Sunday, October 11, 2009

Evento finale: Ukulelescope

Films and extracts:
Medvedeff’s Russian Balalaika Orchestra (British Sound Film Productions, GB 1929)
Two More (Publicity Films, GB 1929)
Quicker than Thought Movements (Pathé, FR 1913)
Tale of the Amplion (?, GB 1925) Drawings by W. Heath Robinson
Jiujitsu for the Ladies – Hints and Hobbies No.11 (FHC Productions, GB 1926)
Kiss in the Tunnel (G.A. Smith, GB 1899)
Ladies on Bicycles (Hepworth and Co., GB 1899)
Cycling the Channel (Topical Film Company, GB 1929)
Blackpool Promenade (?, GB, c.1924)
Dance of the Deermen (British Folk Dance and Song Society, GB 1928)
Hints on Physical Culture (?, GB, ?)
The Poetry of Motion (Pathé/Around the Town, GB 1921)
Quite Unfit for Females (Topical Film Company, GB 1921)
Ain’t She Sweet (De Forest Phonofilm, GB 1927) CAST: Dickie Henderson, Chilli Bouchier
Birth of a Flower (Kineto, GB 1910) D, DP: Percy Smith.
Trojan Cars (Debenham and Co., York, GB 1926) Sponsor: Ayrshire Motor Company
By the Side of the Zuyder Zee (Walturdaw, GB 1907)
The Witch’s Fiddle (Cambridge University Kinema Club, GB 1924) D, SC: Peter Le Neve Foster
Is London Like It Used To Be [catalogue: Old London Street Scenes] (?, GB 1903)
Competitors from Bristol (Topical Film Company, GB 1922)
How the Jam Gets into Donuts (Pathé/Around the Town, GB 1926)
Dance of the Moods (Spectrum Films, GB 1924) DP: Claude Friese Greene
- The Talisman (Le Pied de mouton) (Pathé, FR 1907) D: Alberto Capellani
- Medvedeff’s Russian Balalaika Orchestra (British Sound Film Productions, GB 1929)
- The Deonzo Brothers (Paul’s Animatograph Works, GB 1901)
- Will Evans the Musical Eccentric (Warwick Trading Company, GB 1899)
- L’Homme-Orchestre (Star-Film, FR 1900) D: Georges Méliès.

DigiBeta (from 35mm originals) [ca 90 min announced] actual duration 74 min; from: BFINA
With special thanks to Bryony Dixon, Neil Brand, British Film Institute, British Silent Film Festival.

Live music by:
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (Dave Suich, Richie Williams, Hester Goodman, George Hinchcliffe, Kitty Lux, Will Grove White, Jonty Bankes)
Created and produced by: Hester Goodman
Original music: Hester Goodman, George Hinchcliffe
E-subtitles in Italian. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 10 Oct 2009.

From the GCM Catalogue: "Since its almost accidental formation by a group of friends in 1985, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has become a national institution – “absolutely the Best of British”, in the words of Michael Palin. At the same time, the group has won global popularity: when they appear in Japan, barricades are needed to keep back the fans, and they are soon due at the Sydney Opera House. Musically, the peak of their career so far has been their inclusion in the 2009 Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, the most prestigious event in London’s musical year. People queued all day for places, and more than 1,000 brought their own ukuleles to join in an unprecedented massed ukulele performance of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.
The Orchestra can in large part take credit for the new enthusiasm for the long-scorned uke, a 19th-century Hawaiian adaptation of instruments introduced by Portuguese sailors. They have today become musicians of great virtuosity, revealing the rich and extraordinary range of sounds and colours of which the ukulele is capable. But their performance involves more than instrumental virtuosity, which is interwoven with songs, whistling, gags, irony, and beaming good humour. Their comedy never detracts from the joy and beauty of the music. In their own words, they present “a funny, virtuosic, twanging, awesome, foot-stomping obituary of rock-’n’-roll and melodious light entertainment featuring only the ‘bonsai guitar’ and a menagerie of voices in a collision of post-punk performance and toe-tapping oldies. There are no drums, pianos, backing tracks or banjos, no pitch shifters or electronic trickery. Only an astonishing revelation of the rich palette of orchestration afforded by ukuleles and singing (and a bit of whistling).” Their repertory ranges from Beethoven and Tchaikovsky to Nirvana, Otis Redding, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. “Both the beauty and vacuity of popular and highbrow music are highlighted,” they tell us, “the pompous and the trivial, the moving and the amusing. Sometimes a foolish song can touch an audience more than high art; sometimes music which takes itself too seriously is revealed to be hilarious. You may never think about music in the same way once you’ve been exposed to the Ukes’ depraved musicology.”
The Orchestra is particularly admired by fellow musicians: Brian Eno says ambivalently, “The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain may well turn out to be one of the turning points of 21st Century Art. But then again…” For years Neil Brand has been pleading that they should work with film, and finally it happened, in January 2009, when they first presented Ukulelescope at the Bristol Slapstick Festival, using a collage of short silent films from the British Film Institute, selected with the guidance of Bryony Dixon. They handle film as they handle music, with no false reverence, but with affection or sarcasm where they are respectively due. While they are distinctly cheeky to Medvedeff’s Russian Balalaika Orchestra or pushy period commercials, they combine a 1903 London Street Scene and a music hall tune to evoke a supreme elegy for another time; and they find a singularly sympathetic friend in Méliès. They are full of surprises. – David Robinson". -

A spirited and inspired performance with fascinating discoveries (Quicker Than Thought Movements, Jiujitsu for the Ladies, Le Pied de mouton). There was a surrealistic aspect to the show, both in the music and in the collage of silent films.

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