Professor B's Blog

BSU Ukulele Ensemble Debut Performance


Ukuleles all tuned up and ready for the BSU Ukulele Ensemble debut performance

A long-held dream came true yesterday when the BSU Ukulele Ensemble had its debut performance at the Mid-Year Symposium. We actually performed twice–once in the lobby (we called it rehearsing but the people who stopped and listened thought it was a performance) and again as part of a set of performances organized by the Arts and Social Justice seminar and colloquia.

We performed four numbers. The first was “Riptide” by Vance Joy. This song uses 3 chords in the same order for all of the song except the bridge, making it a good one for the beginners. To learn this song, we often played along to a YouTube video of Vance Joy accompanying himself on ukulele.

Next we performed a 12-bar blues (again with just 3 chords) with verses written by the students in my Folk Musics of the United States seminar. One student was the lead singer (call) and the rest of echoed the ends of phrases or interjected other words and sounds (response). Two of the players took a solo on their ukes. It was quite improvisatory and loose, as the blues should be.

The third song was Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which many people are familiar with from the movie Shrek. This song uses 2 chords in the verse and chorus, but the pre-chorus gets more complicated. The more experienced players carried that part. The pre-chorus swells with the emotion of the melody and lyrics and the singers tend to crescendo, so a drop in the number ukes playing isn’t really noticed.

We finished off our performance with “Frosty the Snowman,” a relatively easy one until the bridge. Again the experienced players handled that part and the others joined in when we got back to the verse.

The Ukulele Ensemble will start up again in the spring semester so stay tuned. No experience or instrument necessary–just bring a willing attitude!

In the meantime, I’ve added a ukulele resource page on the blog.

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