Bad Ukester! Bad Ukester!

What I’m playing on my ukulele right now:

Courtroom from The Passion of Joan of Arc by Tom Peters (I’ll explain below)


Aaaaand we’re back. Life does throw its little curves at you, doesn’t it?

 My last post was written from a Maui condo overlooking the islands of Lanai and Molokai during our honeymoon in October. Since then, we’ve dealt with moves, job changes, family illnesses, graduations and a host of other of major life events. One event involved having me perform at the Toronto Silent Film Festival in April, which brings me to the topic of the day—the uses and abuses of the ukulele.

Now, the ukulele is in my opinion, one of the happiest, most joyfully expressive instruments ever created. It’s almost impossible to hear a ukulele’s sweet tones and not crack a smile. It seems criminal to use it any other way. I seem to have done just that.

Let me explain.

Some of you who may not know that I’m a professional classical musician and composer. My specialty is writing and performing music for silent movies, and in fact I discovered my love of the ukulele while writing music for the 1927 silent version of Chicago in late 2012.

The next score was the 1927 horror comedy The Cat and the Canary in October 2012, and OF COURSE the ukulele figured prominently. Which brings me to the Toronto Silent Film Festival. I was asked to provide a score to The Passion of Joan of Arc, a cinematic landmark. This harrowing film is considered to be one of the greatest ever made, so I did not take the task of composing music for it lightly.

 In one of the early scenes, Joan is being interrogated by the Judges of Rouen during her trial. I wanted to depict the terror she must have felt in the courtroom as it became clear that her demise had been plotted. I wanted to musically depict trembling. I reached for my ukulele.

It worked.

After that, the ukulele permeated the score, even—believe it or not—during Joan’s immolation scene.  While most of my uke-ing activities involve Tin Pan Alley and hapa haole songs, my uke and I do occasionally make it to the dark side.

My next score is Vormittagsspuk (Ghosts Before Breakfast) which I’ll perform at the Wayward Chapel in Seattle this weekend along with my score to Nosferatu. 

Here’s what the Courtroom Scene sounded like.

I promise I’ll get back to posting videos next time!