Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra
Since their first sold-out gig as a sextet in December 2005, the wildly popular Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra has become one of New Zealand’s most beloved live acts, garnering a cult following and causing a mad scramble for tickets wherever they go.
The band grew rapidly from their early beginnings in tiny Deluxe Café, when Wellington musician Age Pryor cooked up the scheme with his friend Bret McKenzie. Word spread to the other side of the café, and within a few months the band became an orchestra of twelve.
The orchestra’s legendary live shows feature blazing solos, stunning dress sense, sparkling harmonies and spontaneous comic banter as they lovingly reinterpret hit songs from across the musical generations. The band members’ command of the four-string places them at the forefront of the ukulele revival in New Zealand, a revival that took them by surprise.
More than just a ‘ukulele band’, their not-to-be-missed stage show is a contemporary twist on the classic New Zealand show-band tradition, harking back to the heady days of 1950s dancehall orchestras.
The band’s many festival appearances have included Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Womad, NZ International Comedy Festival (where they won Best Local Act), and the Christchurch, Taranaki, Tauranga, Taupo, Nelson, Greytown, Wanaka and Bay of Islands Arts Festivals – all sold out. They have headlined the Melbourne Ukulele Festival and the NZ Ukulele Festival and had standing-room-only crowds at their Big Day Out, Cuba St Carnival, Splore and Jackson St Fiesta shows.
The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra’s own tours of New Zealand and Australia have been sell-outs, and one of their proudest feats to date was a two-shows-in-one-night extravaganza at Wellington’s premier concert hall, the Michael Fowler Centre. Sold out, of course.
Off-stage, they have established themselves as top quality recording artists.
Their CDs regularly appear in the NZ Top 40, they have collaborated with many of the greats of New Zealand’s music scene and done soundtrack work for ad campaigns, television documentaries and sitcoms, and feature films.
The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra plays all kind of shows, from intimate to corporate to festival to public parks, and anything else suggested to them. They’ve developed an entertaining workshop formula, which takes people from absolute beginner to delighted player in one hour, and has resulted in hundreds of new ukulele players (and singers) across New Zealand.
Quotes from actual audience members: “We are in a euphoric state. It was a spectacle. Life changing.” “New Zealand could save a fortune on Prozac!” “Pure, unmitigated joy. Magic!” The Heartache EP (2007) The Little Bit Wonderful EP (2008) The Dreaming EP (2009) Blue Smoke 7-inch (2009) I Love You… EP (2011) “This was entertainment of the highest order.” - TV3 For upcoming gigs, merchandise, tips for learning to play the uke and latest ukulele news and gossip, check out our website: www.ukulele.co.nz The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra’s members are drawn from all corners of the musical spectrum, and they hold down a fa scinating array of day-jobs.
Extended bios, written by the ban d members on behalf of each other, can be found at www.ukulele.co.nz Age is a core member of two other celebrated Wellington music projects, The Woolshed Sessions and Fly My Pretties, and has his own brilliant solo career (www.agepryor.co.nz).
Andy is an acclaimed street photographer, with a publication (“Please Do Not Feed”) and many exhibitions under his belt (including City Gallery Wellington’s Hirschfield Gallery.) Bek is an artist and the lead singer of art-rock band Cortina who have several albums out and have toured the world. Her most recent musical space rock project is Full F*cking Moon Bret has been a member of The Black Seeds, has his own solo project, The Video Kid, and is one-half of the awardwinning digi-folk-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, and has an Oscar for a song he wrote for The Muppets (so naturally he performs only when his schedule allows).
Carmel works in the film and government sectors as a project manager, she knows how to, literally, crack a whip, and she is the WIUO’s resident hula dancer.
Dan is one-third of the prolific Wellington jazz combo Twinset, and he’s in several other Wellington supergroups. He has one daughter and one twin brother and he doesn’t really listen to any music that was released after July 17, 1967.
Francis is a mental health nurse, artist and claymation genius (his work can be seen in Taika Waititi’s feature film Eagle vs Shark).
Gemma creates things for film, television, print, web and radio as a producer and writer. She co-manages the WIUO with Age and lives between NZ and New York.
Megan is a social innovator and designer, and has helped establish do-good organisations Intersect and ActionStation. She also looks good in a frock on a bike and bottles the fruits of her garden.
Nigel is a very properly trained actor/musician/singer. He co-created the theatrical comedy Wheeler’s Luck, toured North America, UK & Europe as Flight of the Conchords’ symphony orchestra, and is working on an album of religious music.
Sam is a beekeeper, a designer (he led the design of the WIUO’s logo), and as The Lonesome Cowboy, he released his solo album Come & Be Lonely in 2007. His backing band, the Lap Stealers, is comprised of fellow WIUO members Nige, Steve, Dan and Francis.
Steve plays lap steel guitar in the Windy City Strugglers, has been a member of chart-topping Kiwi pop bands including The Holidaymakers and The Hulamen, and is coproprietor of the excellent Iko Iko art & gift stores.