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Duke Special is an artist aptly named. Dynamic, musically ambitious & bracingly eccentric, with his inimitable style and lush musicality. Hailing from Belfast with a sound that is self-confessed “hobo-chic”, Duke Special - AKA the endlessly inventive Peter Wilson - is once heard, never forgotten. Blissfully at home in his own alluring genre of beautifully bruised romanticism, Duke Special inhabits a world unlike any other - a world filled with vaudeville-esque sensibility, sing-a-longs and addictive melodies
Duke Special’s immense creative talents have seen him involved in projects as diverse as writing the theme tune for Sesame Tree (the Northern Ireland edition of Sesame Street where he also got to sing with The Muppets) to writing the music for and appearing in Deborah Warner’s critically acclaimed 2009 production of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children at London’s National Theatre. He then recorded an album of the twelve songs from the play, which was to form part of his ambitious project for 2010 - the release of a 3 CD box-set, The Stage, A Book & The Silver Screen. This box-set also included a 5-track EP Called Huckleberry Finn, the first ever recording of an unfinished musical written by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson based on the Mark Twain classic, and the album The Silent World of Hector Mann, featuring 12 songs based on The Book of Illusions by contemporary American author Paul Auster.
In 2011, he presented a TV documentary for RTE in Ireland on the life and times of 50s megastar Ruby Murray. This was broadcast in January, and accompanied by 2 orchestral concerts in Dublin and Cork, showcasing Duke’s interpretations of Ruby’s songs. He also released a charity single of recordings of 3 of Duke’s favourite Ruby songs, donating all the profits to the Irish charity Depaul Ireland (www.depaulireland.org).
The next exciting and ambitious project was a show commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for their exhibition on the photographers Stieglitz, Steichen, and Strand. Duke was invited to write a series of original songs based on the inspirational photographs featured in the exhibition, which he has said is artistically one of the most exciting things he has ever done. He then performed the songs to a backdrop of the photographs, accompanied by members of the Orchestre de Chambre Miniature, a string quartet founded by violinist Olivier Manchon from Clare and the Reasons.
Duke then brought this show to life again in the autumn in Belfast, Dublin and London in a show entitled “Under The Dark Cloth”. He also went into the studio with the RTE Concert Orchestra to record an album of these songs, which was released on 31st October.
The start of 2012 sees Duke going back into the studio, this time to start recording his next album, due for release in the summer, before embarking on more live dates to introduce the new songs to the world.
Duke Special is a fervent performer who harks back to a pre-rock ’n’ roll era, with dashes of Gershwin and orchestral swing, all tinged with a Northern Irish lilt and poetic lyrics that could feature in a modern-day fairytale; the perfect balance of old and new - boasting the appeal of a three-minute pop song with the incessant charm of an old-school music hall.