Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Almost 50 years ago, something wonderful happened to popular music: The Beatles. Sadly, the original Fab Four no longer exists as an entity to play live for their generations of adoring fans, but here in Santa Cruz, we've got the next best thing—The White Album Ensemble. If you've never seen this amazing local treasure in person, now's your chance when the WAE teams up with the Santa Cruz County Symphony at the Civic this Saturday night (June 4) for a live benefit concert, "Across the Universe and Beyond."

Specializing in the enormous catalogue of innovative, irresistible Beatles music, the nine-member WAE collective began back in 2003 with a series of live performances of "The White Album" that rocked the socks off local audiences. More than just a cover band, the WAE has become a force to be reckoned with on the SC arts and cultural scene, replicating aural feasts of The Beatles' complex studio albums live, onstage, while helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for good causes countywide. Founding members Dale Ockerman, Ken Kraft, and Tiran Porter have put together a formidable and sought-after performing group that not only pays homage to the past with its vintage repertoire, but provides a springboard for performers of the future. Every WAE gig features guest solos by young local talent. A couple of years ago, the WAE introduced SC audiences to a local youngster named James Durbin. His performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" never failed to bring down the house; take a look at this 2009 clip, and you'll see why.

This is the sixth year that the WAE has collaborated with the Symphony on a Beatles music concert to benefit the Symphony's local music and outreach programs. Among other things, proceeds will help sustain the Youth Program, which brings the Symphony's classical musicians into county classrooms—an especially vital service in these days of draconian budget cuts, when art and music programs for kids are the first to go.

At the Symphony concert on Saturday, the WAE will present up-and-coming guest vocalists Tammi Brown (shown here onstage with the band) and Alysha Antonino, along with local favorite Drew Harrison. If you happened to catch James Durbin at the Boardwalk a couple of weeks back, you got a sneak preview of what these talented folks can do. (In particular, Alysha's soulful, laid-back "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was a highlight of the pre-game show staged by the WAE.)

So here's your chance, not only to see the next generation of James Durbins, but to help nurture music appreciation and musicianship in Santa Cruz County for generations to come. AND rock out to the WAE, onstage, in living color, conducting a magical mystery tour through the greatest song catalogue, ever. For ticket info, call the Civic Box Office at (831) 420-5260 or visit Santa Cruz Tickets online.

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