OH DEAR: What did classical composers say about the Beatles?

Thomas J. Beaver, Classical musician and rock musician, fanatic of the 60s/70s replies .......

The famous 20th century classical musician/composer Leonard Bernstein, long-time conductor/director of The New York Philharmonic (and composer of the musical “West Side Story, and the operetta “Candide”) liked the Fab Four too!

Bernstein’s daughter, who was 6 when Beatlemania hit the US in 1964, wrote in her memoirs,”Famous Father Girl:”

“Daddy loved the Beatles, too, which made me particularly happy. In the swimming pool … he came up with a third part to “Love Me Do,” so that he, Alexander [her bother], and I could sing the song together in three-part harmony, right there in the corner of the deep end. On one of his Young People’s Concerts [note: I grew up watching those!], Daddy explained the A-B-A structure of sonata form by singing a Beatles song. Oh, how the girls in the audience squirmed and squealed as he accompanied himself on piano, singing “And I Love Her” in his not-so-McCartneyesque voice! He must have known he was onto something, because he began regularly incorporating the Beatles … in his Young People’s Concerts, to illustrate his various points.

John Lennon was Daddy’s favorite Beatle, as he was mine. We were both enchanted by Lennon’s book of poetry, “In His Own Write,” and pored over it together. Daddy invented a singing game for Alexander and me to play with him while the three of us lay wedged into the hammock under the big maple tree after dinner. We would invent a round, à la “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” using Lennon’s poem “The Moldy Moldy Man.”

When The Beatles came back to the US in 1965, Bernstein and daughter were back-stage for the dress rehearsal:

“Daddy was sharing cigarettes with everyone and chatting away with them as if they were old friends. Maybe we sang them a round of “Moldy Man”? I don’t remember. I was in a coma of awe.”

BTW, in 1967 Bernstein did a CBS Special, “Inside Pop - The Rock Revolution.” I watched that show at the time, and will never forget it. He interviewed Frank Zappa and Graham Nash … and he filmed the great Brian Wilson singing “Surf’s Up.”


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