BY UKULELE STAFF
It seems as though this year, more than ever, “We need a little Christmas,” as the classic Johnny Mathis song goes. After the year we’ve all endured, we wouldn’t be surprised (and you would be forgiven) if the mere mention of the holidays might elicit a quick “Bah, humbug!” But we know you folks are by and large a cheery and optimistic bunch, overflowing with Christmas Spirit: After all, you love the ukulele!
Well, we’re here to help you either get in or stay in a festive mood, as we ride out the season (to be jolly!) in our one-horse open sleigh and dive headlong into 2021. Here are another four uke-a-licious holiday tunes, by Chris Fuchigami, Victoria Vox, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, and the Memphis Ukulele Band. And be sure to check out week one and week two of our month-long celebration!
‘O, Holy Night’ by Kris Fuchigami
It doesn’t get any better than this: Big Island ukulele phenomenon Kris Fuchigami, in yet another magnificent Hi Sessions video, filmed in an unbelievably gorgeous setting in Kaneohe, Hawaii, playing a sublime instrumental version of “O, Holy Night,” accompanied only by a lone keyboard played by Kris, mother, Keiko. Kris, who grew up in Hilo, was heavily influenced by Jake Shimabukuro when he was starting out on the uke, but he has obviously developed his own sound and style on his way to becoming a worldwide success. In this 2013 video he plays a koa Kamaka uke.
‘Carol of the Bells’ by Victoria Vox
Victoria Vox can always be counted on for doing something interesting and, often, a little offbeat (figuratively speaking--her rhythm is fine!). The Artist Formerly Known as Victoria Davitt graced the cover of Ukulele‘s eighth issue (spring 2015), and since then has become a fixture on the ukulele festival and workshop circuit. On this unique solo version of “Carol of the Bells,” she loops a Mya-Moe ukulele with a Boss RC-30 Loopstation and judiciously employs uses Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork and T.C. Electronics Flashback pedals to create a one-woman band. And she’s a fantastic singer, to boot. She says this version was inspired by one of her side projects, Boombox Seance.
‘Merry Christmas, Single Women!’ by Danielle Ate the Sandwich
Danielle Ate the Sandwich is the nom de uke of Danielle Anderson, another Ukulele mag cover subject (Fall 2013), profiled in an article about ukulele YouTube stars. A fine singer, player, and highly original songwriter (“quirky” is an adjective often used to describe her), she knocked us out with this heartfelt song about being happily alone at Christmas that sounds like an artful combination of “Jinglebell Rock” and Joni Mitchell’s “River.” The lyrics are thoughtfully provided in this video: Our favorite line is “It’s better to be all alone than buying presents for a fool.” Check it out! Love the overdubbed harmony vocals, too!
‘Mele Kalikimaka’ by the Memphis Ukulele Band
Though not Hawaiian himself, R. Alex Anderson, the writer of Hawaii’s best-known Christmas song, “Mele Kalikimaka,” was born in Honolulu, lived on Oahu much of his life, and died there at the age of 100(!) in 1995. The song was first recorded by Anderson’s friend and golfing buddy Bing Crosby (with the Andrews Sisters) in 1950 and has been recorded dozens, if not hundreds, of times since. The highly eclectic Memphis Ukulele Band isn’t Hawaiian, either, but they do a fine job on this modern classic, even bringing a bit of old-time Memphis blues feel to parts of their arrangement. The loose-knit group includes (in the video) Logan Hanna on baritone, Mark Edgar Stuart on bass, Kyndle McMahan on lead vocals, founder Jon Hornyak on tenor, and Jason Freeman on tenor and vocals. The group hjas been together sporadically since late 2014, when they opened for Jake Shimabukuro at a Memphis-area concert.