A ukulele concerto for symphony orchestra? This is not something you hear every day. Occasionally, you’ll hear a Baroque piece arranged for the uke, such as Vivaldi’s Lute Concerto in D Major, or perhaps a modern composition featuring an orchestra full of ukuleles. But a uke concerto for symphony orchestra is a rare bird indeed. That’s why the uke world is breathlessly awaiting the June premiere of Byron Yasui‘s Concerto No. 1 for Ukulele, to be performed by Jake Shimabukuro and the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra.
However, way back in 1999, author, musician, composer, and all-around ukulele impresario “Jumpin'” Jim Beloff was commissioned by the Wallingford (CT) Symphony Orchestra to write a ukulele concerto. The result, “Uke Can’t Be Serious: A Concerto for Ukulele and Symphony Orchestra,” has been performed live by Beloff and company numerous times over the years. Not long ago, Beloff worked with Jason Nyberg to create a version using synthesized orchestration. The piece shows off the uke’s versatility, ranging from pensive passages to full Tin Pan Alley-style pop. Take a listen for yourself.