Ukulele music to reopen hall

The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, renowned for its  hilarious cover versions of pop and rock classics, will entertain Queenstown for the second time on March 7. Photo supplied.
The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, renowned for its hilarious cover versions of pop and rock classics, will entertain Queenstown for the second time on March 7. Photo supplied.

The Queenstown Memorial Centre will reopen in style after its $3.1 million upgrade with a double bill of ukulele entertainment to thrill music lovers of all ages.

The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra shares the bill with ''the best ukulele soloist in the world'', James Hill, for a concert on March 7 at 7.30pm.

The talented musicians of the seven-year-old orchestra mix heavenly harmonies and stunning solos with madcap antics and mini instruments to bring sell-out, sing-along audiences to their feet.

The troupe have recorded and released four EPs which feature their astonishing interpretations of such pop and rock hits as Afternoon Delight by the Starland Vocal Band, Africa by Toto, That's Amore made popular by Dean Martin, This Charming Man by the Smiths, Jolene by Dolly Parton and Cry Me a River by Justin Timberlake.

Composer and player Hill is credited with ''enchanting'' audiences.

''We're looking forward to audiences enjoying James Hill,'' said orchestra musician Gemma Gracewood.

''He's simply one of the best ukulele musicians in the world. He's from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and not widely known outside of ukulele circles - yet.''

The orchestra made its Queenstown debut last March and it was a surprise sell-out.

''Queenstown is notorious for late ticket sales and one week before [the concert] we were wondering if we would be playing to an empty hall, but on the night there was a wonderful audience and it was a very enjoyable show,''Ms Gracewood said.

The Queenstown audience on March 7 could look forward to new additions to the orchestra's repertoire, seeing the musicians in new outfits and even ''budget special effects'', she said.

• The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra and James Hill also play the Civic Theatre, Invercargill, on March 8 and the Regent Theatre, Dunedin, on March 9, as part of their 10-show national tour. Booking early is recommended. Tickets cost $59 per person from Ticketek.