Shoreham premiere for Richard Durrant's first ukulele quartet

Shoreham guitarist and composer Richard Durrant has completed his first ukulele quartet, a piece called Tan y Bwlch.

Richard Durrant
Richard Durrant

The first performance – in its version for three groups of ukulele players and solo uke – will be at Richard’s home venue, The Ropetackle on February 27.

The piece will be performed by Richard himself plus 32 of his Ukulele Circuit Trainers. The rest of the concert will feature Richard playing solo on guitar, tenor guitar and ukulele. Richard is promising a surprise finale.

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Richard explains: “It is a three-movement work that can be performed by either four ukulele players or three groups of players plus a soloist. The two outer movements are written in a minimalist style with intriguing, repeated patterns that suit the four ukuleles perfectly, conjuring up a beautiful, filmic landscape of sound.”

Richard predicts the middle movement will become a huge hit with uke lovers everywhere – the ukulele’s very own Orange Blossom Special, with Richard evoking the sound of a narrow-gauge Welsh mountain railway instead of the American express locomotive of the famous, bluegrass fiddle tune.

In Richard’s score, the four ukes mimic a Welsh train rushing through Snowdonia: “And there is even a brief interlude where the train pulls into a misty little station to take on water, coal and sandwiches!

“When I was invited to play at a ukulele festival in north Wales (MUMF, June 1 2019) I thought I’d turn this into an opportunity to write and perform my first ukulele quartet. I’ve been visiting Snowdonia for over 30 years and I hope my love for the place comes across in this new music. But you have to understand this is an Englishman’s view. It’s me clutching my uke and gazing in awe at the mountains.”

Richard is becoming increasingly well known in the world of the ukulele. After producing The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s 2004 album The Secret of Life, he began to include ukulele solos in his concerts.

In 2012, during a solo tour of Paraguay, he was invited to play unaccompanied Bach on his uke on top of the Itaipu Dam overlooking Brazil, and last year the instrument came out for a royal command performance at Buckingham Palace.

George Hinchliffe, co-founder of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, said: “Richard’s ukulele compositions are masterful. They’re full of intriguing and catchy musical ideas which transcend the boundaries of academic or popular music.”