Ah, look at all the happy people. Where do they all come from?
If the Philly Pops is smart, it got their e-mail addresses, those young(ish) fans who came to hear what conductor Michael Krajewski called "authentic recreations" of an English band that broke up 43 years ago. Members of the Classical Mystery Tour, arrayed in hippie garb, sang and played Lennon and McCartney favorites in Verizon Hall Friday while Krajewski and his band played backup.
I claim no special authority on the repertoire - I was, 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 were swaying lit cellphones in the air to "Hey Jude." And it was oddly hilarious to watch an anti-authority pantomime play out in the conductor's circle - an usher telling cellphone-wavers to put them away. At a certain point he gave up. Why should the Kimmel get nervous when people start having fun? Really, what was the harm?
The Beatles proxies grabbed some of the spotlight from Krajewski, making his first appearance with the Philly Pops though he was named music director-designate months ago. He takes over next season and has promised more nostalgia visits from the pop-culture realm, so the concert was probably representative of what we can expect. During the show's second half, when its guests joined the Pops, 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. He'd brought a snapshot of his Orlando home to share, handing it to an audience member and asking 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 was heard is a musician of solid authority, an orderly giver of cues with a tidy technique. There's clearly more for him to show. But on this first outing he sent the audience on its way looking cheery - with, of course, a little help from his friends.