By AILEEN JACOBSON
Published: March 12, 2009
IT would be tough to find a more intense concentration of fans,
scholars and interpreters of the work of John Lennon than the one at
Five Towns College here.
In 2005, Yoko Ono, Lennon's widow, came to the college to help
dedicate its John Lennon Center for Music and Technology, which
offers audio and video equipment for students, academic courses
including one solely about Lennon and performances.
"We want to inspire Long Islanders and everyone to enjoy his music
and their own music, to make peace not war," said Martin Cohen,
chairman of the center's advisory board and vice president of the
college, which offers degrees in music, theater, film, business,
education and communications. "It's what John Lennon would have wanted."
A concert next Saturday sponsored by the center, which fills a wing
of the main campus building, features Mostly Moptop, a Beatles
tribute band, performing "Fab 45s for the 45th" at the Dix Hills
Performing Arts Center, also in the main building.
"My band mates and I are really Beatle geeks," said Anthony Pomes,
36, of East Northport, who sings Lennon's vocals in the band, which
tries to sound like, but not look like, the Beatles. Because this
year is the 45th anniversary of the Beatles' first visit to America
and because the group's first hits came out on 45 r.p.m. records, Mr.
Pomes said, he organized the concert around those early songs, with
Side A tracks first and Side B songs after intermission.
The band goes beyond recreating songs, he said.
"We improvise on a theme," Mr. Pomes said. "We're like jazz musicians."
Other group members are Paul Michael Barkan, a Five Towns music
technology professor and member of the Lennon Center advisory board;
John Tabacco, a recording engineer and producer; and Edward Franz, a
computer programmer and analyst. Other musicians sometimes join them,
said Mr. Pomes, who is marketing director of Square One Publishers in
Garden City Park and a member of the Lennon Center advisory board.
"It's great to be able to apply creativity to the legacy of a man,
John Lennon, who himself was so endlessly creative."
Lennon, who was murdered by Mark David Chapman in 1980 in Manhattan,
did some of his creating on Long Island, Mr. Cohen said, in a home in
Laurel Hollow that he and Ms. Ono owned.
Stephen Gleason, a music professor at the college, said his Lennon
course explores Lennon's artistic innovations, political activism and
celebrity status. Erik Salomon, 22, a junior from Dix Hills who took
it, said that like his professor he has been a Lennon fan since childhood.
"It's impossible to be a listener of popular music and not be
influenced by John Lennon," he said.
Lennon songs pop up in other courses, too. One morning last month, in
an audio lab, Joseph Kuhl, co-chairman of the audio division and
another fan from childhood used eight beats from "Sgt. Pepper's
Lonely Hearts Club Band" (by Lennon and Paul McCartney) to help show
students how to use computer editing tools.
The Lennon theme extends to a hallway where pictures and posters line
the walls and memorabilia fill a cabinet, and to a Lennon archive
with photos and documents in the library. (The hallway and archive
are open to the public.) Concert proceeds go toward student scholarships.
The center is expanding its activities, Mr. Cohen said. The John
Lennon Songwriter Series will open to the public for the first time
on July 25, with two songwriters, Hugh Prestwood and Jeff Cohen,
discussing their work and performing. A new competition for
college-bound students, Long Island Sings the Beatles, is scheduled
for early next year. Also planned is a student performance of "The
Lennon Play: In His Own Write," a 1968 play that Lennon wrote with
Adrienne Kennedy and Victor Spinetti, based on a 1964 book by Lennon.
Mr. Pomes, who wrote what he called a "transliteration" to help
clarify the play's nonsensical language, said the center introduces
Lennon's work to a new generation.
"It's really amazing to see young people so energized and turned on
to this music and music in general," he said.
Mostly Moptop, "Fab 45s for the 45th," 7:30 p.m. March 21, Dix Hills
Performing Arts Center, 305 North Service Road; (631) 656-2148 or dhpac.org.
Tickets are $20.