Sarjeant Hosts Steam Punk Ukulele Orchestra
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Sarjeant Hosts Steam Punk Ukulele Orchestra

The Wanganui Ukulele Orchestra – in steam punk mode.Photo / Supplied

The Wanganui Ukulele Orchestra is set to present a fun-filled concert on Sunday 19 August 4.30pm to 6pm at the Sarjeant on the Quay. The nine member strong orchestra will play and sing a wonderfully varied repertoire, ranging from old favourites such as Choo Choo Ch’Boogie and Summertime through to music by George Harrison, Simon & Garfunkel and JJ Cale.

The orchestra comprises electric bass, baritone, soprano and concert ukuleles, which are amplified, and modulated by a sound desk. A harmonica and recorder provide complementary effects.

Delia Jarratt who plays the baritone ukulele says that people used to the “plinkety plunkety” ukulele are quite surprised at what can be produced by the little four stringed instrument. “It’s an amazing instrument. I’ve always been blown away by it. I learnt the ukulele as a child, as people did, and then you moved on to the guitar. I was asked if I wanted to join the group so I got back into it.”

The concert promises to be quite a visual affair as the orchestra dresses up in steam punk outfits – their signature theme which involves lots of bold colour and quirky Victorian embellishments. Ukulele player, Dianne Blair, fresh from a steam punk festival in Oamaru sports a top hat and replica WW1 airman’s goggles.

A regular attendee at Sarjeant’s events Judy Flatt says, “I am keen to hear them as ukulele music has had a resurgence over the past few years.” Judy enjoys the diversity of talent the gallery concerts offer, and the musical experiences shared both by professional performers and by those beginning their careers in music. “The variety of musical styles is wonderful. It’s an evening’s entertainment and is not expensive.” Judy said the way the Sarjeant is fundraising and raising its profile encourages people to become involved in the arts and in the city’s iconic gallery. “People are giving and receiving. A lot of work goes into these events. I think the Sarjeant should be congratulated. The best thing I can do as a member of the public is to support it.”

Jazz pianist, member of The Abacus Trio, and Patron of the Wanganui Jazz Club, Angela Crawford enjoys the opportunity to hear both local artists and those from out of town and encourages musicians to also consider offering their talent to the Musicians for the Sarjeant series which is specifically designed as a fundraising series for the Sarjeant Gallery’s redevelopment. Angela plays with the River City Big Band, which has given three Musicians for the Sarjeant concerts at the Sarjeant.  She says the band treats the Sarjeant concerts as any other and puts in solid rehearsal time several weeks ahead.

“There is never any problem when we ask guest musicians to participate, because it’s for the Sarjeant. People want to support the gallery. Most musicians don’t play just for the money, it’s because we love the music. And most of the band is Whanganui born and bred. We want to see the Sarjeant Gallery Redevelopment go ahead.”

Raewyne Johnson of the Sarjeant Gallery runs the events series. “We have had an incredibly varied program of events from Japanese drumming to classical music. Any music works in the gallery space and it’s a great way to raise funds for the redevelopment” To date the Musicians for the Sarjeant series has raised over $30 000 in just over five years and hosted in excess of forty acts. “I am always delighted and honoured by the artists who approach us”

Helen Frances

This story was first published in the Wanganui Chronicle on 17 July, 2018

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