Review: Ukulele Orchestra and James Hill thrill captivated audience

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 my Heart.

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 entertainment capacities.

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 from Canada.

Add a Comment