Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Friday, 21 August 2009

The joy of ukelele

Every season of the Proms has its memorable concerts - and they're not all of the grand classical repertoire.

Topping the list of requests to BBC's i-Player replay service this week has been a late night concert by the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain. For 25 years, they have been exploring the humour in the sight of a line-up of people dressed like a rather formal 1920s concert party strumming (and singing) their way through a range of pop and rock classics, with some mix and match.
This must have been the first Prom to feature a Sex Pistols number, and a man who looks a bit like your bank manager performing Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights - with the audience shouting "Heathcliff!" at appropriate moments. One audience member stole a laugh by recalling (at some reference to rock) a folkie's famous rebuke to Bob Dylan for turning to an electric guitar 40 years ago, and shouting "Judas!".

But what caused the most stir was some more serious audience participation. Nigh on a thousand people brought their own ukeleles for a mass performance of Beethoven's Ode to Joy theme, with the UOGB providing harmonies and descants: and some audience members sang along (in German too). All very jolly, all the more remarkable that it was happening at nearly eleven on a sweltering night - and rather moving too. Joy indeed:

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