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My ukulele highlights of 2019

Now that there's not much left of 2019, I feel like writing about a few good things that have happened this year.

I met up with ukulele player, Paul Mansell in the summer months of this year. We had been chatting about the dearth of ukulele duets and decided to fill the gap: "You do ten arrangements and I'll do the same and then let's see what we've got in a month.." he suggested. We were very happy with the result and even happier when Paul's publisher, Kevin Mayhew emailed him to say that they would take it on.

We had a great time recording the duets in the studio in Stowmarket. There were plenty of laughs and lots of coffee! The book isn't quite out yet (October 2019) but it should be by the end of the year. There might even be a duet concert to promote the book before the year is out.

Last Saturday (October 12th) was another great day for me. For several months, I was working with Jim Beloff, the ukulele composer and publisher at Fleamarket Music. He has written two wonderful concertos for ukulele. There was a basic outline of the ukulele solo part that had been sketched by the arranger, but Jim wanted it to be exactly as he played it so that the music could be published and played by other players. He sent me videos of himself playing the music so that I could see what he was doing. I also used the arranger's outline to get some clues about the rhythms. After several months of using 'musescore' with Jim making corrections, we completed the solo parts of both 'Uke Can't Be Serious' and 'The Dove Tale'. Both concertos are on CD and both are revolutionary and absolutely wonderful compositions. It was a great honour to be asked to contribute something towards them.

Since taking on my three ukulele books about eight years ago, I had never met Jim. It's not easy to arrange a meeting when one of us lives in East Sussex and the other lives in Connecticut, USA! However, we did have that meeting on 12th October. Jim and his wife, Liz were on holiday, touring through various parts of Britain. They were in London last week and we arranged to meet up and go through the concertos one more time. Lisa came with me and we had a lovely day with Jim and Liz. Jim played for us a jaw-droppingly difficult jazz piece on his 'Fluke' arranged by Lyle Ritz. As soon as I got home I ordered Lyle Ritz's book of chord solos and saw some amazingly good players on youtube playing the pieces. They certainly aren't easy but so incredibly impressive. They must be the ultimate way of showing people that strumming C Am F & G7 to accompany your voice is the very least that a ukulele has to offer now and the reward of aiming higher is so worth the effort!

Jim & Liz Beloff

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