Friday was the first of our 'ticket' nights out - we bought tickets way back in August to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, who have been doing a New Zealand tour. If you haven't heard of them, this is a troupe of eight ukulele players, who play instruments from 'soprano' (or 'teeny'), right up to 'bass' (or 'guitar'). They have been going for 25 years this year, and they still look like they are having as much fun on stage as the audience are watching them. We were at the Michael Fowler Centre, which is a glorious modern venue - the main auditorium is set out in native wood, looks absolutely beautiful, and whoever designed the seating layout actually thought about knee-space rather than "how many people can we cram into here".
The group were fantastic, as always. They have a great rapport with each other, and just the slightest glance can get the audience howling. Their repertoire stretches all the way from the classical (they played 'Dance Macabre' for us, as well as reprising their Proms 2009 Audience Participation Ode to Joy - unfortunately, because they didn't hand out the music beforehand (just expecting the audience to find it on their website), most of the audience who had brought ukuleles weren't actually able to join in, and it ended up almost being a trio from the audience vs eight of them on stage!), theme music (They did the theme to 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly', and a brilliant version of 'Shaft', though fortunately, they did not add in their usual gag on mining - definitely the wrong week to joke about that...), hard rock (Wheatus's 'I'm just a Teenage Dirtbag') and many more (including a New Zealand song called "Now is the Hour" which had a fantastic audience response).
There are plenty of excellent videos on YouTube featuring them (some from them directly, others bootlegged...) - one of the reasons that I love them, not only because of the humour, is summed up by a quote from Peter Brooke Turner:
"We thought, `Well, why can't we do songs by the Velvet Underground or the Sex Pistols? And what we found was that the ukulele's sort of a musical lie detector ... if you strip everything away, by playing it on a ukulele you can tell if it's a good song or not. Surely the sign of a good song is that it can just be simply strummed through and sung, and the essence is still there."
These were two of my favourites from the evening:
A great take on Life on Mars...
I adored their second medley - it was new to me :-)
Sadly they didn't play another of my favourites, similar in theme and style...
Now go and look at their other stuff on YouTube, and maybe even go get their CDs / DVDs! :-) And I'd definitely recommend that you get tickets to see them live next time they are your way!
We had an absolutely brilliant evening, a great start to a fun weekend; Phoenix group PIG meeting on Saturday, and I got to play with a video recorder on Sunday trying to get a video uploaded for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra competition. I managed it - just - after a number of major hiccups (wrong file types, corruption when I tried to convert them, and then a corrupted source disk made for a bit of a frustrating afternoon, particularly after I'd spent a number of hours recording the videos to start with!) I then went and looked at some of the other auditions that people had put up, and I can safely say that I am not going to get through to the final - they make me look like a beginner! But it was a good learning curve for the next time they do this (this is the second time they have run the competition, so I can be reasonably certain that they will do it again).
I managed to miss another earthquake - one of my friends even texted me to ask if I'd felt it... I don't know - I've been here a year and still not felt one! (though given the mess down in Christchurch - they are over 3,000 now, and the aftershocks are expected to go on for another 2 years... - I think that I can live without it for the moment!)
And it is starting to get immensely surreal - we are really heading into summer now (starting to overheat under the duvet at night; short-sleeve shirts are the order of the day in the office), and I'm seeing so many posts about snow and ice from my friends and family back in the UK. It definitely doesn't feel like we are on the very slippery slope to Christmas!