic guitar and vocals; and Ken Schleifer, percussion.
The song list captured the full breadth of the Beatles catalogue, ranging from “It Won’t Be Long” from their second album, through “Ticket to Ride,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Girl,” “Things We Said Today,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “If I Needed Someone” from the “Yesterday and Today” album.
And, no surprise, homage was paid to the new “Get Back” documentary that focuses on the songwriting and production of the “Let It Be” album.” The band performed “On Our Way Home,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” and, of course, “Get Back.”
“I grew up listening to the Beatles, I had all their albums, I know all the words to all the songs,” said audience member Joni von Vorys of Lewes. “When you have professional musicians of that caliber performing in such an intimate venue for a special occasion, well, it just made for a magical night.”
Sponsors contributing to the success of the evening included Schell Brothers and Go Brit! restaurant, along with Lewes Gourmet & Puzzles, which both contributed British- and Beatles-themed gift baskets for a lively raffle, which also sold out.
Talk among the guests and the musicians as they settled in was all things Beatles; it was nostalgic and full of heartfelt reflections, reuniting many fans with fond memories.
“Their music was always uplifting; it made you feel good to sing along. I felt that way about the Beatles when I was a kid, and I still feel that way today,” said Karen Schleifer, another attendee.
While the discussion of the band’s music history was plentiful and impassioned, it was the live music performance that held the night, with the band channeling the Fab Four and clearly inspired by the reception from the audience.
After a spot-on, uplifting rendition of “It Won’t Be Long,” the band took a quick detour for songs from the Bad Company catalogue and one from the Little River Band before getting back to the Beatles and launching into the crowd-pleasing “Hey Jude.”
And so it was a magical night in the Room at Cedar Grove – a small audience that was initially mostly strangers, but by night’s end were kindred spirits who had bonded together over an evening of sublime music.
It was a joyous and inspiring and yes, a fabulous evening, ushering in the essence and the spirit of the season, the spirit of giving, and uniting us all for all the right reasons. We had – to borrow once again from Lennon and McCartney – on this beautiful night, all “come together.” And for a worthy cause.