Classical Ukulele

For some days I’ve been thinking that I ought to put up a series of posts focusing on the ukulele as a classical instrument.  The more I thought about it, the clearer it became that what I was thinking of was something that could and should stand on its own.  So I’ve set up a blog called “Classical Ukulele.” 

Below I’ve pasted a copy of the inaugural post, a tribute to the late, great John King.  There’s also a post up in which we see videos of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” in John King’s and other arrangements for ukulele.  Among these arrangements is one Colin R. Tribe posted on YouTube today, which gave me the idea for the post; a characteristically exquisite rendition by Valéry Sauvage; and a performance the Langley Ukulele Ensemble  did last year that will rock your socks. 

John King plays the Bouree from Bach’s Partita #3

When John King died in April 2009, his New York Times obituary explained that it was no great leap for him to come up with the idea of arranging Johann Sebastian Bach’s third Partita for the ukulele:

After attending Old Dominion University in Virginia, Mr. King became a guitar instructor at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. He also worked in the campus bookstore.

He picked up a ukulele occasionally, but not successfully. Then he learned that the diminutive ancestors of today’s guitars were tuned like ukuleles. He tried Bach on the ukulele and was deeply intrigued. He soon commissioned Gioachino Giussani, the Italian luthier, to make a ukulele expressly for classical music. After a decade of practice, he put out a record, including the Bach partita, on his own label in 2001.

Pepe Romero concluded in the liner notes: “The sound of the ukulele is exquisitely well suited for Bach’s music, and I delight in this discovery.”

The whole Partita #3 is available on the CD “The Classical Ukulele,” John King’s label was Nalu Music.

Here’s another of John King’s performances of Bach, preserved on YouTube.

Prelude from Cello Suite #1

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