Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ukulele Orchestras and Spinet Parts

Have I mentioned the return of live music to our lives?

Years ago, nothing much kept Fred from his collection of guitars, his fascination with high-end speaker design, and exciting evenings spent with Audio Societies of various girths, talents, and overdressed, bitchy audio widows.

Then, the music died.

I don't know exactly why, although I suppose the move to Tête de Hergé and Fred's immersion, literal and figurative, into the cold, murky waters of Marlinspike Hall's moat may have caused the arthritis in his thumbs to flare.

Plus, he has shared some choice adjectives to describe the acoustics of The Manor and the heritage of tin ears that must trouble the Haddock lineage.

Sometime last year, I had the many layers of priceless carpets of silk and wool removed from our private quarters, mostly due to runny eyes and sneezes that always seemed to occur at just the wrong moment, if you get my drift, and I think you do.  We're not sure, so don't spread it around, but we think we may have unearthed a companion piece to the famous Pazyryk Carpet -- Cyrus the Great was truly a carpet hound.  How the Haddocks got their entrepreneurial hands on the weave is something we can only wonder, and any anonymous tips to Bob Woodward certainly did not originate with us.

In lieu of museum quality floor coverings, I consulted with the Sole Home Depot West of the Lone Alp, and had quality fake wood flooring installed.

And the music was reborn, no longer muted, no longer sucked into the ancient fibers of long gone days.  No more breezy sneezes and hooty honking to undermine the beauty of quadrilles, pasodobles, and the odd fandango.

No... Fred brought out his guitar collection, then a ukulele appeared, and, most recently, a spinet piano.   The spinet was a surprise.  I am still surprised everytime I see it and most especially surprised when I run into it, which happens with disturbing frequency.  The dear, polite woman piano tuner who came Tuesday to work on the only impulse buy I've ever known Fred to make... Well, the pools of sorrow in her eyes could only have been a reflection of my own.  She gently told him things about the spinet that he did not hear.  She stayed for tea, and tried again, a warm chesnut cardigan finished with fine ruffles framing the heart shape of her freckled face, a vintage maxi-dress covering her tiny feet.

She sported quite a different expression after tea, as she hauled away the spinet's entire action, after removing all the keys, and reassuring Fred that the task was nigh unto impossible and receiving an enthusiastic nod, with a hearty thumbs up, in return.

The ukulele has been, on the other hand, a veritable hoot.  Though the Wednesday night group still flounders, in large part due to the Merlot which emboldens them, Fred has opened for me a whole new world of ukulele richness and divcrsity.  One of these Wednesday nights, he will wisely replace the Merlot with tequila, and the ukuleles will sing.

You may already know what the ukulele can do but I marvel at performances like these, by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.  Among the "Frequently Asked Questions" listed on their website is this one:

How did the members of the orchestra meet? 
Some say it was at Bobby's Club in Hastings, some that they were all moonlighting BBC radio announcers. The truth is that when two or three ukulele players are gathered together the gravitational force means that other ukulele players start to come into the orbit. Very soon you are awash with pluckers.

I can attest to the veracity of this observation.

Anyway, enjoy these performances and maybe you'll go running through the night, credit card in hand, to acquire your own ukulele, amplified or acoustic, soprano to baritone, koa or mahogany, vintage or new.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Teenage Dirtbag - The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - BBC Proms

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