News Column

Nutopians' acoustic show celebrates Lennon's artistry

December 4, 2013


Dec. 04--An award-winning group that celebrates the music of the late John Lennon will perform Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Shalin Liu Performance Center. The mission of The Nutopians, a seven-piece musical ensemble, is to highlight the artistry and genius of the singer-songwriter who came to fame as a member of the Beatles.

The group will feature works from its recently released CD "Lennon Re-Imagined." The group's debut CD, "Imagined: Celebrating the Songs of John Lennon," won the Vox Populi Independent Music Award for best tribute album in 2010, the year the group was formed.

"The Nutopians concert is a beautiful tribute to the musical genius of John Lennon. This concert happens to fall on the evening prior to the 32nd anniversary of Lennon's tragic death, so this is an opportunity to remember his music and life with this touching musical tribute," said Karen Herlitz of Rockport Music.

The tribute group was created by two folk-rock artists: Rex Fowler of Aztec Two-Step, and Tom Dean of Devonsquare, a folk/rock trio.

The group has performed about 100 shows from Maine to Florida.

"We are an eclectic group of musicians who have our own careers in music," said Fowler in a telephone interview yesterday. "We perform acoustic versions of these songs and we are very true to the melodies but with our own renditions."

For the musicians, who will converge here for the concert, this group is about Lennon's music as well as his legacy.

"He was more than a singer-songwriter. He was an activist. He got involved in world politics and in various causes around the globe," said Fowler, who has performed at the Shalin Liu music hall with Aztec Two-Step.

Yoko Ono, Lennon's widow, gave The Nutopians its name, behind which there is a story.

"The name refers to the couple's conceptual country, where John was seeking diplomatic immunity as its ambassador in 1973 after being denied residency in the U.S. for his radical stance against the Vietnam War. The couple even hung a plaque inscribed 'Nutopian Embassy' on their kitchen door in The Dakota," according to a press release.

This past June, the band performed in New York City where Ono was honored at a WhyHunger reception when she received the ASCAP Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award for her work to combat poverty.

"It was pure joy to play John's music for Yoko," said Fowler. "Seeing her laugh out loud and then singing along to our rendition of 'Instant Karma' will live on my lifetime highlight reel forever."

In the spirit of supporting causes, The Nutopians donate a portion of its earnings from concerts and CD sales to WhyHunger's Artists Against Hunger & Poverty' program.

"We really wanted to have a name that a fan of John Lennon would know. We are not trying to be a tribute band that tries to play like him. But we want to honor his music and have a name that has some significance," said Fowler, who lives in Connecticut.

He said the band always receives an extraordinary response from the audience.

"Most people are quite moved. It's a joyful event, but at the same time there is a reverence because of how tragically his life was ended. It had a world-wide profound sadness," recalled Fowler. "He was my favorite Beatle, and he had a profound effect on me."

Band cofounder Dean, who lives in the North Conway, N.H. area, also applauds Lennon's legacy.

"There has never been a more honest or enlightened songwriter on planet Earth than John Lennon," he said in a press release. "Our goal, in some small way, is to continue shining a light on John's message of love, peace and hope with our interpretations of this amazing artist's music."

There will be a variety of songs and song combinations to be performed, such as: "You're Gonna Lose That Girl," "No Reply," "If I Fell," "Instant Karma," "Beautiful Boy," "Love/Oh My Love," "Imagine/I'll Get You," "Together/I Am the Walrus," "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away/Norwegian Wood," "A Day in the Life/Across the Universe," and "Tomorrow Never Knows/Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

Other band members include Alana MacDonald on violin and vocals; Gary Schreiner on chromatic harmonica, piano and accordion; Robby Coffin on lead acoustic and electric guitars and vocals; Teg Glendon on bass; and Jordan Jancz on cello and percussion.

The Shalin Liu Performance Center is at 37 Main St. in Rockport. Tickets start at $27. For information or tickets, visit, or call 978-546-7391.


Gail McCarthy may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x2706, or

If you go Who and what: The Nutopians celebrates the music of the late John Lennon. When: Saturday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. Where: Shalin Liu Performance Center, 37 Main St., Rockport. How much: $27 to $49, available at, or call 978-546-7391.


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