Tucson Music Hall was packed that February Saturday night in 2005 when the Tucson Symphony Orchestra hosted the Beatles tribute concert “Classical Mystery Tour,” featuring the cast of Broadway’s “Beatlemania,” including Tucsonan Tony Kishman.
It was a first for the orchestra, marrying pop music with symphony, and it spawned a whole series of classical-pop marriages for the TSO, including the “Classical Mystery Tour” encore in 2007 and Kishman’s Paul McCartney tribute show “Live & Let Die” in 2012.
Both “Classical Mystery Tour” shows were sellouts — 2,200 people filling the hall, many of them symphony first-timers. But if they had listened closely to the Beatles and a host of other popular rock bands, from the Eagles to Queen, those symphony neophytes would have heard lush string sections meld seamlessly with screaming rock guitars and pulsating percussion.
“People haven’t made the connection and we’re helping them to find their way,” said Andrea Dillenburg, the TSO’s vice president of marketing. “They are surprised at how much they like it. Pink Floyd is a good example.”
In 2013, the TSO teamed up with the Canadian production company Jeans ’n Classics for the ultimate Pink Floyd tribute, “An Evening of Pink Floyd.” The orchestra backed up a full band and vocalists who were dead ringers for Roger Waters and David Gilmour to recreate Pink Floyd’s seminal album “Dark Side of the Moon.”
TSO officials said those tribute concerts, which also included twice hosting Tucson’s own Bill Ganz Western Band, have been audience favorites, with ticket sales topping 1,500 for most events. Several of the shows, including both “Beatlemania” concerts, were sellouts of 2,200 or more tickets, according to TSO records.
The TSO has programmed at least one rock tribute show each season since 2005. Last season, the orchestra hosted a Nashville country show that included Crystal Stark as one of the backup singers. Next season the TSO is honoring legendary female singers from Carole King to Pat Benatar in “Women Rock” in March.
“The best thing about these shows is the new audiences (they) brings in, people who love rock and love symphony,” Dillenburg said.
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at email@example.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch