Ukulele Prom

· culture ·

Those of you who follow me on Twitter, or occasionally look at the tweets in the sidebar of this site will have noticed me going on about the Prom featuring the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (UOGB). The prom actually happened on Tuesday night, but we recorded it and listened to it last night. I've made no secret of my love for UOGB, and their performance at the Prom didn't disappoint. Any group of people who can turn Kate Bush's 'Wuthering Heights' into a ratpack swing classic, make 'Anarchy in the UK' sound rather sweet and wistful, or sing 'Pinball Wizard' from Tommy a capella and make it sound like a sea shanty, have my undying admiration. The latter piece also got the funniest, most affectionate heckle of the night from the audience. They announced that they would be singing (without their instruments) one of the greatest English Rock songs of all time, and someone yelled out "Judas!". OK, so it's only funny if you know your Dylan folklore, but then it's hilarious, and it was delivered with perfect timing.

The piece de resistance was when they played Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' with approximately 1,000 ukulele-wielding audience members playing along. It could have sounded dreadful, but actually, it was brilliant, uplifting and rather joyous. It's great to hear professional musicians doing what they do best, but even better is when they let you join in. When so many people participate, you don't have to feel self conscious about making a mistake (really — who is going to notice if one person in 1,000 plays a dud note?) and you can just enjoy the feeling of being part of something wonderful. I get the same feeling every time I take part in the CBSO singalong. I'm only a very poor amateur, but it's wonderful to join the professionals, concentrate hard, and mix my voice with so many others. I would have loved to have been at that Prom, and might have even bought a ukulele and learned to play the piece specially for the occasion!