Dukes of Uke

By Christine Drummond

'EXPECT the Unexpected' said the posters.

Still, those of us gathering for the Dukes of Uke concert in the Burgh Hall on March 1 had all probably brought our own widely different preconceptions with us as we filed in.

Some had come just to hear Scottish music, some had come for the sound of a ukulele band. Some acknowledged they’d come to be distracted from Brexit blues.

Some had even come just because this was a benefit concert, very generously given by Biggar band, the Dukes, for “The King's Meadow” community building project of Peebles Baptist Church.

Increasingly enthusiastic response from the audience as the evening progressed proved beyond doubt that all expectations were exceeded.

Perhaps the first surprise of the night was the country gent (played by Tim Wilcock) who skilfully linked each musical item with jokes and quips that managed to lift even the most Brexit-blighted spirits.

None of the music he introduced had originally been written for ukulele (with the possible exception of 'Duke' Guy Heath’s original composition 'Dawn in Macallan') but skilful reinterpretation by musical director Ian Murray, and able support from percussion and bass guitar, allowed the event to showcase the astonishing versatility of the ukulele.

The Dukes also demonstrated their vocal skills, including excellent solo performances from Gil Dunn, Guy Heath, Ian Murray, John Riley and Jim Softley.

This certainly wasn’t a 'White Heather Club' compilation. The criterion for inclusion of songs allowed a surprisingly wide range of moods, from reflective numbers such as Michael Marra's 'Take Me Out Drinking Tonight', Deacon Blue’s 'Dignity', and Gerry Rafferty's 'Baker Street', through singalong favourites like Fairground Attraction's 'Perfect' and Gallagher and Lyle's 'Breakaway', to the boisterous, 'bubble-gum pop' of a Bay City Rollers medley.

The latter clearly had a sizeable section of the audience ecstatically revisiting their youth. But for those of us too old or too young to have experienced the original 'Rollermania', the medley and especially its accompanying video proved to be one of the biggest highlights of a wonderful evening.

Who could have predicted that staff from some of Peebles' most respected High Street shops, along with other stalwart, upright citizens of our community (young and not-so-young) would be sporting enough to allow themselves to appear on film, waving tartan scarves aloft whilst bopping wildly along to the Rollers’ greatest hits?

Before the concert ended with a rousing encore of Proclaimers' numbers, Rev. Ian Gray, whose own appearance on the video had revealed a hitherto unknown aspect of his personality, thanked the talented and big-hearted Dukes, on behalf of the audience and the Baptist Church, for a fantastic evening.

Just over £1100 was raised for the King's Meadow project, and a great time was had by all.