Whistler's Ukulele

by Karl Hitzemann

Here's a song that combines singing, playing the ukulele, whistling, and learning about the famous painter, James Abbott McNeill Whistler. And the nice thing is that you can do any or all of these things and in any combination! Sing it, play it, whistle it, and/or learn about it. The lyrics for "Whistler's Ukulele" mention a man who likes to paint and play his ukulele, and made a painting of his mother in a chair. So, not exactly a real in-depth history lesson, but certainly a way to segue into a talk about Whistler's famous painting, "Whistler's Mother." It was painted in 1871 and now hangs in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. We actually have not been able to verify whether or not Mr. Whistler liked to play the ukulele. Well, okay, we made it up.

Your ukulele players will only need three chords for this tune – C, F, and G. Measures 5 through 12 can be anything you'd like – one, two, or three strums per measure, or something more complex. At measure 13, we've written out a specific rhythmic pattern, but again, it can be whatever best fits your situation. If singing, whistling, and playing at the same time proves to be too difficult, consider having one group sing and whistle and another group play it.

You may notice that on the accompaniment track on the recording for this song there is a ukulele playing. We liked the way it sounded in the ensemble and decided to keep it in. If you would prefer to have a track without the uke playing, you will find it included with the online extras for this issue. There is also an isolated ukulele part available.

Note that for this song, "ukulele" is pronounced "oo-koo-lay-lay" wherever it occurs.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.