What would Bach do if
He had a ukulele?
I picture the scene:
We see him scowling,
As he does in his portraits,
Unwrapping a box.
Carefully, he lifts
The lid, and peering inside,
Smiles, then roars, laughing.
The kids all gather
As he gleefully extracts
His new tiny lute.
And, of course, he then
Plays it instantly and well,
Playing his own tune.
A kid brings a bow
As he sees what it can do,
Thinking what he’ll do.
And as the kids leave,
He sits at his desk. With quill
In hand, he begins…
A friend of mine got a ukulele for Christmas. We were talking about the availability of music, and joking, said there were no ukulele and piano duets.
We were picturing a ukulele trying to contend with a concert grand, figuring that, short of amplifying the ukulele or alternating solos, it would be an exercise in futility. A clavichord, maybe, they were known for being whisper soft. But a piano? It’s a classic(al) David and Goliath story.
Of course, I couldn’t leave it alone.
The easiest way to make it happen was to borrow from Bach. So I borrowed the Minuet in G Major (BWV Anh. 114) from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. As it turns out, it is now believed that Bach borrowed this little ditty from Christian Petzold.
Those of a certain age will remember hearing it popularized as the song “How Gentle is the Rain?” or “A Lover’s Concerto”. I transposed it from G major to C major to make it easier for the ukulele to play. Then, I tried to figure out how to integrate a piano without overwhelming the ukulele, while allowing them each to have their moments to shine.
No matter what, the pianist will need to use restraint (and the soft pedal). A piano, even the subtlest piano, can easily overpower the ukulele. But balance can be achieved, and it’s fun!
Here’s what it sounds like. Warning: if you use the link rather than the player displayed on this page, you may hear unrelated music afterward. Can’t prevent it (Soundcloud!). Hit the pause button (at the bottom of the Soundcloud page).
Here’s what it looks like (below). Click the image to magnify, or click the following link to view/download/print the Minuet for ukulele and piano as a PDF file.
If you’re a ukulele player (ukulelist?), give it a try and let me know how it turns out!
Image attribution: Photograph of Leipzig Thomaskirche by Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomaskirche_Leipzig_Westseite_2013.jpg. Vintage Hawaiian shirt by Omaopio (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AVintage_aloha_shirt.JPG. Portrait of Bach by Elias Gottlob Haussmann [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Johann_Sebastian_Bach.jpg.