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Finale: musicians crowd the stage for the collective rendering of Hey Jude led by Rick Pentecost on the piano.

Finale: musicians crowd the stage for the collective rendering of Hey Jude led by Rick Pentecost, just visible, on keyboard (photo: Russell Jacobs).

Beatles Day – 17 years at number one!

Last Sunday was not just another day – it was Beatles Day at the White Rock Theatre, where the crowds came streaming, the musicians, (whether in the first flush of youth or the creaking stages of old age), enjoyed their 15 minutes on stage and the takings for Macmillan Cancer Support kept mounting. Even getting soaked on the way home wasn’t enough to dampen Nick Terdre’s enthusiasm.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all at Beatles Day, it seems, and this year was no exception. Sixteen years after the first embryonic edition at Pissarro’s, and 10 years after it moved to the White Rock Theatre, founder and head organiser Pete Prescott still gets an immense kick from the proceedings.

“I was very very happy with it, it was just a very successful day,” he tells HOT. “There were so many acts that blew everybody away. I just think that, from the first act on to the last act off, they’re all heroes.”

Pete Brown, co-writer of Cream hits, in red, with friends.

Pete Brown, co-writer of Cream hits, in red, with friends (photo: Russell Jacobs).

That’s the 95 acts and 500 plus performers, give or take a few who couldn’t make it on the day, who treated us to a cornucopia of some of our favourite songs.

“And what I also loved,” says Pete, “is that we had more people at the White Rock Theatre than we’ve ever had before.” Throughout the day it was very full in the main auditorium, packed in Sussex Hall, very crowded for the acoustic stage, and the foyer was continually full, he points out. An exact figure is not available, but going by past performance, it all adds up to a good 2,000 bodies.

But it wasn’t uncomfortably crowded. Once or twice I stood packed like a sardine in the acoustic room, which is after all a relatively small space, but at no time did I have to wait to get into any of the auditoria. That’s a great plus when you’re there for hours on end – the show just keeps rolling on from 12 noon to 10.30pm.

The Conquest Choir, including Macmillan nurses.

The Conquest Choir, including Macmillan nurses (photo: Russell Jacobs).

As the day wore on, great cheers were elicited as news was relayed of how much money had been taken for Macmillan – £14,000 by 3pm, £17,000 by 5pm, £22,000 by 7.30pm. The latest figure Pete had in the evening was £22,500, but there were still various monies to be counted, so the final figure could be close to £25,000.

The takings go to a very worthy cause. Macmillan Cancer Support has 185 professionals working with cancer victims in Sussex. In our county, 27 people find out they have cancer every day – 13 eventually die of it. And if survival chances are much greater than they used to be, it is also the case that the incidence of cancer is steadily growing: from 60,900 people living with or post cancer in Sussex in 2010, the number of sufferers is expected to double to 121,400 by 2030.

The Taxmen, from Sweden, keen to come back next year.

The Taxmen, from Sweden, keen to come back next year (photo: Russell Jacobs).

Returning to the music, it is clear that part of the joy of Beatles Day is hearing familiar numbers sung by familiar faces. But Pete is keen to scotch the idea that it’s the same-old same-old. This year there were 29 new acts, he points out. And there’s a constant supply of youngsters launching their musical careers at Beatles Day – three of this year’s performers were making their public debuts.

Consequently some of the younger performers are themselves already familiar faces – such as 13-year-old Eva Pomery, making her third appearance. Pete was so taken with her rendering of All You Need Is Love that he hauled her up onto the main stage during a turnaround between acts to do it again.

Titus, late perfomers on the acoustic stage.

Titus, late perfomers on the acoustic stage (photo: Russell Jacobs).

Of course with music being produced on three stages at once, it’s a physical impossibility to enjoy it all. But that means that if something doesn’t please you, you’ve got other places to go – as happened with me when I found my ears violated by one younger band going for volume over musicianship. That only happened the once – the overwhelming impression is of good-to-excellent musicianship and admirable attempts to bring creative new interpretations to well-known numbers.

Singers in the band - Roger Blackman, left, Pete Prescott and Claire Hamill in Abbey Rodeo's tribute to George Martin.

Singers in the band – Roger Blackman, left, Pete Prescott and Claire Hamill in Abbey Rodeo’s tribute to George Martin (photo: Russell Jacobs).

There were many highlights for me. Just to mention a couple: the performance of side two of the Abbey Road LP (Here Comes The Sun, Mean Mr Mustard, Carry That Weight, and so on) by the Abbey Rodeo band in memory of the legendary Beatles producer, George Martin, sent tingles down the spine. And the swing dancing to Beatles tracks by Gypsy John and the Cinque Port Lindy Hoppers was also a joyous sight. Pete hopes they’ll return next year. I’ll be back, and I hope you will too, for the 18th edition of Beatles Day.

Hastings Stage Studio School for the Performing Arts.

Students from Hastings Stage Studio School for the Performing Arts doing their Beatles thing (photo: Russell Jacobs).

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Posted 15:00 Wednesday, Apr 6, 2016 In: Music & Sound

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