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NM Philharmonic channels Beatles in ‘Classical Mystery Tour’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jim Owen spent hours practicing George Harrison’s guitar leads in his bedroom when he was 11 years old.

Today he plays the role of John Lennon in “Classical Mystery Tour: A Tribute to the Beatles.”

The New Mexico Philharmonic will present “Classical Mystery Tour: A Tribute to the Beatles.”

Owens and his faux Fab Four cohorts – Joey Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Tom Teeley (Harrison) and Doug Cox (Ringo Starr) – will join the New Mexico Philharmonic in a walk down Penny Lane at Popejoy Hall on Saturday, Feb. 3.

“Basically, it’s supposed to be like if you had a chance to go to a Beatles concert and they were backed up by a symphony orchestra,” Owen said in a telephone interview from his Huntington Beach, Calif. home.

The group plays about 25 songs ranging from “A Hard Day’s Night” to “Come Together.” Three costume changes escort them from the “Ed Sullivan Show” days through “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Abbey Road.”

“When I was young, I didn’t want to be John; I wanted to be George,” said Owen, who played in his first Beatles tribute band at 16.

At 18, Owen began touring internationally with various productions of the Broadway show “Beatlemania,” visiting Japan, Korea, China, Canada, Mexico, and much of South America. He conceptualized a new show pairing the group with orchestras in 1996.

In 1999, he switched from George to John. He’s been touring as a Beatle for 21 years.

“One person in Mexico said, ‘Why do you play George when you look exactly like John Lennon?’ It was (intimidating) at first. I’m glad I did it, because I enjoy singing more. I make an effort to sing like him.

He says his audience ranges from the always reliable Baby Boomers to teenagers and older fans who disliked the music on first listen, then reversed their assessment later.

“We get a lot of kids under 10,” Owen added. “Of course, they like to sing ‘Yellow Submarine.’

“I think if it was any other band it would wear out. But the Beatles don’t wear out.”

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