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Farewell to the Beatles

To recognize that many of life’s experiences are offered to us only once.

by Ronni Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To recognize that many of life’s experiences are offered to us only once.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. On 30 January 1969 the Beatles gave their last ever live concert, on the roof of the Apple building in London’s West End. Can you imagine it? It’s a freezing January day, and you’re walking down the road in your lunch hour. Suddenly, from way up above you, comes the sound of the Beatles performing their as yet unreleased single ‘Get Back’ literally into the London air!

    It was mayhem! Traffic stopped, crowds gathered as office workers realized what was going on and stopped to enjoy the almost impromptu concert. It lasted for 42 minutes, then the police closed the show down so that the capital could grind itself back into action once more.
  2. The concert featured the four Beatles – John, Paul, George and Ringo – collaborating with keyboard player Billy Preston, whose music featured on the last album the band released, Abbey Road. They played tracks from this forthcoming album, which was named for the road where the EMI recording studio was, and still is. The studio where all their work was recorded by their brilliant producer, (Sir) George Martin.
  3. Most people who witnessed that now famous concert would not have realized that the band were never to play together again. The four musicians were each pulling in separate directions, and after ten years of making music and history, the Beatles would officially split up the next year. A combination of ‘Beatle mania’ – the hysterical screaming and adulation of their fans – and the total lack of privacy, that today’s celebrities expect, had all been new in the 1960s. The four young men found the celebrity exposure very hard to handle, and this was exacerbated when their manager, Brian Epstein, committed suicide in August 1967. They had last toured in 1966; they had given up when exhaustion and constant press attention led to the decision to only make music in the studio at Abbey Road for their last three years together.
  4. The band went their separate ways. John Lennon and Yoko Ono eventually moved to New York, where John was murdered in 1980. Ringo Starr also ended up in the USA, where his most lucrative work was as the narrator in the Thomas the Tank Engine TV programmes. George Harrison had a successful solo career, dying of throat cancer in 2001. Paul McCartney is still very much in the news, making music and the headlines.
  5. So, can you imagine it? A freezing January day, you’re walking down the road in your lunch hour, when from way up above you comes the sound of your favourite band performing live literally into the London air!

    What would you do? Stop and listen? Or carry on, thinking ‘I’ve got too much to do’.

    I hope I would stop. I hope I’d be able to detach myself from the pressures of my life long enough to be able to stop and enjoy what has come to me, out of the blue, in a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
  6. Ask your reader to read out the poem, ‘What is this life’ by W. H. Davies.

    William Davies (1871–1940) wrote that poem because he felt that people were so busy rushing around, they didn’t have time to stop and enjoy the moment that they were in. He lived in a more rural context, and the poem is full of the countryside, but people in any environment can stop and stare – it means to take time out to just be.
  7. How often have you missed a beautiful sight, because you were preoccupied with other things? Because you were rushing off to meet someone, doing something…

    There is a new expression in hospital casualty wards: pod-accident. It is where people are hit crossing the road because they were distracted from looking properly due to the technology in their ears. People fall off kerbs while texting because they’re not looking where they are going! We rush about, not even seeing our surroundings properly. People have even started walking into lamp posts again!

    Stopping and staring at nature may not seem to be the same as stopping and listening to a free concert, but both are showing that the individual is recognizing that many of life’s experiences are offered to us only once. If you don’t take it when it’s being offered to you at that moment, you may never get that moment, event, possibility again.

    The people who blocked the London streets had no idea that they were in living history. Who knows what opportunities may be offered to us today?

Time for reflection

Read the poem again, then pause.

What will I be offered today?

A chance of a new friendship,

the possibility of helping someone out,

the opportunity to be myself

which no one else can do.

What will I be offered today?

A beautiful sunset,

a freezing wind

a chance to reassure someone

who is feeling scared.

What will I be offered today?

Who knows.

But, when it comes, help me to grasp it firmly with both hands

for I know it may never come again.

Music

Close the assembly with the track ‘The End’.

Publication date: April 2009   (Vol.11 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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