Fact. Age has the only name in the band that can be played on the ukulele: 'A' ‘G’ and ‘E’. Smooth move. You can play at least 23 songs on the ukulele with just those 3 chords.
So even his name is a tune, which is fitting because Age is a man of music. His other career is also as a musician where he plays another instrument which looks a lot like a ukulele but is somewhat larger and has a couple of other extraneous strings.
It’s a threateningly promising career, but we know, if he were to toss up between a solo career, and travelling across the States of America in a Greyhound bus singing and playing with his ukulele buddies, where his allegiance lies. Besides, the WIUO would fall apart without his metronomic rhythm and despotic leadership skills.
By Megan Hosking, March 2007
By far the most handsome and talented of the especially handsome and talented Morley-Hall clan, Andy is a player who strums ukulele and life at a constant, up beat.
Andy spent his childhood building miniature worlds in the undergrowth and began his love affair with the bicycle. Since these halcyon days he has grown tall but still approaches life with a similar industry and wonder.
On any given day you might find Andy photographing captured wildlife, cycling the streets of Wellington as a painted skeleton or perhaps serenading Deluxe Café staff with punk songs a la ukulele.
Life is a lot about playing for Andy, especially of the ukulele. In fact one gets the very distinct feeling that if ‘our Andy’ didn’t have to be up on stage being a ‘grown up’ performer, you would find him sitting cross legged in the audience, singing his heart out with our juvenile fans. Andy is a strummer with great heart, a beautiful voice, he always has a glint in his eye, and a humorous quip at hand, and I can’t help thinking this is because he is still at heart that kid making miniature worlds in the undergrowth.
By Carmel Russell, March 2007
(* Due to other commitments, Bret performs with the Orchestra only when his schedule allows and cannot be guaranteed to appear at any WIUO event. Right, now that we've got that disclaimer out of the way...)
Bret, the most well known and multi talented founding member of the orchestra, showed promise early in life as a ballet dancer where he discovered the fringe benefits of being outnumbered by females.
He’s a drummer, keyboardist, ukulele player, singer, songwriter, scriptwriter, actor and Figwit as well as an engineer and producer. The WIUO sent Bret overseas to fulfil its international obligations, so he is not often visible to the naked eye.
The last reported sighting with the orchestra was made at a now closed venue but luckily it was captured on video and can now be witnessed on the website youtube.com.
Though sightings are rare, his presence in the orchestra is strongly felt at all times. He has yet to master ventriloquism and contortionism but whatever he’s conjuring up next we know it’ll be great.
Steve Jessup, April 2007
Bek is from Palmy. She is the eldest of six children. Bek is one half of the band Cortina and one twelfth of The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra. She is a very good artist and is also part of the Deluxe café crew .She washes dishes. About six months into the band's history, Bek came to the orchestra’s regular monthly breakfast gig at Deluxe. Armed with a newly acquired pink ukulele and having learned a couple of our more popular tunes, Bek joined in.
She made an immediate impact and at our next practice, we voted to put her on a two month probationary trial period pending full membership. Bek liked the idea of being on probation.
My mum calls Bek “The Original Rebel”. I reckon she’s like a cosmic whirlwind of new and refreshing ideas. She doesn’t see the world quite like the rest of us do. Though she thinks deeply about things she is the opposite of earnest.
If you have a conversation with Bek you have to hold on because the conversation won’t go in a straight line. She’s also one of the loveliest and most empathetic souls you’re ever likely to meet. Bek is funny, honest and true to herself. She is also slightly mad…in a good way! If you get to see The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra play sometime, listen out for Bek’s rendition of Sugar Baby love by The Rubettes. It’s a cracker!
