Live Music: Great day in the life

The Sheffield Sgt Pepper Project's take on the famous album cover
The Sheffield Sgt Pepper Project's take on the famous album cover

One of the hits of the Folk Forest at Tramlines at the weekend was the Sheffield Sgt Pepper Project, a huge group of local musicians playing the entire iconic Beatles album.

The project, celebrating 50 years since Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, brought together 30 professional and semi-professional musicians.

The show is now going to be repeated in Sheffield in November and may go off on a national tour.

Last year’s line-up included members of Screaming Maldini, Hey Sholay, Renegade Brass Band, Before Breakfast, Captives On The Carousel and Cats.For.Peru. Wanting to play the music as authentically as possible, leading city classical and jazz musicians played strings, brass and Indian instruments to recreate the sound.

This year they were joined on vocals by Sheffield stars Steve Edwards and Jack Weston, aka Kid Conventional.

One of the singers, Gina Walters, said: “We did Revolver last year at the O2 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the album. It was such a big success. They were happy to have us at Tramlines because Sgt Pepper is such an incredible album.

“We’ve been trying to keep the performance as faithful to the album as possible. The Beatles never performed it live.”

The band included orchestral string and brass sections, a harp and a tabla.

Gina said: “It was great fun. We wanted to use different musicians and styles of bands. It represented what is great about Sheffield as a community.

“There were four different singers instead of just two. We were never going to sound like Lennon and McCartney, it wasn’t just a tribute act.”

Drummer Dominic Ridler said: “We’re doing what The Beatles couldn’t do. We spent so log on the music and orchestrating it. It’s been really rewarding to do.”

Nick Cox played guitar and keyboards and sang backing vocals. He said: “It was great. It went better than we hoped, everyone played out of their skins.

“We were pleasantly surprised how many people turned out, there was maybe 2,000 people. That shows the appreciation for the album 50 years later.”

He added: “People ask, are The Beatles still relevant? Absolutely. You could see kids singing along.”

Rehearsal time was limited, so they were thrilled that the show came together so well on the day. Ben Eckersley was musical director and arranger, as well as playing cello and conducting.

Ad Follett took on the difficult job of re-creating complicated sound effects.

Dominic said that his favourite part was performing the Sgt Pepper intro and reprise. He said: “It is great fun and has great energy and set the tone of the album.”

Nick loved Getting Better and Gina said: “It was Day in the Life for me. I just really love that song and there were 28 of us on stage at the same time.”

The group would love to find a sitar player, the only missing instrument. Student Ford Collier, who has just won a University of Sheffield recital prize, stood in on the tabla at Tramlines.

The group will be getting back together on November 25 at the O2 Academy.

Tickets go on general sale tomorrow at www.o2academysheffield.co.uk , www.sivtickets.com and by visiting the City Hall box office.