This month we’re showcasing a total of 15 holiday music videos submitted by Ukulele mag readers, as part of our month-long “Holly Jolly” celebration. We were really impressed by the overall quality of the videos that came in, which presented a great variety of traditional and modern holiday songs, plus a scattering of originals that—who knows?—may someday be classics. Thanks for sharing, everybody! Enjoy!
‘The Ukellujah Chorus’ by Jay Clement
This has to be one of the coolest uke arrangements ever! Austin, Texas-based uke enthusiast Jay Clement tackles the immortal “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s 1741 oratorio, Messiah, multitracking the choral masterpiece’s complex web of overlapping vocal and instrumental parts on various ukuleles, and even expertly conducting himself!
This video was made for Christmas 2020, during the peak of the pandemic. It features “a ukulele ‘orchestra’ and a guest appearance by my son Jake and his trumpets. It was very intense to learn all those parts, but what the heck,” he says. “I did some serious musical study and rehearsal, used all my ukuleles, and present it here. For the soprano and alto singers, I used my Ohana TK-70WG and a Farallon Blackbird. The tenor singers were my father’s 65-year-old baritone uke, which I had repaired and brought back to life. The bass singers and cello continuo parts were all played on my Goldtone MicroBass bass ukulele, with the Aquila Thundergut red strings. Violins I and II and ukulele trumpets I and II were played on the Blackbird and the Ohana.” What a brilliant achievement!
‘Wish List’ by Andrew Hoyt
Andrew Hoyt is a talented young pop singer-songwriter who hails from Des Moines, Iowa, where he is a member of the Des Moines Ukulele Strummers group. Andrew says “I wrote this song on my KoAloha 25th Anniversary tenor with Marila Tsvetkova and then recorded it [at Golden Bear Records studio in Des Moines].” The prolific songwriter notes that he is planning to release an EP in late January 2023, and “I’ll also release an album in summer 2023 called Islands, which is more of a relaxed, beachside, Jack Johnson-type of project.” What an upbeat, catchy tune!
‘Tread Softly’ by Pabrizzer
Pabrizzer is the nom de uke of a fine singer/player named Brian Caldwell who is based “on the central coast of New South Wales, Australia, about 100 kilometers north of Sydney.” This beautiful and moving Christmas song, which depicts the gentle scene around the manger where Jesus was born, was written by Lesley Fowkes, a seriously fun-loving songwriter and ukulele lover who was a cherished member of the George Formby Society in England before passing away in the fall of 2020 after a long, courageous fight against motor neurone disease. Pabrizzer tells us, “I have covered Lesley’s song every year since she wrote it, and I’ll be will doing a new recording in December.” It’s easy to imagine this song becoming a much-covered standard.
‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ by Michele and Steven Cronen
This song, as many of you undoubtedly know, was first recorded by the great Darlene Love, who cut it back in 1963 for the classic compilation album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. Spector co-wrote the the tune with hit songwriters Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, and produced, of course. This version was belted with gusto by Michele Cronen in her Boise, Idaho kitchen a few years ago: “It was Christmas 2018, and I’d been teaching myself to play ukulele for about 15 months,” she says. “My son, Steve, who plays guitar, heard me playing in the kitchen, so he came in with another of my ukes and started noodling on it. I said ‘Let’s play my favorite Christmas song!’ My husband pulled out his phone camera as Steven and I started to play, and it resulted in this impromptu video that captures the joy of the holidays, family, and ukuleles!”
‘Spin Lil’ Dreidel’ by the Ladies of the Uke
This spry and infectious little rocker, which has a distinct Chuck Berry vibe, comes to us courtesy of Ellen Bloom and other members of the SoCal-based The Ladies of the Uke club. Some background on the song, from Ellen: “I used to co-host a blues show on public radio KPCC-FM here in Los Angeles. Every year my co-host and I would play many blues Christmas songs. One year, I put out the call to our musician friends for a Chanukah holiday song. We had many entries, but ‘Spin Lil’ Dreidel’ was the best! Rick Hirsch, main writer of the song [the co-writer is Leslie Brenner] is a guitar player who lived in Los Angeles at the time. He played lead guitar in Billy Vera’s band, Billy and the Beaters. Previously, he performed with Joan Armatrading and Wet Willie and also sat in with the Allman Brothers. There has never been a formal recording of this song, except for the old cassette I have from Rick Hirsch. The Ladies of the Uke brought ‘Spin Lil’ Dreidel’ to a wider audience!”