By Andy Morley-Hall, April 2007
Don’t be fooled by the gentle doe-eyes of this ukulele player. Carmel is more a woman of the world than a Bambi of the forest. A woman who, like her voice, is warmer than wood and sweeter than honey; also like her strum, solid as wood and sweeter than honey. But beware of this ukulele player’s hidden charms and secret talents. Although warm and sweet, Carmel becomes FORMIDABLE in her own brand of style. A style that combines class with immaculate perfection. Imagine the precision of a Solid Gold Dancer: this precision Carmel brings to her playing, singing and dressing in the ukulele orchestra.
Hence, Carmel can be described as the sweet yet secretly deadly weapon of the Orchestra. Mastery is the very secret art of this woman of the world.It is no surprise that the ukulele is not the only thing mastered by the seemingly humble touch of this sweetheart. Way before she decided to master the ukulele (that was Easter 2006) Carmel had already mastered the whip. Symbolic perhaps of the ability Carmel has to just whip something up. The outfit! The harmony! The homemade chutneys made from her own home-grown produce! One gets the feeling that anything this woman decides to strum, cook or whip will turn into gold. Solid Gold that she will share with everyone.
By Bek Coogan, WIUO member, April 2007
The fire is burning, the lights are suitably dim, I'm sitting in my leather armchair, a fine crystal glass sits in the palm of my left hand, its contents – a smoky "Dan Yeabsley" 32 YO single malt whiskey - glowing amber in the fire light. I want nothing more.
Yes ladies and gents. When it comes to Dan taste is everything. The well-aged Dan Yeabsley may appear dry and woody at first but given time an array of different flavours shine through. He’s not the tallest drink you will ever have but after a while you'll get the hang of his smooth bass flavours. His playing is sweet with the capital S! His fruity notes (banana) and masses of vanilla open velvety soft but turn into roaring spicy explosions, add some smoke and this man is nothing short of complex. The taste just keeps on changing. “His finish?” you ask. Good question. It's long and starts slightly bitter, then you get all this sweetness coming back at you - liquorice, honey, vanilla then malt overlaid by a nice, oaky tone. He is an excellent dram, complex to the extreme. I rate him 100%.
When Dan’s not being a whiskey, he’'s a musician and as well as the WIUO plays in all these other bands - Twinset, The Eggs, The Scribes of Ra and The Lap Steelers. He has an awesome daughter, Raniera, and if she decides to become a whiskey when she grows up, she’ll do a fine job I'm sure.
By Sam Auger - April 2007
International man of mystery Francis Salole is a master of illusion. He reveals his secrets to nobody, not even within the close circle of trust that is the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra.
No-one can say where he comes from, how old he is, or where he finds his endless supply of vintage suits and matching glasses.
One thing is for sure though: he is a man of formidable talent. Whether he is singing ukulele duets with his “special sidekick”, creating fruity animations for feature films, nursing the sick and wounded, playing with his daughter or simply making time stand still, Francis has it covered and in style. Just don’t ask him for an explanation – none knows better than Frank Salole: it’s a mad world and there ain’t no making sense of it.
By Age Pryor, April 2007
If the WIUO was the solar system, Gemma would be the sun, bathing everyone in life-giving rays of goodness.
If the WIUO was the Titanic, Gemma would be the propeller, driving us to collide deliciously with the icebergs of international acclaim, and leaving us to drown in the freezing waters of musical ecstasy.
If the WIUO was a sacrificial goat, Gemma would be its beating heart, held aloft, spraying blood before being placed in a ceremonial bowl and eaten raw by delirious ukulele supplicants.
Gemma likes the colour green. She adores its green-ness, its vertiginous appleness, how it coos like dove and laughs like a young cloud in calorific distress. Think of feijoas... plump and facile. They sweat and mould in the harsh Brazilian sun, crying tears like sugar - waiting for the grace of a jewel. Gemma likes feijoas, and she handles them like they were her children.
When the Nano-Machines get here, when the noosphere reaches its 'tipping point', when we have learnt the 7 billion names of god, when Omega-minus meets its transcendental function, Gemma will be there waiting for us. And she'll say, "Hey guys, I've met some real crazy dudes from Andromeda who are keen to sit in on our next gig!"
