I Picks Up My Ukulele
Owing to the transmission over the internet of my radio program, RADIOLA!, I’ve found friends and listeners far outside my own bailiwick of upstate New York. Among them are two excellent Dutch musicians, Peter Van Alphen (aka Professor Peter) and Dick Heijmans (aka Doctor Dick) of the Small Instrument Society. The small instruments in this case are ukuleles, which have gained as much traction in the Netherlands as anywhere else.
Both my program and the Small Instrument Society began in 2005, and in 2014 they did me the supreme honor of recording my radio theme song, “Wake Up! Chill’un, Wake Up!” for their fine album Undecided! I was deeply moved that they had done so. Since then, Professor Peter has recorded and released a solo album, I Picks Up My Ukulele, and it is a very delightful thing to hear.
Professor Peter sings classic and obscure American popular songs of the 1920s and 1930s with tuneful passion and absolute sincerity. These are songs that are best sung innocently, and without artifice—as people once sang them around the piano when they were new. Our ancestors were much more musical than we are now, and they took their fun seriously. Peter re-creates that honest music-making and the result is utterly charming and eminently listenable.
In addition to ukulele and bass, on a few tracks one hears the haunting sound of something not unlike a theremin. A musical saw? It adds to the sweet wistfulness, as does the vocal of Floor on “Under the Moon.” This music is a salve to the modern soul, and Professor Peter administers it most effectively.
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