Posts Tagged ‘Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’


There is an electric fire in human nature tending to purify – so that among these human creatures there is continually some birth of new heroism. The pity is that we must wonder at it, as we should at finding a pearl in rubbish.

–John Keats


I find myself nodding in agreement with the above words from the poet John Keats. It seems that there is ample evidence that humans have the desire and capability for living heroic lives. Yet to do so is a rare and wondrous thing.

A pearl in rubbish, as he says.

Maybe our failure is that we only see heroism defined in epic terms, not in the bravery of the responsibility that comes in making everyday decisions that opt for doing what is right and not expedient or self-serving. Not every hero wears a cape or jumps from buildings.

It’s a matter of perspective.

I think of when my mother was dying from cancer many years ago now. In her final months, she had a picture next to her bed of my father in a small cheap frame with press-on letters on the bottom leg of it that spelled out the word hero.

Now, hero is not a term I have often equated with my father, a man who is deeply flawed in many ways. I confess that, in this aspect, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

But this was especially evident when it came to his relationship with my mother. Most of their life together was loud and contentious. They were always one word or a single side glance away from their next battle royale, the horror shows of mine and my siblings’ childhoods.

But somehow through the years of anger and adversity she still saw something in this man that she recognized as being heroic. Maybe it was that he had simply stayed, had maintained a sense of responsibility and caring for her that became very obvious in her last days.

I will never know for sure. The psychology of it all evades me. But that cheap frame on a dying woman’s bedside table with that word hero on it still lingers with me and always will.

It’s a matter of perspective.

I didn’t plan on writing this for today’s post, didn’t seek to be so personally biographical. It just came and I guess I can live with that. I only wanted to jot down a little something to introduce the song below for this Sunday morning music. It is one of my favorite David Bowie songs, Heroes, performed by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. I know it sounds like it should be a joke or a parody but it’s a wonderful version. I think my mom might well understand it.

Have a good day. Be a hero to somebody.


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I was looking earlier online for a video of the song Blue Christmas to accompany this little painting that I have used as a Christmas card in the past.  I wanted something other than Elvis’ version, which is the standard by which all other versions are judged.  I was amazed at how many different people have covered the song.  There are rock versions , big band and country versions from dozens and dozens of various artists from every segment of the musical spectrum that all seem to pay homage to Elvis’ particular take on the song.  There are different instrumental versions including a charming version on the harp played by a teen who is lamenting the loss of her homeschool teacher, versions from various handbell groups (I particularly liked the one from the Trinity University) and one on the ukulele from one of my favorites, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britiain.

It is an amzing array of sounds and styles that cover this beloved holiday song.  But I found one video entitled Blue Christmas that is another song altogether.  It’s features the trumpet of Miles Davis and the sax of Wayne Shorter and is even bluer in tone than the songs above.  Maybe it’s the odd little animation that accompanies it that gives it even a glummer feel for the holiday.  But it swings.

Take a look-

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Well, my show for next week’s opening at the Principle Gallery has been delivered.  It was an easy day of traveling, the traffic relatively light and no major aggressors menacing the four-lanes.  Smooth.

Going through Pennsylvania there are these large gas stations/convenience store plazas that line Rte. 15.  Sheetz runs a number of these always bustling havens for the road traveler.  They have dozens of gas pumps and fast food and aisles of snacks.  They’re almost always packed with cars and people.  As I drove  yesterday, I noticed one such plaza that was almost empty, shockingly.  I looked at the sign and noticed the colors.  It was a BP-ran plaza. The actual BP logoat the top of an obelisk-like sign  had been covered with what looked to be  heavy white plastic that had been shrink-wrapped around it, obscuring the logo except for the outline of their trademark sun symbol.  Apparently, the driving public had cast a vote of extreme disapproval for the company in the most potent way– with their buying dollars.  It was an interesting thing to note and, while I wish no business harm, it heartened me to see that people were making conscious choices and, in their way, voicing an opinion with their pocketbooks rather than just shrugging it off as another “Oh well, what can I do about it?” moment.

Just interesting.

Also, I heard a story on NPR about the ukulele revival around the world.  I have featured ukulele pieces here a couple of times, with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, so I was happy to hear that I wasn’t alone in my admiration of this much maligned instrument.  Apparently, for many years now, many schools throughout Canada use the uke in teaching music to elementary grade students, giving each kid their own ukulele.  On this program, they played a clip of a performance where a large number of the audience had brought their own ukes and at a point in the concert joined with the onstage performers in a version of Keep on the Sunny Side of Life.  It was great and made me wish that people were required to carry ukuleles with them at all times.  How can you be mad with a uke in your hands?

Anyway, here’s a peformance from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain that doesn’t feature the uke but is  great fun nonetheless.  Sounds pretty good on a Saturday when I can relax for a bit now that my studio is emptied…

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UkuleleI always feel like I’m cheating a bit when I come across something in another person’s blog and end up using it in my own.  But when I saw these guys I knew I was going to have to use them as soon as possible. 

They’re the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and they are just what the name implies: a band of uke players.  They play great covers of unlikely songs.  The theme from Shaft.   The Good, the Bad  and the Ugly.  Should I Stay or Should I Go.  From rock songs to classical standards, all done with a mix of tongue in cheek virtuosity.  They’re currently working on a mass version of Ode to Joy that will be performed in August in London.  If you’re going to be in London and want to play along, check out their website and you too could be strumming out Ludwig’s eternal music along with hundreds or thousands of others.

If not, at least enjoy a little Smells Like Teen Spirit

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