Ukulele Melee 2018

The first time I saw the name of the festival “Ukulele Melee” I thought there was a typo or misspelling. I knew that “mele” was the word for music in Hawaiian. What then was “melee”?

“Melee” means a confused fight or mass of people, a word that originated from 1640 French mêlée and Old French meslee meaning “brawl, confused fight; mixture, blend.” It wasn’t until the one-hour drive to the festival in Hamilton, Massachusetts that morning of Friday 27th April that I learned the origins of the festival name.

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Earth Day ukulele workshop and jam

If we celebrate birthdays, why not one for Mother Earth? Every April 22nd, people all over the world celebrate Earth Day in different ways. While I was living on Maui, I started using music to gather community and raise awareness for sustainability through concerts and jam sessions. It’s a combination of entertainment and education. The last one was my piano class joining forces with the ukulele class (video below). This year, Earth Day falls on Sunday 22nd April 2018, and I’m determined to do something special.

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Guitar rehearsal in public library

Yesterday, the Boston Guitar Orchestra held its first open rehearsal at the Somerville Public Library. I dare take credit for suggesting it to Robert, the conductor and artistic director. Rehearsing in a public space will draw attention to who we are. This idea was born years ago when I proposed to situate new digital pianos from my innovation grant in the library and other places outside the classroom. Visibility raises awareness.

So what was it like to rehearse in the open?

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Premiering new work for guitar orchestra: Beaser’s Chaconne

Premiering a new work is always a nerve-wracking experience, especially in front of the composer and an unknown public. I’m not sure who has the greater pressure, the composer or the performer, or in this case, the conductor.

On Sunday 18th March 2018, the Boston Festival Guitar Orchestra, made up of several regional guitar ensembles, including Boston Guitar Orchestra, gave the world premiere of Robert Beaser‘s Chaconne, a piece commissioned by the Boston Classical Guitar Society for the New England Guitar Ensemble Festival (NEGEF).

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Two Chord Songs

If you’re a complete beginner to playing the ukulele, you’re probably wondering how many chords you need to know before you can accompany yourself to a song. Did you know, there are songs with one chord in it? You can play the one-fingered C major chord for “Frère Jacques” (same tune as “Are You Sleeping, Brother John”) and “Row, row, row your boat.”

Of course, knowing a second chord will expand your horizons.

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Different strokes for different folks: strumming patterns

After learning how to hold and tune your ukulele, the next step is what to do with your right hand (if you are right-handed) on the ukulele. This is the hand that controls the rhythm, the beat, the accents, and the tempo (speed). Strumming is all about time-keeping and rhythm.

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Starting my own ukulele club

For some time now, I’ve wanted to start my own ukulele club so that I can craft and steer it the way I like. As I love preparing themed concerts for the piano, why not research, arrange, and organise songs on a theme for ukulele players? By theme, I mean relating to the time of the year (holiday) or current events.

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