Gregori high school string quartet joins touring Beatles musical for Merced show

Gregori High School string quartet members are, from left, Hayoung David Oh (violin), Ken Whang (violin), Aika Hauw (viola) and Marrisa Mota (cello).
Gregori High School string quartet members are, from left, Hayoung David Oh (violin), Ken Whang (violin), Aika Hauw (viola) and Marrisa Mota (cello). Gregori High School

As members did last year, musicians with the Gregori High School string quartet will join the touring show “In My Life – A Musical Theatre Tribute to the Beatles” when it returns to the Art Kamangar Center at the Merced Theatre on Oct. 17.

The show is the musical retelling of the Beatles’ story through the eyes of manager Brian Epstein and featuring the live music of renowned tribute band Abbey Road. The band features Chris Paul Overall (Paul), Nathaniel Bott (John), Jesse Wilder (George) and Axel Clarke (Ringo). Epstein is played by Murphy Martin. The production includes multimedia, period costumes and vintage instruments. It was performed to a capacity crowd at the Merced Theatre in 2013.

The string quartet – Gregori senior Marrisa Mota, juniors Hayoung David Oh and Aika Hauw and sophomore Ken Whang – join the band for the songs “Eleanor Rigby,” “Yesterday,” “A Day in the Life,” “Hello Goodbye” and “Hey Jude.” In a special touch, “Yesterday” is played as a scene in which the Paul McCartney character plays the song for the first time for Beatles producer George Martin, with the songwriter explaining that he envisioned a string-quartet accompaniment.

The producers of “In My Life” approached Gregori director of orchestras Dan Bryan and invited the school’s quartet to perform with the show. “In My Life” producers look for talented ensembles that can hold their own with a rock band in front of an audience. The show commonly uses a local quartet to augment the production while on tour.

Mota, Hauw and Oh are the quartet’s Beatles fans. “My grandmother had Beatles CDs that I used to listen to over and over as a little girl but I didn’t learn the band playing the music was the Beatles until middle school,” said Mota in a news release. “My favorite Beatles song is ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ ”

“My dad showed me the ‘Help!’ movie when I was 10 years old and I’ve been a Beatles fan ever since,” said Hauw. Her favorite song is “All You Need Is Love.”

Oh’s favorite Beatles song is “Yesterday.”

Mota has been playing cello for six years. In addition to performing cello with her school’s orchestra, she plays percussion with the Gregori marching band. “I like the way the cello sounds and it fits my personality,” she said.

The senior aspires to attend Baylor University or NYU and major in music.

Oh has been playing the violin for 10 years. “My mother wanted me to try it out and I didn’t like playing the instrument,” he said. “I grew to really enjoy playing it and I like the sounds that an orchestra can create together.”

In addition to being a member of his school’s orchestra, Oh plays with the Modesto Youth Symphony Orchestra and plays varsity water polo. He takes four AP classes, maintains a 4.0 average, competes in Academic Decathlon and is a member of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America Club and Key Club.

Whang has been playing the violin for six years and is also a pianist. “I love the complex fingering and tone of the violin,” he said.

Whang has been a member of the Modesto Youth Symphony Orchestra for two years. He is a member of Key Club and plays on his school’s varsity tennis squad. He aspires to attend a four-year university after high school.

Aika Hauw has been playing the viola for four years. “I love the deep tones of the viola,” said Hauw.

She is a member of Global Club, which is a conservation organization, and Key Club. The junior aspires to attend California State University, Long Beach, and pursue a career in speech pathology.