BW Beatles Beg for ‘Help!’ In Return to Live Performance


After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the ensemble into dormancy for nearly 3 years, Conservatory performing ensemble BW Beatles returned to the Gamble Auditorium stage Saturday to perform The Beatles’ classic 1965 album “Help!” in front of a live audience.  

The ensemble performed the album twice on Saturday at Gamble Auditorium inside Kulas Musical Arts Building. The first show was played before a sell-out crowd. 

BW Beatles, a student-run organization dedicated to performing full Beatles albums as accurate to the original recordings as possible, had last performed live in March 2019 when the group played “Abbey Road” in its entirety. None of the group’s current members, however, were part of the ensemble that year. Plans to perform “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 2020 were scrapped due to the virus. 

Senior percussion performance major Alex Drews, a drummer and senior leader for the group, said that Saturday’s performance marked his “first and last” time as a member – and added that the same could be said for its president, senior music theatre major Jack Hale.  

“We’re the only two people who were even around when the last concerts happened,” Drews said. “So for a lot of people, this is their first exposure to it.” 

The 2021-22 academic year has come with a lot of “firsts” for performing groups, as COVID-19 restrictions had for the past 2 years forced ensembles to play concerts that were most often closed to the public and marred by social distancing measures. Drews, however, said the return to normalcy has felt natural.  

“I don’t think many of us actually ever stopped making music through the pandemic, it was just the audience we were missing,” Drews said. “The audience missed being in the audience too. So, you can feel there’s added energy and everyone’s just really happy and grateful to be where they are.”  

Drews said he selected “Help!” as this year’s album because he wanted to eschew the more traditional late-period albums, such as “Abbey Road” or “Sgt. Pepper” that the group performed often, and play an album that represents more of a transitional period for the era-defining supergroup.  

“You can see in so many of the songs that they’re starting to make the shift towards more art music-focused writing styles and I feel like ‘Help!’ is like right in that sweet spot of still just like Britpop music and art music,” Drews said. “You have songs like ‘Yesterday,’ which is the most covered song ever. It’s been covered [by] anyone you can think of. But … there’s added instrumentation, you can start to hear some of the other influences from different music genres. But it’s just a good mix of songs that people would say, ‘Oh, that’s a Beatle song,’ and songs where it’s like, ‘Oh, they’re starting to think there’s something more to this.’” 

Drews said BW Beatles is a special project because it is one of the only opportunities for music theatre majors and other Conservatory majors to collaborate. The group consists of 4 music theatre major vocalists, 4 guitarists that rotate between acoustic, rhythm, lead, and bass guitar, 1 pianist — senior Lindsey Miller, who also serves as music director for the vocalist — and Drews and a colleague on drums and auxiliary percussion.  

For Drews and his colleagues in the ensemble, BW Beatles is an important tradition to uphold for the BW and Berea community. But Drews is in it for another important reason: he simply loves The Beatles.  

“I feel like The Beatles is accessible music for people of all ages,” Drews said. “Whether you’re the people who grew up listening to it, or your parents introduced you to the Beatles, or you’re just now getting into them. Their music is as popular as it is for a reason and that’s because it’s very accessible for a lot of different people.”