South Florida Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to the 60th anniversary of The Beatles first performance in America in 1964 with a “Classical Mystery Tour” concert of 24 Beatles hit songs augmented with the sounds of the symphony orchestra on Saturday, May 11 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale.

“The Beatles were famous for appearing on national television (on the “Ed Sullivan Show”) in 1964 and first performed in America at the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach in 1964, so we wanted to honor that historic event with this memorable concert,” said South Florida Symphony Orchestra Music Director/Conductor Sebrina Alfonso.

Classical Mystery Tour Jim Owen as John Lennon – black suite

The unusual twist in this “Classical Mystery Tour” Beatles tribute concert is that each of the 24 Beatles songs to be performed in the 90 minute concert are played with the basic four piece band, but augmented note by note by the orchestral arrangements to the classic Beatles songs.

For example, “Penny Lane” will be accompanied with a piccolo trumpet and “Yesterday” will be played with an acoustic guitar and the string quartet of the SFSO.

“The songs from The Beatles are memorable, but audiences are not accustomed to hearing these classic songs with full orchestration and that alone makes the experience of hearing the Beatles very special,” said Alfonso.

Starring in “Classical Mystery Tour” as the famous Fab Four musicians is Jim Owen as John Lennon, Tony Kishman as Paul McCartney, Robbie Berg as George Harrison and Chris McBurney as Ringo Starr.

“The four of us play the music of The Beatles as John, Paul, George and Ringo, but we are not impersonators. We talk about how each Beatles song was created and performed, but we never call ourselves by their individual names on stage,” said the 57-year old Owen, who is the creator of “Classical Mystery Tour.”

Owen created “Classical Mystery Tour” in 1996 and for the last 27 years, Owen and the other musicians (there is a rotating cast of performers in “Classic Mystery Tour”) have joined orchestras around the world to the delight of Beatles fans.

“I have been a fan of Beatles music for most of my life and I loved playing their songs even as a youngster,” said Owen, who prior to starring in “Classical Mystery Tour,” was one of the cast members in the “Beatlemania” tours at age 18.

Owen is not British, but is from California and bears a strong physical and vocal resemblance to John Lennon. 

Classical Mystery Tour Jim Owen as John Lennon in Sgt. Pepper

“I learned to play piano by age six, played the guitar at eight years old and had my first professional performance as a Beatle at sixteen.” 

Kishman who both resembles and sings as Paul, performed in “Beatlemania” as McCartney in 1979. Berg has performed as George Harrison for over a decade in various Beatles tribute bands. McBurney has been playing both the drums and music of Ringo Starr for over a decade.

The four musicians will capture the early 1964 Beatles visual look as the four British lads who were attired in suits and ties and famed Beatles hairdos before transforming to the post 1965 attire of long hair, moustaches, glasses and loud, colorful costumes. 

Classic Mystery Tour Group as The Beatles with orchestra – photo credit Bachrach.Photo

Among the song highlights will be an overture of instrumental arrangements of Beatles songs by the South Florida Symphony Orchestra to begin the concert as well as the songs “A Day In The Life”, “Help”, “Here Comes The Sun”, “I Am A Walrus”, “In My Life” and “Let It Be”.

The musical careers of Owen and the other “Classical Mystery Tour” musicians have been longer than The Beatles, who performed live as an international sensation for only four years from 1963-66.

“It’s amazing what they (The Beatles) accomplished in just a few years, I am so glad that all of us (Classic Mystery Tour musicians) have dedicated our lives to perfecting the authentic Beatles sound with orchestras. The concerts have always thrilled me and I always enjoy meeting so many Beatles fans from around the world,” said Owen.

South Florida Symphony Orchestra Maestro Sebrina Alfonso

Although Owen never met any of The Beatles, he did meet Cynthia Lennon, the first wife of John Lennon, after performing at one of the “Classical Mystery Tour” concerts.

“She (Cynthia Lennon) told me how moved she was, how I played just like John Lennon. I can’t express in words how much her comments meant to me and I will never forget our meeting,” said Owen.

South Florida Symphony Orchestra presents “Classical Mystery Tour: Tribute to The Beatles”, a 90 minute  concert featuring Jim Owen, Tony Kishman, Robbie Berg and Chris McBurney as The Beatles at the Au Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave. in Ft. Lauderdale. Tickets range from $45-145 and can be purchased at or by calling 954-462-0222. 

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