In debut with Pops, Krajewski hosts 'Beatles'

Krajewski in rehearsal last week with the Philly Pops. Photo: Peter Dobrin/INQUIRER STAFF

Ah, look at all the happy people. Where do they all come from?

If the Philly Pops were smart, they’d get their email addresses, all those young(ish) Beatles fans who came to hear a show conductor Michael Krajewski called “authentic recreations” of an English band that broke up 43 years ago. Members of the Classical Mystery Tour, cloaked in accents and hippy garb, sang and played Lennon and McCartney favorites in Verizon Hall Friday night while Krajewski and his band played back up.

I claim no special authority on the repertoire – being, in the ‘60s, too young to be fully sentient. But then again, a lot of people in the ‘60s weren’t fully sentient, and the act seemed a decent if not particularly striking imitation of the real thing. Others looked convinced. By the end, hundreds of listeners were swaying lit cell phones in the air to an encore, “Hey, Jude.” And it was oddly hilarious to watch an unintended anti-authority pantomime playing out in the conductor’s circle – an usher telling these cell phone wavers to turn them off and put them away. At a certain point he gave up. Leave it to the Kimmel to start acting nervous when people start having fun. Really, what could have been the harm?

The Beatles proxies grabbed the spotlight somewhat from Krajewski, who was making his first appearance with the Philly Pops even though he was named music director-designate several months ago. He takes over in the 2013-14 season, and, having promised more of these nostalgia visits from the pop culture realm, the concert was probably fairly representative of what we can expect from him. During the second half of the show, when the Pops was joined by its guests, his contribution was mostly as metronome and skilled traffic cop.

But in the first half, he charmed. Interspersing Irish tunes with jokes, he was an understated raconteur. At one point, he told the audience he had brought a snapshot of his house in Orlando to share. He then handed it to an audience member and asked that it be passed from person to person throughout the entire hall. I lost track of it at intermission somewhere around Row K and can’t explain why it was funny. But the audience was tickled.

Krajewski conducts, too. Orchestral arrangements of Beatles tunes and Irish ditties have limited interpretive opportunities, but what came through is a musician of solid authority – an orderly giver of cues with a tidy technique. Musically, there’s clearly more for him to show. But on this first outing, he managed to send the audience on its way looking cheery – with, of course, a little help from his friends.