Samantha Muir started her ukulele career in 2012 after many years as a classical guitarist. The inspiration the ukulele generously feeds us took Samantha to take her technical skill and apply it to her new found passion by arranging classical pieces for the ukulele. These are to be found in her own eBooks if you’re up for the challenge but more importantly for Uke Planet, for we are here to review recordings, Samantha has released a collection of no less than 30 tracks on CD and download titled “The Beauty Of Uke“.
I confess I am very excited by the fact Samantha plays a soprano ukulele. This is purely personal for if I were to open the vaults of my own ukulele collection you would see a very heavy bias to the soprano. Perhaps it’s my dainty finger span or a passion for portability but the soprano will always be my favourite and so it’s a thrill to see the baby of the range being taken to such masterful levels of performance.
The picking style Samantha Muir favours is campanella. This also captured my interest immediately as the ringing bell-like (for campanella is Italian for “little bell”) tones of this technique have always drawn me to the instrument as it empowers an almost harp-like sound. The basic premise is to avoid playing consecutive notes on the same string to allow the initial note to sustain as you strike the next. The decay of the first then lingers as you pluck the consequent note and so on. The high G of a ukulele therefore practically begs for this approach in many arrangements as walking melody lines can easily be split between the top and bottom strings whilst arpeggios ring out across the whole instrument. In short it sounds fabulous and Samantha Muir is the undisputed campanella queen.
Each track of the album then is a classical guitar or traditional folk piece arranged and performed by Samantha and as they are generally all quite short, it’s perhaps best to think of them in a more classical form, as a suite or collection of pieces with the appreciate audience holding their applause until the end of each set of pieces.
Spanish guitar composers Ferrer, Tarrega and Sor appear amongst Italian six string masters Carulli and Giuliani, each impeccably implemented. Indeed the first half of the album is for all intent and purposes a suite of classical guitar pieces exquisitely performed. Whilst most pieces will be perhaps unfamiliar to the casual listener, this does not hinder the utter joy one can indulge in, perhaps a little in awe that our humble ukulele is capable of such a beautiful scholastic tone. By the time we reach track 20 we are treated to a familiar classic, Bach’s Prelude BWV1107 before the album turns its attention a collection of instrumental folk song arrangements including Highland Laddie, Charlie Is My Darlin’ and Shenandoah Melody, the latter a five minute compilation in itself.
Graceful, expressive and skillfully dexterous throughout, “The Beauty Of Uke” competently delivers precisely as its title suggests.
You buy, download or stream the album from Bandcamp or indeed visit Samantha’s website for more information and indeed all sorts of goodies! If fancy having a go at the Scottish folk tunes on the album yourself you can even buy the music book and do that too!