Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let it be: Ukulele players just gotta sing

By Meredith Deliso

All you need is love. And a ukulele.

On December 6, Brooklyn Bowl will be home to over 80 singers, 120 musicians and as many uke players as they can manage for an all-day Beatles lovefest, as it hosts the Second Annual Beatles Complete on Ukulele Festival.

On the uke that day will be Roger Greenawalt (pictured), a producer who founded the festival with friend and producer Dave Barratt, as he accompanies the singers and musicians on all 185 original Beatles songs, from “Love Me Do” to “Let It Be.”

Greenawalt has iTunes to thank for this extravaganza. When importing the Beatles discography onto his computer on day (and distilling it of all cover songs), we was left with 185 songs, equally 9.6 hours of music.

“I realized you could play it all in one day,” says Greenawalt, who lives in Williamsburg. “You couldn’t do all of Skakepeare’s plays in one day. But this is a doable amount.”

So he will do just that, kicking off festivities with dozens of ukulele players on “All Together Now.” He’ll hold up the fort himself the rest of the day, with guest musicians including The Pierces, Ryan Miller of Guster, Adam Green (singing “I Will” via Videolink), Mike Wolff, The Naked Brothers and many others taking turns. Beatles cover bands The Meatles and The Newspaper Taxies will also be on hand to provide support, and a gospel choir while come in around 7 p.m. for a five-song set.

By this point, you’re probably wondering, why the uke? It’s simply a matter of logistics.

“It is about the least taxing instrument to say,” says Greenawalt. “Bass – my fingers get sore, it’s heavy, you need a lot of force to make a note. Piano – there’s banging. But the ukulele – it’s really gentle.”

Greenawalt has been “obsessed” with the miniscule instrument for the past nine years, finding it had a powerful Zen spirit about it that was very therapeutic when playing.

Another uke enthusiast – Warren Buffet – received a portion of the proceeds from last year’s festival, which he forwarded to Girls Inc. of Omaha to provide the girls club with ukeleles and lessons.

This year, a portion of the proceeds will go to Yoko Ono and her charitable endeavors. Think what you may about her and her relationship to the Beatles, Greenawalt believes she’s gotten a bad rap.

“She’s a very controversial figure,” says Greenawalt. One thing that’s irrefutable: “She’s been doing really good philanthropy for a long time. She’s a pioneer in the field.”

So, in addition to the hundreds of ukes, singers, musicians and Beatles fans expected at the marathon, there will also be 16 Yoko Ono impersonators. Just don’t expect to hear “Oh Yoko.”

The Second Annual Beatles Complete on Ukulele Festival will be held December 6, from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., at Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Ave.). Admission is $10, and you can come as go as you want as long as you get stamped. Those interested in joining in the ukulele chorus can arrive at 10 a.m. for rehearsal. For more information, call Brooklyn Bowl at 718-963-3369.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story reported the event as being Saturday, December 5. It is Sunday, December 6. We regret the error.


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