Salt Spring’s public library was rocking last Thursday when island musician David Jacquest brought his Beatles at the Library show to the program room.
“It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog,” sang Jacquest with gusto. “It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log.”
While plenty of adults were drawn to the music as they walked through the library foyer, Jacquest was performing for French Immersion students from Salt Spring Island Middle School in one of three different presentations. A Phoenix school class also attended one session.
People of a certain age can probably name all of the band members and sing numerous Beatles songs by heart, and will likely still have some records. While the SIMS kids attending the second session had definitely heard of the Beatles, they were much less knowledgable about the musicians, their songs, cultural impact and legacy when they took their seats in the room.
But by the end of the 45-minute presentation, students had learned that the Beatles were at first dubbed “mop tops” because of their radical hair styles; they had been exposed to a Liverpudlian accent and voices of all four band members as enunciated by a well-practised Jacquest; and saw famous Beatles vinyl record covers and memorabilia.
They also heard a representative sampling of Beatles repertoire using three different guitars — from Hard Day’s Night to Help! to Eleanor Rigby and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds — that illustrated the band’s evolution and the individual members’ compositional styles. Jacquest explained how the first incarnation of the 1965 hit Yesterday used the words “scrambled eggs,” adding that it is also considered the most covered song of all time, with more than 2,200 versions recorded.
“It was interesting and cool to learn about the Beatles (like a music history lesson),” wrote one student in an evaluation about the event.
Giving a nod to present-day hit movies, Jacquest made a connection between the White Album song called Rocky Raccoon, with a character by that name in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy.
At the end of the session one student asked: “Why are they called the Beatles?”
Jacquest replied that the Beatles loved Buddy Holly and the Crickets, so chose an insect for their name as well, but changed the double-e in “beetle” to an “e-a.” The kids easily figured out the rationale for the vowel switch.
Retired teacher Debbie Magnusson is the initiator of the Music in the Library program. The idea grew from her attempts last year to book gigs for a musician and music historian named Jeff Warner, who had often played for children in libraries. Nikki McCarvill, the children’s librarian at the time, really liked the idea and the Salt Spring Foundation generously awarded a grant to the proposal.
“The intention is to bring kids into the public library and to show that libraries are not just about books,” said Magnusson.
The program also exposes the young audience to live performances, which not all youth have access to for various reasons.
Jacquest, who graduated from Gulf Islands Secondary School in 1988, is a lifelong Beatles fan. He created the annual Let it Beatle concert series at the Tree House Cafe and is the primary force behind the island’s Wannabeatles band that plays at various venues. He has performed as a solo artist for decades, as well as in duos and large groups.
About the Beatles in the Library project, Jacquest said, “Of course I loved it and I think I learned as much as the kids.”