By Daniel Yeabsley, April 2007
Born and raised in the ‘Tron on the banks of the mighty Waikato river, her childhood was spent singing waiata and classic New Zealand songs around the hangi pit. It’s little wonder this ukulele gem has fast become a key player in the WIUO.
Megan is possibly the cleanest & greenest member of the WIUO; tree lovers and the like can admire the sugar sweet tone of her musical axes. Yip, that’s right ladies and gents, her first uke was a “tree free”, called a ‘Flea’ and was decorated with a tasty pineapple to match her fruity harmonious voice. Her new uke is similarly recycled and glorious.
She has been known to carve up a dance floor or two - but to be fair, the trees used for those small-town community hall floorboards were chopped down long ago and the creaks (I’ve heard them whisper) are of pleasure when the ukuleles start strummin’ and she swings her tropical hips around the room.
By Sam Auger, March 2007
In a parallel multi-verse Nigel sings in a Mariachi band. With the voice of a fallen angel he serenades saucy sweet thangs by moonlight. He wins their hearts, he loves them all, Ahhhh Nigel. But can he play? Cello, Spanish guitar, Honky-tonk Piana, Contra bassinette and Ukulele, oh yes this renaissance rapscallion can play.
Nigel cannot be tamed. He disappears for months at a time. Legend has it he journeys to places far and wide (like Edinburgh) performing plays that he sometimes even writes (how cool is that? VERY!). We would like to clone our swarthy thespian ‘cos we miss him when he’s away, so scientists and inventors please help.
Nigel’s mum says “he was always a sensitive boy”.
Nigel’s dad says “Oh…yip”.
By Francis Salole, March 2007
Every band needs a Barry White. Sam Auger is ours. With his baritone ukulele for accompaniment, he has plumbed the depths of songs from Prince to “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps,” expertly tickling the nether regions of notes you haven’t heard since that guy from Sha-na-na reached down there, several decades ago.
Mr Sam Auger, a Sagittarian, is a Surrey-born Englishman who arrived in New Zealand at the ripe old age of 18 months, riding his way barefoot on a Chopper across the Hauraki Plains, before settling down to classical guitar lessons in Dunedin. There, Sam Discovered Rock’n’Roll.
He promptly formed an Irish band which went on to release four albums, while he was studying to be a fine artist at Otago Polytechnic.
Yet to become that fine artist, Sam for now is a very fine designer who created the distinctive WIUO logo over a bottle of fine whiskey.
In time, Sam Discovered Country, and on the side he’s been working away at an act called The Lonesome Cowboy. Like many before him, it was the tyranny of solitude that brought him to the ukulele, during one long, lonely week in a faceless Sydney hotel. We’re all the happier for it.
By Gemma Gracewood, March 2007.
Stephen Richard Jessup was born in Kensington St, Te Aro at The Salvation Army's Bethany Hospital, in the path of the future Wellington inner city bypass.
A Libra & co-owner of Cuba St's gift-shopping lifesaver Iko Iko, he joined the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra for the costumes, the parties, and the singing. An accomplished musician and elder statesman of the Welly music scene, he tends to take care of the tricky solos which no one else can manage.
Steve's a multi-instrumentalist who picked up the guitar at 14 and also plays a mean lap steel, saxophone and piano. He's played and recorded music for more than two decades with Rough Justice, The Hulamen, The Pelicans, The Tombolas, The Holidaymakers, Flight of the Conchords' lounge ensemble The Jetset, and The Windy City Strugglers.
He discovered the ukulele at 33 when he got hold of one for a friend and became hooked. Many ukuleles have passed through his hands since, but his uke of the moment is a 1920s Aloha from Hawai'i, made of koa wood, the hawai'ian native which connoisseurs reckon gives the best sound.
He dresses well and makes a damn good pot of tea.
By Nigel Collins, April 2007