It was 50 years ago in June that Sgt Pepper taught the band to play. And to celebrate, hundreds of New Zealand musicians are teaming up to bring Beatlemania back to Auckland.

The Play It Strange Trust is uniting 150 musicians for two nights of music to mark the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' two Auckland Town Hall shows on June 24 and 25.

Each night's performance will have a different line-up. Among those performing on June 24 are Don McGlashan, SJD and Tim Finn, with Peter Urlich, Jason Kerrison and Jordan Luck among those taking to the stage on the second night.

And though there were swarms of teenagers screaming at the Fab Four 50 years ago, this time hundreds of schoolchildren will join the musicians on stage, performing Beatles songs they have been rehearsing in the lead-up to the shows.


Thankfully, it seems John, Paul, George and Ringo haven't been lost among the Biebers and Mileys that dominate the charts today. Play It Strange CEO Mike Chunn says when one student was asked if she knew any Beatles songs, she replied that she knew every song from their No 1 album of chart-topping tracks.

As for the professionals, Chunn says it was relatively smooth sailing deciding who would play what from the extensive list of options.

"It was amazing. When the artists were asked to choose two songs each from the Beatles' catalogue, there were very few double-ups. This is recognition of how numerous and vast their songs were." All the funds raised will go to Play It Strange, which was set up in 2003 to shine a spotlight on young people and their songs. The trust runs several secondary school songwriting competitions as well as the Jam Bus mobile recording studio, which travels through Auckland primary schools. It has also staged Band Of Strangers Concerts over the years, based on a concept from Neil Finn, where young artists get to share the stage with established musicians.

• Tickets for the June 24 and 25 shows at the Auckland Town Hall from Ticketmaster.