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Ukulele concert brings Waikato wanderers home

SIENA YATES
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013

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The Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival is in full swing today, and among the glitz and glamour there are a few homecomings this weekend.

The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, along with ukulele superstar James Hill, is one of the headline acts, and is bringing two superstars home.

One of the 12 band members, Megan Hosking, grew up on River Rd and went to Cambridge and Hamilton Girls' high schools, before heading to the capital to study.

There she met the orchestra. They played a small cafe for a couple of years before finally realising they had cottoned on to something, and now she's bringing them home to the mighty Waikato.

"I'm really looking forward to it, it'll be good to come back and see some people and places again. Hamilton is a splendour."

Also returning home is James Hill, who has been praised as one of the world's top ukulele composers and "probably the best player on the planet".

Although born in Canada, his parents hail from Morrinsville and he proudly calls the Waikato home.

"I wouldn't have predicted that ukulele would be the thing that would bring me back from the fold. We always knew that New Zealand was calling across the sea. The ukulele has been my ticket to see the world . . . so it makes sense that it's also my ticket home," he said.

The ukulele was the main instrument taught in Canadian schools while Hill was growing up, so he's been playing for most of his life.

"There's so much high tech in the world and it's so pervasive, so the ukulele is a bit of an antidote to that. It's wonderfully low-tech and hands-on, so wonderfully real. It really brings people together under the banner of music and old-fashioned fun in a very new-fangled society. It can really sort of ground a person, bring someone back to reality, and that's the ukulele revolution."

Hill and the orchestra will play at the Rhododendron Lawn at the gardens on Sunday, at 7pm.

There's a whole bunch more happening this weekend, starting with the New Zealand Painting and Printmaking Awards this evening and including outdoor movies, workshops, live theatre and live music including a concert from some of our biggest roots music names: Ahi Kaa-Home Fires.

For event and ticket information see hgaf.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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