Picture: Brid O’Donovan

The posters outside De Barras in Clonakilty, Co Cork, proclaim: ‘Happiness is… West Cork Ukulele Orchestra’. A grand claim, but after a 90-minute set, just try and find somebody who could disagree. The nine-piece (yes, nine!) play covers both new and old, popular and less well known. But they always put on a great show and were back in their home of De Barras for a summer show ahead of their appearance at Liss Ard festival in a couple weeks. After a long wait, they shuffle downstairs, eventually settle into their seats – nine members on one stage, with about 18 mics (one each for the vocals and the ukuleles), makes things cramped – Kevin McNally announces he’s a wrestling champ and then they start. Any cynicism the audience may hold gets instantly left at the door as ‘And She Was’ kicks things off. A wispy cover of Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’ is the early highlight. The atmosphere is wonderful, with the crowd totally hushed as Grace’s hushed vocals fill the venue. Everybody’s going to have their favourite West Cork Ukulele Orchestra track: Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, The Cure’s ‘Lovecats’ and Boney M’s ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’ were my favourites; you could sense that everybody watching started smiling when they rolled out the MJ track. Even the likes of Lady Gaga’s (or GáGá, as she’s known in Irish, they claim) ‘Paparazzi’ and Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’ sound great. McNally is a natural frontman (and a great champ!), cracking jokes (we played a five-a-side game of football against a bunch of sound engineers the other day. They lined up in a 2-1-2 formation), and ensuring everybody has a good time. It’s a simple but irresistible mix. Afterwards, I was wondering where the group could go; can they bottle the joy for an album? And what happens for album number two? But that’s not important at the moment. West Cork Ukulele Orchestra are a guaranteed feel-good hit, both for this summer and beyond. Go catch them at Liss Ard – if they’re not the highlight of your weekend, you obviously don’t like happiness. Live videos after the jump.