Jorge Bernardo and two of his five brothers, Louie and Manny, are working out George Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone” in the Arlington Community Television studio, as the crew strings cable, sets up cameras, and snacks at the table of chips, soda, and Cuban rice that Jorge cooked the night before.
Jorge is usually here hosting his cable access show Blah, Blah, Blah, but tonight’s program is a special one-off production: the Bernardo Acoustic Concert, a gathering of nine of the 10 Bernardo brothers and sisters, all of whom sing and/or play instruments. When the news of Harrison’s passing reached Jorgefounder of the local Drive My Car Beatles Fan Cluba tribute segment was added.
As lights are adjusted, Louie picks the intro to “Two of Us.” “Oh, you know that?” perks up Manny, and the pair launch into the Lennon/McCartney tune.
The audience is peppered with a variety of D.C. musicians. The Grandsons’ Chris Watling is on hand, as is Vivian Kao of Cowlick Lucy. Regular Blah, Blah, Blah panelist and guitar player Jack Albert is chatting with two members of his band, Accidental Charm, who also play in the Invasion, D.C.’s premier Beatles tribute band. By an odd twist of fate, Rob Isele and Tom Godsman are, respectively, Invasion’s John and George characters. Isele winces when this is pointed out. Says Godsman, “It’s just been a depressing weekend.”
Godsman explains that when the Invasion played its infamous Sgt. Pepper concert at Arlington’s Whitlow’s on Wilson earlier this year (the band performed the entire albumin order, in costume), “we debated doing ‘Within You Without You.’ Then we figured it would give the audience a bathroom break. But it was the one song you could have heard a pin drop. People have so much respect for George. He didn’t have the output [of Lennon and McCartney], but he had the quality.”
With a large poster of the Fab Four in their prime hanging over their shoulders as set decoration, the Bernardos attempt the notoriously difficult task of replicating Beatles harmonies. “Because” breaks down momentarily. “We can get through it,” encourages Jorge. Eventually, the Bernardos acquit themselves admirably, aided by that special magic that happens when siblings sing together. (Think Jacksons, Osmonds, Judds.)
Jorge introduces brother Manny as “Bernardo No. 7.” “Eight,” corrects sister Rosie (No. 6). Dedicating the show to Harrison’s memory, Jorge takes a solo turn on the obit-headline song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” In this chilly cable-access studio, on a gray Sunday afternoon, you could hear a pin drop. Dave Nuttycombe
The Bernardo Acoustic Concert will be airing on area cable channels in December. Check local listings or visit www.bernardoproductions.com.