Aaron Schaffer, Photo Editor

February 9th, 1964 was the beginning of an era. Over thirteen million adoring fans tuned in on black and white TV screens to watch The Beatles in their first performance on US soil: live on the Ed Sullivan Show.

After that night, in a phenomenon known as “Beatlemania,” John, Paul, George and Ringo quickly became household names.

50 years later, America is still fascinated by The Fab Four, and the University of Rochester is no exception. Although few of those seated in Strong Auditorium this Sunday at the Institute of Popular Music’s 50th Anniversary Concert Celebration were alive when The Beatles first came to America, there was a sense of universal reverence among those of all ages towards the group’s revolutionary music.

Organized by Institute Chair John Covach, the almost two hour concert featured Covach’s 60’s cover band, The Smooth Talkers, playing faithful renditions of Beatles tunes with a little help from their friends in the UR Music Department and The Eastman School of Music.

Considering the combined expertise of the musicians onstage, there was no surprise that the tribute was of incredible caliber. Covach himself personally took over George Harrison’s lead guitar parts, and vocal work by featured UR soloists Naiomi Everhart and John Queenan was spot on. The group played a remarkable amount of the Beatles’ repertoire, including every song that they played on the Ed Sullivan show: “All My Loving”, “Till There Was You”, “She Loves You”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

“When The Beatles came to America, it was awesome,” said Covach. “I was only eight and I knew it was awesome.”

“Who would have thought that 50 years later that one of the nations leading research universities would be holding a concert in their honor!”

Those who came out not only got to experience the excitement of hearing their favorite Beatles songs performed live for free, but also were in for some Beatles history lessons by Covach, who made occasional brief pauses in the extensive set to offer insight on the group’s first US excursion.

Covach announced the launch of his free 6-week online course titled “The Music of the Beatles” that he will lead on Coursera. As of Sunday night, the course had approximately 30,000 students registered, and he expressed to those in attendance his desire to “crash the Coursera servers.”

“What we’re trying to do is become the number one resource on the academic study of popular music, and we’re along way towards that goal already,” Covach announced of UR’s Institute of Popular Music, one of the only university programs devoted to the academic study of pop music in the nation.

“There are many other advocates for popular music like the Rock and Roll Hall of fame or The Grammy Museum. While they do have academic elements to them, they mostly celebrate the celebrity. We’re trying to bring people closer to the knowledge about the music,” said Covach.

Covach expressed his excitement towards the cooperative environment at the University between the popular music studies at UR, the classical studies at Eastman, and the budding Audio and Music Engineering program in the Hajim School.

“We are the only first-class, top-tier research university doing something like this, we are number one!”

Covach brought everyone on stage for the finale, a spectacular rendition of Hey Jude that got the entire crowd singing and waving IPhone faux candles from side to side. Even after that, in true rock and roll fashion, the band came back out to play one more number, the Beatles’ classic, “Twist and Shout”, which had all of Strong dancing in the aisles like it was 1964.

“Let’s do this again in another fifty years!” Covach exclaimed.



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