Is there a happier sounding instrument than the ukulele? Certainly not the piano which demonstrates such a grand range of emotion, one wonders about its mental health.. can one have a bipolar piano, or maybe a multiple personality disorder? Not the drums either, they’re a life force all of their own, but not intrinsically happy. Percussion instruments in general can sometimes be a little sinister – imagine a single shake of a tambourine in a dark room, or the lonesome ting of a triangle. The violin gives itself to very grand emotion – melancholy, inspiration, despair. The guitar has a dark side, full of angst and broken hearts; and the entire brass section’s happy vibe is always overshadowed by a sexy ‘come hither’ tone. Other wind instruments can be perky to the point of annoying – yeah recorder, I’m talking about you – or just annoying without the perk.
The ukulele though, always finds its happy place. Even when the song is of lost love, there’s an underlying optimism: rain bringing rainbows; lemonade out of lemons etc..
Last night I went to see the Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere – aaaah, now we see where this is going.
By the way, am I alone in not really thinking of the planet as having Western and Eastern hemispheres? I get it, it makes total sense especially since we talk about countries in the West and countries in the East, and there’s no reason why you can’t metaphorically split the planet using a line of longitude. But I always tend to think of the planet’s hemisphere as Northern or Southern.
Anyway, back to the Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere. Which, technically, is the Ukulele Orchestra of One Teeny Part of the Western Hemisphere, but artistic license is integral to names, don’t you agree baseball World Series that only features teams from one country?
The orchestra has nineteen members (I think – there’s one very tall orchestra member who may have been camouflaging one or more players), and last night they squeezed themselves onto the 15ft x 6 ft stage in McCabe’s guitar shop on Pico. Quite the feat of spatial mapping. McCabe’s has been around since the early 1970s, and is a mecca for music-loving Angelenos.
Unsurprisingly the orchestra play ukuleles. They also play banjos; there’s a base; they sing; they do acapela; and everything about them is warm and witty. Their song choices ranged from Erasure’s A Little Respect, to a superb mash-up of two masterpieces: Radiohead’s Creep, and David Bowie’s Major Tom; with a classic TV theme tunes medley for their finale.
They were a joy, from start to finish. Every song made you smile – even Creep.