The new Liverpool Beatles Museum is temporarily closed, as are many destinations of interest to Beatles fans. Although the pandemic might have canceled your travel plans, including Fab-Four themed journeys, you can still take a magical Beatles tour this summer.
Kenneth Womack and Scott Freiman are offering a “Fab Four Master Class,” a series of classes that will take you on a journey from the comfort of your own home. And while you may “relax and float downstream” as you go, you definitely won’t want to turn off your mind for this one.
The course embarks with “The Road to ‘Love Me Do’” on June 25, 2020, when you will travel from Liverpool to London. The first installment of the master class spans the period of time between that “fateful garden party in 1957” to the recording of the Beatles’ first single at the end of 1962.
Womack and Freiman, both frequent contributors to CultureSonar, are ideal guides for this trip.
Womack, a world-renowned expert on the Beatles, is the author of numerous books and articles. Recent acclaimed works include the two-volume biography of George Martin and Solid State: The Story of “Abbey Road” and the End of the Beatles. Womack’s forthcoming book in 2020, John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life, promises (and delivers) a new perspective on the former Beatle during the year before his untimely death.
And you know Freiman from his multimedia lecture series, Deconstructing the Beatles, done in conjunction with CultureSonar. A composer by training, Freiman reveals musical techniques impossible for the average ear to grasp or to appreciate without the kind of instruction he demonstrates. Freiman is also the editor of the comprehensive book, All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release.
I recently caught up with Womack and Freiman (from a safe virtual distance!) to chat about the Fab Four Master Class.
Katie Kapurch: Ken, your expertise in the Beatles is evidenced by your exceptional biographies, prolific scholarship, and many presentations, talks, and interviews. Why are you looking forward to leading this class with Scott this summer? How will it be different than what you’ve done before, say, in the Tuesday Night Record Club that you host at Monmouth University?
Kenneth Womack: I am very excited to work with Scott on the master class, which promises to take a “deep dive” into and behind the Beatles’ incredible music.
KK: Scott, your expertise in the Beatles is evidenced in your multimedia lecture series, “Deconstructing the Beatles,” as well as your publications. Can you tell us more about your background as a composer and how this informs your approach to the Beatles?
Scott Freiman: Like most composers and performers, my introduction to songwriting and popular piano was through the music of the Beatles. There is so much richness to their music – melodically, harmonically, lyrically, arrangements, production. It’s great to bring in my academic and real-world experience to better understand the Beatles’ craft.
KK: And, Scott, why are you looking forward to leading this class with Ken this summer? How will it be different than what you’ve done before in the Deconstructing series?
SF: Ken is one of my favorite people with whom to discuss the Beatles (or any music). We’ve always had a good time lecturing together, and I’m honored to be able to teach this course with him. I’ll be bringing in highlights from my Deconstructing lectures, and Ken will be bringing in highlights from the Beatles books he has authored. Put them together, and we have something really fun and unique.
KK: Who are the ideal potential students for the “Fab Four Master Class”?
KW: Anyone who has even a passing interest in the Beatles will find value in our presentations. And when it comes to serious music and Beatles aficionados, the courses will provide a window onto how George Martin and the Beatles crafted these timeless albums.
SF: Agreed. This class is for anyone who wants to know more about the Fab Four – their history and their music. So many people know the songs, but learning the context in which they were written along with the rest of the Beatles history makes people appreciate them even more.
KK: Would you encourage people who share the same household to take the class together?
SF: Absolutely, as long as they keep six feet apart. 😊 Seriously, taking our course could be a fun activity for the family to do together since the Beatles appeal to all ages.
KK: Let’s say someone is considering the class, but they are thinking, “I’m a lifelong Beatles fan, not sure this class will teach me much.” Why is this class right for them?
SF: One of the main comments I get after my lectures is the following: “I thought I knew everything about the Beatles, but you taught me a lot that was new.” Ken gets the same comments from his speaking engagements. Plus, we’re playing some great rare music and video, some of which is very hard (or impossible!) to find.
KW: Yes, Scott and I pride ourselves on providing the kind of in-depth analysis that will afford even the most sophisticated fan with an enhanced understanding of the stories and recording techniques behind the group’s work.
KK: Let’s say someone is considering the class because they want to know more about the Beatles, but they don’t consider themselves a fan. Is this for them?
SF: If Ken and I can’t make someone a fan after our course, then we haven’t done our jobs!
KK: What is the format of the class? I notice that there will be an inaugural session on June 25, but what happens after that? Will subsequent classes be live and/or recorded for students to access later?
SF: We will be holding one class a month, moving in chronological order through the Beatles history. We are anticipating 12 or 13 courses. Unfortunately, due to fair use restrictions, we will be restricted in how we rebroadcast the class.
KK: Would you describe this as a lecture or a seminar class? Will there be suggested reading/listening?
SF: I would probably call it a seminar. We’ll be mentioning some suggested reading and listening in our classes.
KW: We will provide multimedia presentations, along with plenty of room for spirited Q&A.
KK: The description mentions “new insights on the Beatles (and more).” Can you give us a hint about what one of these might be?
KW: In many cases, we’ll be affording viewers with deeper levels of understanding of the Beatles’ music through rare audio and video clips, along with previously unpublished insights.
KK: The description also mentions that members of the class will be engaged “in fun, accessible ways”? Can you give us a little more detail about how members will be involved?
SF: Each class will be about 90 minutes, and then we’ll “open the phones” to Q&A. This will be a great chance to ask the Beatles experts any questions about the lesson. We are also looking into having a forum where Beatles fans can ask additional questions, share opinions, and connect with other Fab Four Master Class students.
KW: Ideally, we want to provide viewers with an enhanced experience through post-presentation fan-to-fan discussions of each new LP.
Visit the course’s registration page, sponsored by Crowdcast, to reserve your place for the first installment of the “Fab Four Master Class.”
Photo: The Beatles, via Getty Images