From a toe-tapping, knee-slapping opening number until the
Regent Theatre audience was belting out Oh When the Saints
Go Marching In, the Wellington International Ukulele
Orchestra and James Hill provided a night of entertainment
that pushed past conventional musical boundaries.
When you google James Hill, he is often described as the
world's best ukulele player. That is impossible to confirm
from Dunedin, but there was an audience - ranging from
primary school pupils to senior citizens - on Saturday night
which would have given the big thumbs up to that claim.
Hill, along with cellist Anne Janelle, kept the songs coming.
Mostly, they were self-written and from their latest albums.
What they could not do with their respective instruments is
not worth talking about.
Close your eyes, and it was nearly impossible to believe that
Hill was using just four strings to produce the sounds he
did. Incredibly, he turned his ukulele into a percussion
instrument as he and Janelle performed a cover of Michael
Jackson's Billie Jean before he brought out another
ukulele which he played with chopsticks. The audience went
wild with applause and shouting.
The end of the first half saw Hill and Janelle combine with
the orchestra to cover one of Hill's compositions, Hand on
If the audience was left wondering how the second half could
top the first, they were not left wondering for long. The
orchestra was in full flight, starting with a David Kilgour
number that got straight to the point.
The orchestra is a regular visitor to Dunedin and each time,
they seem to grow in stature in their musical and
Two standing ovations, an audience sing-along and the night
ended, three hours after the first note was plucked.
And a footnote. Hill, Janelle and the Orchestra all had high
praise for the refurbished Regent Theatre, with Hill
commenting that few venues in the world could compare with
what he experienced in Dunedin. Both Hill and Janelle are