And so, dear friends, we arrive at the end of our month-long ukulele holiday journey filled with spirit and good cheer—and with high hopes for a Happy New Year! You know, in digging through YouTube to unearth these gems, we learned that there are literally hundreds of uke tutorials online where you can learn how to play any Christmas or Chanukah song you can think of (we didn’t check for Festivus tunes), so maybe next year you can entertain your family and friends with your own versions of the classics, and even the relatively obscure ones: “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” anyone? For now, though, we’ll leave you with these four videos by Reneé Dominique, Brittni Paiva, Paul Hemmings, and, in a triumphant return from her Week Two appearance, Taimane!
‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ by Reneé Domenique
Reneé Dominque is a young singer, songwriter, and uke player based in the Philippines, with a huge worldwide following: More than 1.3 million people have subscribed to her YouTube channel. She’s tackled songs in many styles, so it’s not surprising that she has covered a large selection of Christmas tunes. Here, she offers a lovely version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” one of those holiday tearjerkers that is a good test for any singer. Reneé handles it with great sensitivity and nuance. We like the way her frisky uke accompaniment contrasts so nicely with her expressive alto voice.
‘The Christmas Song’ by Brittni Paiva
Brittni Paiva is a popular and very well-established uke star from Hawaii’s Big Island. A three-time winner of prestigious Na Hoku Hanohano Hawaiian music awards, she has put out several album since her debut in 2004. This sparkling instrumental performance of the Mel Torme standard, “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”) shows the depth of her virtuosity, as she balances strums with deft fingerpicking and explores the ballad’s jazzier side.
‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ by Paul Hemmings
Those of you who read Ukulele magazine regularly may recall that in our Summer 2020 issue we featured an interview with NY-based jazz ukulele player/authority Paul Hemmings, talking about his books of solo ukulele transcriptions of works by Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. In this video, Paul plays a wonderful instrumental version of the modern holiday peace anthem “Happy Xmas (War is Over),” recorded by John Lennon, wife Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band, and the Harlem Community Choir in 1971 (at the height of the Vietnam War). It’s become one of Lennon’s most loved and enduring songs, and this version really captures the beauty of the melody and the stirring “War is over, if you want it…” coda.
‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ by Taimane
We know you’ll forgive us for bringing back Taimane (who sounded so good in our Week Two post) for an encore. This really knocked our red-and-green Christmas socks off: Performing in snowy Sun Valley, Idaho, in January 2020, the Hawaii native, tropical flower tucked behind her ear under the hood of her parka, unleashes a flashy and imaginative rendering of the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s holiday ballet The Nutcracker Suite. Jimi Hendrix (and Jake Shimabukuro) would be proud!