What’s it like to play in a ukulele orchestra?

The Willoughby Ukulele Orchestra in an initiative of Ian Porter – a ukulele teacher from Sydney.  Last year, it attracted 55 uke players. This year a similar number attended, including four BUMS members. Together, under Ian’s expert guidance, they learnt, played and recorded three songs.  The workshop was held in Crow’s Nest, just north of the Sydney CBD.

Ian Porter with Outlaws, Willoughby, 2020. Photo courtesy of Lesley Allan.

The aims of the program were to experience being in a structured orchestra, to understand the conductor’s instructions, to learn to fit into a large musical group, and to be exposed to three different musical genres.  Oh, and of course, have fun.

Lesley Allan, Geoff Dancer, Leeanne Horne and Salli Chmura at a pre-Willoughby Orchestra practice. Photo courtesy: Lesley Allan.

The music this year was Mozart’s ‘Symphony #40’, Beach Boys ‘I Get Around’ and a James Hill jazz arrangement of ‘Ja Da’. Six parts were developed for each musical piece including bass and strumming.  There were four picking parts of various levels of difficulty.  Participants selected their ‘skill level’ and appropriate musical parts were sent out two months in advance along with audio files and YouTube videos.

The workshop itself was run by Ian (and three other uke teachers) on 1 February 2020.  There were three rehearsal sessions in the morning focusing on individual parts.  In the afternoon participants played together, and the day culminated with a recording of the whole orchestra.

BUMS members Lesley Allen, Salli Chmura, Leanne Horne and Geoff Dancer chose different musical parts and were thrilled by the musical result – and with what they learnt along the way.  To hear the orchestra,  go to https://youtu.be/b7PrB9K_gcs

Ian expects to run a similar program again later in the year or 2021.

Thanks to Lesley for providing the information for this article.