Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra Will Combine Tight Musicianship with a Loose Mood at MIAC
Wellington's repertoire runs the gamut from South Pacific standards to pop hits of the 21st Century – and it's surprising how well each fits their format.
Friday, March 4
Raindrops trickle down the eaves of your island shanty in unison with the teardrops streaking down your face. Before the cruise ship sank, your wife left you for the onboard Elvis impersonator. In the swim to shore, your kids got picked off by marauding tiger sharks. You're in a place worse than bad; you've hit rock bottom. You dip your cocktail umbrella in the dregs of your strawberry daiquiri (a choice beverage for introspection), scribble some lyrics on your bar napkin, and reach for your … ukulele?
Not that a ukulele can't be an extension of your soul during your hour of deepest despair, but it is not an instrument we typically associate with poignancy. Thankfully, the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra doesn't pretend to take itself too seriously despite the serious talent of its constituents. The New Zealand collective is comprised of up to 12 members (co-founder Bret McKenzie, of Flight of the Conchords fame, is often involved elsewhere), with Daniel Yeabsley strumming the double-bass while the others pluck away at any combination of ukulele (soprano, concert, tenor, and/or baritone).
Wellington's repertoire runs the gamut from South Pacific standards to pop hits of the 21st Century – and it's surprising how well each fits their format. Tunes like The Smiths' (inherently jangly) "This Charming Man" and Toto's (guiltily pleasurable) "Africa" are naturals, but (strangely) so is Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River," which takes a folksy turn in its reincarnated form. The musicianship is tight but the mood is kept very loose, with comedy and tomfoolery interspersed throughout.
Don't be startled if you see a grown man in a gorilla suit bang a gong (any more than you normally would). And don't be startled if you temporarily forget yourself in the fun and sun – even if you have some serious soul-searching to do otherwise. – Matt Swanseger
7:30 p.m. // Mary D'Angelo Performing Arts Center at Mercyhurst University // 501 E. 38th St. // miac.mercyhurst.edu/events/the-wellington-international-ukulele-orchestra