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View Full Version : Aaron Copelands "Ukelele Serenade"



ichadwick
07-30-2008, 12:16 PM
Anyone ever hear this jazz piece? I found a note on http://www.archive.org/details/MC_1976_05_05 about it being performed in 1926:


On May 5, 1926 six young American composers who had been working in Paris presented their chamber music to an audience of musicians, intelligentsia, and socialites in the famed Salle Pleyel (or perhaps the nearby Salle Chopin). The concert, arranged by Nadia Boulanger and sponsored by the Societe Musicale Independente, a group which included the most celebrated European composers of the time, gave the French one of their first chances to hear what Americans were capable of musically. The program consisted of the Virgil Thomson's "Sonata da chiesa"; Herbert Elwell's "Nine Piano Pieces"; Aaron Copland's "As It Fell Upon a Day" and two jazz violin pieces, "Nocturne" and "Ukelele Serenade"; Walter Piston's "Piano Sonata"; Theodore Chanler's "Sonata for Violin and Piano"; and George Antheil's "First String Quartet". That program is reproduced here, with Chanler's song cycle "Epitaphs" instead of the sonata, Elwell's "Piano Sonata" instead of the nine pieces, and Piston's "Concerto for Orchestra" instead of the lost "Piano Sonata". Also heard is an interview with Virgil Thomson in which he reminisces about that memorable evening.

I'd like to get a copy and listen to it. Anyone recommend one? It doesn't seem to show up in any collections I've found (yet).

UKISOCIETY
07-30-2008, 12:51 PM
Our station has a copy on a Sony CD set. It's scored for violin and piano. It's a pleasant 3 minute selection.

No uke at all. Go figure.

That's not too uncommon in the Classical genre. There are many harpsichord pieces call "Tambourine" and Gottschalk wrote a piano solo work called "Banjo".

Lanark
07-30-2008, 01:03 PM
the little info I just came up with is that it's a violin & piano duet.

Some sheet music is here (http://www.stringsmagazine.com/article/130/130,3257,MasterClass-1.asp)

And Amazon has a Naxos Cd (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000QQP698/ref=dm_sp_alb/102-2566705-1055338) of it available pretty cheap. (it's also available as a .90 downloadable.)

Naxos is actually a pretty good budget classical label. They tapped into a bunch of really good Eastern European orchestras after the fall of the Soviet Union and record pretty much everything you can imagine and sell it cheap. Lots of really good performances to be found throughout their catalogue.

Plainsong
07-30-2008, 01:56 PM
Since I'm not familiar with the piece, I'll blindly ask how arrangable it is to simply reorchestrate it, change it around, fix it so that it IS for uke. I did this all the time back in HS, not for uke but corps style stuff. Ok, I didn't write percussion but anything can be re-arranged. Good music-writing exercise since it's not like you have to do it blind. :)

UKISOCIETY
07-30-2008, 02:20 PM
Since I'm not familiar with the piece, I'll blindly ask how arrangable it is to simply reorchestrate it, change it around, fix it so that it IS for uke. I did this all the time back in HS, not for uke but corps style stuff. Ok, I didn't write percussion but anything can be re-arranged. Good music-writing exercise since it's not like you have to do it blind. :)

I've played the work on my show before and thought, at the time, that it wouldn't translate well to the uke. In fact, I thought Copland missed the entire personality of the uke.

But I'll be glad to hear me proved wrong. :)

ichadwick
07-31-2008, 02:51 AM
I've played the work on my show before and thought, at the time, that it wouldn't translate well to the uke. In fact, I thought Copland missed the entire personality of the uke.
I finally got to hear it and I agree. My first thought was "Huh? That's not a uke song..." Of course he was trying to represent the ukulele through other instruments, a kind of virtual uke, rather than use it as the source of the sound. So you have to listen to it through that filter and try to see what he was aiming for.

Personally, I don't think he achieved it. It's a dischordant piece, rather jumpy and awkward - to my mind.