ABOUT THE WELLINGTON INTERNATIONAL UKULELE ORCHESTRA
Hailing from the home of The Hobbit movies and sharing DNA with Flight of the Conchords, New Zealand entertainment powerhouse The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra are in hot demand worldwide for their winning combination of charming humour, disarmingly small ukuleles, and sublime musicality.
The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra are skilled performers who live to entertain, making sure audiences forget their troubles and sing their hearts out. Their signature sound features high-octane ukulele solos, heavenly multi-part vocal harmonies and an impressive range of ukuleles. Flamboyant outfits, delightful theatrical effects and convivial crowd participation complete the night.
The band’s repertoire is a superbly eclectic curation of songs appropriated from many genres alongside tunes from the South Pacific, all packaged into a spectacular, unmissable funfest. Expect to hear fantastic “ukulelefied” versions of rock and pop classics by the likes of Justin Timberlake, Dolly Parton, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, Salt n Pepa and much, much more.
The band’s number one rule is: “If you know the words, sing along. If you don’t know the words, sing along!”
HOW DID IT ALL START?
The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra was founded a little bit by accident in December 2005 when award-winning New Zealand musician Age Pryor (Fly My Pretties, the Woolshed Sessions) cooked up the scheme with his friend Bret McKenzie (of Flight of the Conchords*) in their tiny local café, Deluxe.
Word spread to the other side of the café, and within a few months a dozen friends from Wellington’s tightknit musical community were playing ukes during regular early morning sessions. More and more people stopped by to watch, until there was no more room in the café and they had to strike out for bigger pastures.
Those Deluxe cafe sessions have been commemorated for all time in the music video for It's A Heartache, directed by Tim Capper.
The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra have now toured the USA, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and headlined major arts festivals across New Zealand and Australia.
The versatile musicians have released 4 EPs and a full-length album, which debuted in the NZ Top 10 and topped the NZ Indie Music chart. They have performed on film, television and commercial soundtracks, and collaborated with many of the greats of Kiwi music. They’re a festival favourite and have become a mainstay of the 21st Century ukulele revival.
WHO'S IN THE BAND?
Depending on which day of the week it is, the band members are Age Pryor, Andy Morley-Hall, Bek Coogan, Carmel Russell, Daniel Yeabsley, Francis Salole, Gemma Gracewood, Megan Hosking, Sam Auger, Stephen Jessup, occasionally Nigel Collins, *very, VERY rarely Bret McKenzie, and sometimes special guests, cartwheeling children, dogs, birds, neighbours, postal workers, train drivers, soap opera actresses, that one guy on the unicycle that time...
While the original line-up remains intact in spirit, the touring group sees occasional changes due to individual members’ schedules and family commitments. Unannounced special guests and surprise ring-ins are a highlight of the band’s performances.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE BAND MEMBERS?
Here's a public radio documentary about the making of our most recent album, Be Mine Tonight.