AS BIRTHDAY celebrations go, it was at the classier end of the scale. The cream of classical players met the cream of rock and roll as the RLPO reprised its John Lennon Songbook for what would have been the Beatle's 70th birthday.
Featuring some of Lennon and The Beatles' best-known hits, arranged beautifully for a full symphony orchestra, the performance saw actor Paul McGann once again don the round-rimmed specs to wrap a chatty monologue around songs like Julia, All You Need Is Love and Imagine.
After striding out on stage in a white suit and shoes, he evoked Lennon with a light touch, in the guttural lilt, in a certain way of leaning into the mike, arms flat by his sides.
Flanking him at the mike were respected British jazz singers Curtis Stigers and Claire Martin, who each added new flavours to the mix.
Foot-tapping Stigers reworked Girl and Yes It Is into smoky jazz lounge numbers, complete with mellow sax solos and flashy trumpets.
Martin poured soul into Ticket To Ride, her rich, throaty voice reminiscent of Dusty Springfield, remoulding the song into the lament of the Liverpool girl Lennon left behind.
Sweetly harmonising on the Two of Us, the pair drew a powerful response from the audience who thundered an applause.
It has to be said that some songs offered better scope for orchestral involvement than others.
Jealous Guy, sung with understatement by Stigers, left the flourishes to the orchestra and A Day In The Life, with its spectacular clashing climax, was also superb. I Am The Walrus, chirpily voiced by all three, supplied an electric opening to the second half of the performance, which dealt with Lennon's love for Yoko and disenchantment with The Beatles.
Seconds after Lennon mused his fondness for irreverent would protect him from the fate of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, a series of staccato beats rang out and one by one the lights were dipped.
It was a powerful moment.
The singers reappeared for a rather sombre finale ending inevitably with Imagine. A standing ovation brought them trooping back for All You Need Is Love which the audience gustily joined in with.
Yet another ovation elicited a heartfelt verse of happy birthday to the late star. The atmosphere was strangely intimate: thousands of fans paying a warmly-felt tribute.
There's no knowing what Lennon would of made of such a grown-up affair – but for classical music and Beatle lovers it was a rare, satisfying and unexpectedly poignant treat.