Sunday, November 19, 2023


Conducted by Ian McLean

Harmonie German Club, Narrabundah, 18 November


Reviewed by Len Power


The Harmonie German club was really swinging when Ian McLean and his Blamey Street Big Band in concert gave an extra dimension to the much-loved music of the Beatles.

Including at least one song from every Beatles studio album and some of their singles, the 22 piece big band moved from one hit to another, showcasing the extraordinary output from the Beatles’ 13 albums and showing in these arrangements how adaptable these songs are. Canberra’s leading jazz vocalist, Leisa Keen, joined the band for many of the songs, adding an extra sheen to this memorable evening of music.

The band, conducted with energy and sensitivity by Ian McLean, set an appealing, relaxed mood with a delightful jazz-funk arrangement of “Blackbird” and then Leisa Keen joined them to sing two numbers, “Here Comes The Sun” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. Both songs were superbly sung and played, bringing back memories to those of us of a certain age who were around when the songs first burst onto the scene in the 1960s.

Blamey Street Big band

Many of the songs had arrangements by the band’s principal saxophone player, Andrew Hackwill, and there were other arrangements written for the Count Basie Big Band, Ella Fitzgerald and others. In a first, band member and saxophonist, Jack Percy’s beautiful arrangement for “All You Need Is Love” was heard and, surprisingly, Andrew Hackwill’s lush new arrangement for the Beatles song, “Now and Then”, released only recently, was hauntingly sung by Leisa Keen.  Various band members and their instruments were featured in certain songs.

Ian McLean

In the second half of the show, guest conductor, Natalie Dajski, of the Band of The Royal Military College, expertly conducted four songs, “Norwegian Wood”, “Something”, “Octopus’s Garden” and “Eleanor Rigby”. The rest of the show was conducted by Ian McLean and included the songs “Yesterday”, “She Loves You” and “Penny Lane” as well as others, most of them sung by Leisa Keen.


Leisa Keen

Each of the evening’s songs was given an interesting, relaxed introduction by the conductors and Leisa Keen. Their personable connections with the audience and the fine music played and sung made this a memorable, nostalgic evening of song from the fondly remembered Beatles era.


Photos by Dalice Trost

This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 19 November 2023.

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at