Canadian outfit brings ‘Sgt. Pepper’ to orchestral life

In 1965 or 1966 Canadian musician Andy Maize’s mother took his oldest brother to see the Beatles at the Montreal Forum. He was just a kid, but he remembers it was a big deal.

“They only played for half an hour and the screaming was so loud she couldn’t turn her head. If she turned her head, it hurt too much,” Maize recalls. “My mother is now 90 years old, and I think it’s pretty cool she got to see the Beatles. I had an idea what a big deal it was then. I remember all sorts of merchandise. There were lunch boxes.”

Fifty years later, Maize is touring as one of the featured vocalists in Art of Time Ensemble’s orchestral concert performance of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The Canadian collective assembled by classical pianist Andrew Burashko has been re-imagining orchestral, theatrical and concert pieces since 1998. Performances of works by the Beatles, Frank Zappa and jazz composer Erwin Schullhoff and an exploration of Rom music are some of its recent projects.

Maize first performed “Sgt Pepper” with Art of Time Ensemble for the album’s 45th anniversary in 2012.

“Often the shows aren’t remounted, but this one has proven to be quite popular,” says Maize, who has played in the Canadian folk-rock group the Skydiggers for 25 years.

The other vocalists are Barenaked Ladies founder Steven Page and the Odds’ Craig Northey. Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket recently joined the tour.

Each has his own history as a Beatles fan.

“I have two older brothers and would’ve been 10 or 11 – I’m in my 50s now – so the Beatles are part of my musical DNA. One of the first records I ever bought was the ‘White Album,’ ” recalls Maize.

Few artists are as internationally revered as the Beatles, whose music draws audiences and new listeners 35 years after John Lennon’s death.

“With the Beatles it’s always about melody,” Maize continues, adding that there are no costumes or dancers as with some AOTE performances. “There are four singers in the show. All quite different personalities and that 12-piece band with six string players. The way the arrangements are taking a fresh approach to songs people are very familiar with... I wouldn’t call it a classical approach, but it’s not a rock band playing. It is more geared toward the concert hall than the night club.

“For me it’s been a great opportunity to go outside of my comfort zone,” says Maize, who still tours with the Skydiggers. “To have new challenges as a singer, it’s been wonderful. I’ve done two or three different shows and each one has been really enjoyable and challenging.”

Art of Time Ensemble

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St.

Tickets: $20-$64.50.

Details: 704-372-1000; www.blumenthalarts.org.