He’s the tenor who helped bring Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” to the ukulele stage provoking rapturous applause and standing ovations. Let’s find out a little more about Mr Bartle…
1. We all know and love you as the sexy half of Opera-lele, but there’s a very deep well of talent and experience behind that ukulele. Tell us a little about more about your musical background and training.
Well, I began singing in Ely Cathedral Choir aged 7 where I gained valuable musical skills – sight reading, team work etc. I then continued through the Cathedral school learning several instruments along the way including piano, organ, trumpet, trombone and euphonium. From there I went to the Royal College of Music to earn a BMus and PGDip as a joint principal study singer and trombonist. I specialised in trombone and early music continuing studies in Basel, Switzerland. From there i have worked as Musical Director at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and gigged as a musician from jazz bands on cruise ships, West End shows, church and cathedral choirs, recording sessions and much more! Then, Opera-lele happened!
2. Those who dare brave the late night depths of the Lawrence Batley Theatre will be well aware of your ruff clad naughty side. Where on earth did the concept of Renaissance Ukulele Man spring from?
My background as an early musician had allowed me a glimpse of music from 1400 and beyond and how much of our modern day folk music is directly derived from this earlier source. With some exploration of the British Library and other places, I discovered some music that would have made my ancestors blush as much as me!!! The songs I have performed at GNUF, UFoS and beyond are all original and have not been ‘spiced up’ at all!
3. As a trained singer and trombonist, how did you first end up with a ukulele in your hands?
I have two sons and when they were both little I lacked an instrument which we could sit in the garden and sing along to. A lutenist friend of mine suggested a ukulele would be a good idea and the rest is history.
4. Opera-lele is, without question, a triumph. What do you think have been the keys to that success & where can you take it next?
Opera-lele was “never meant to be a thing” and so it’s popularity has taken us completely by surprise! There is no one else doing what we do – there is usually a reason for that! It’s our mix of singing and comedy that audiences comment on most. The fact that we are mixing ‘high brow’ music with an instrument such as the ukulele adds to the humour I think but we take the music very seriously and never take the Micky out of the music or the ukulele.
5. It’s a cliched question, but you’re a musically complex guy, so I’d like to know who you consider your influences are in all aspects of your musical achievements?
Not certain how musically complex I am but my musical influences are wide and varied. Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, cellist Yo Yo Ma, singer Jose Carreras and ukuleleist Phil Doleman. Of course, my biggest inspiration for what I do in Opera-lele is Mandi Harkett.