I look to my left and most of my field of vision is occupied by balding men in their 50s with varying degrees of grey facial hair, their children also in attendance. Plenty of students are here too, but the median age is almost certainly over 45.

The audience is asked to say “rhubarb” as the band begins to play, to simulate the crowd noise that starts the album. I have no choice but to smile. There is something about hearing anything the Beatles wrote live that makes it impossible not to.

I look to my left again and see an old man grinning ear to ear through his beard. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” begins, and with it, the celebration.

Faculty, students, staff, and alumni from the Eastman School and River Campus Music Department made up the band on Saturday night which featured guitars, bass, drums, three violins, a cello, saxophones, trumpets, French horns, and a bass clarinet for “‘It Was 50 Years Ago Today’: A Sgt. Pepper Celebration.”

Music filled Strong Auditorium in a way I hadn’t experienced before, the joy in the room as vibrant and observable as the costumes worn by most of the performers. For 100 minutes, I forgot myself, and simply enjoyed music written by one of the best bands ever, played exceptionally well.

This is not to say that there weren’t moments that normally would cause cynicism. A woman behind me felt that she needed to contribute her vocals to “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Fixing a Hole,” songs that were performed extraordinarily by the musicians and did not need her assistance, and someone else in the front row decided to take a plant off the stage because she was worried it would obstruct her view. (It was 2 feet tall and was only there to hide one of the guitarist’s pedals.)

Normally these things would have left a foul taste in my mouth, but honestly, I didn’t care. The music was too overwhelmingly fun.

The band played straight through the 1967 album and added a few more tracks from that year (which end up being almost half of “Magical Mystery Tour”) as well as two Beatles classics, “Hard Day’s Night” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” My favorites were, “She’s Leaving Home,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Good Morning,” and “A Day in the Life.” The only disappointment was premature clapping by the audience before the crescendo at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” could take full effect.

After three standing ovations (one after “Sgt. Pepper’s,” one after the other 1967 songs, one at the actual end of the show) the band retired and my exit was impeded by people that were old enough to experience the actual release of the album. I didn’t care that it took a while to get back to my car, because I was reminded of how cover bands can be amazing fun.

“‘It Was 50 Years Ago Today’: A Sgt. Pepper Celebration” was a part of the biannual pop music concert series run by U of R’s Institute for Popular Music. Tickets are always free and all ages are welcome, and the next concert will be in the fall.

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