When musicians meet, they play together

Today five virtuoso musicians met for the first time. Quartet San Francisco (QSF) was warming up in Gilman Chapel in Cedar Grove Cemetery. They had just driven up from Rhode Island where they were staying for a string workshop and concert at the university in their concert tour of Rhode Island, Boston, Lexington, and Martha’s Vineyard.

Robert Bekkers, who gave the inaugural concert of this new concert series, walked into the church and shook hands with them. He and Jeremy Cohen, founder and leader of QSF, had corresponded by e-mail after my introduction. One member of my ukulele pluck ensemble had told me about QSF, and after watching their videos, I was hooked.

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Bryan Tolentino workshop and concert in Boston

On a chilly wet spring evening, I fought the drizzle and the descending darkness to get to a church near the bust stop. Jamaica Plain, or JP for short, was dead quiet, save those going into the famous ice cream shop.

I intercepted a young woman in a fluffy pink dress carrying what looked like a ukulele case. Concerned that I might have missed the event entirely, I asked if Bryan Tolentino was still inside. She nodded and pointed at the entrance to the First Baptist Church on Centre Street.

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Short courses for guitar and ukulele

Music education is one of the most expensive investments in time and resource. It requires a serious commitment to reap the benefits of individual music lessons taken over a long period of time (measured in years  not months or weeks). Is there another way to acquire musical skills and knowledge?

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Chief Noda: what’s in a name

In planning the birthday of Chifuru Noda for this evening, I remember visiting him at the hospital in Boston on December 11, 2018. In the semi-darkness, an attendant was asking what he’d like to eat for lunch. His breakfast sat still on the movable trolley, covered and untouched. After she left, I asked if I could eat some of his breakfast. I had no idea what he was about to tell me in the next two hours I spent alone with him.

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Ukulele for the non-beginner

Who is a non-beginner? Someone who is comfortable with his instrument. Ukulele players , often self-taught or have taken a few beginner workshops, are non-beginners if they already know how to tune, play the basic chords from memory (C, F, G7, Am, C7) and strum instinctively. They know how to read a chord diagram. They know how to look at a song sheet and finger the chords indicated with the lyrics.

What would a “ukulele for the non-beginner / busy adult” course include?

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Introducing ukulele groups in Massachusetts at Eustis Estate

On Saturday November 3rd, 2018, ukulele players that regularly attend ukulele meet-ups in Boston, Arlington, Cambridge, Plainville, Waltham, Somerville, and Dorchester will come to Milton to perform together. These ukulele enthusiasts will provide live music at Eustis Estate, the newest addition to Historic New England, at the  Second Annual Blue Hills Great Estate Foliage Weekend in Milton, Massachusetts. The two-day event includes 30-minute landscape tours at 11 am, noon, and 1 pm on the estate’s 80-acres (as well as many outdoor activities like cider making demonstrations, apple crafts, apple tasting.)

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Eustis Estate (1875 – present) at 1424 Canton Avenue, Milton , MA

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Running songs for marathon

This Sunday 30th September 2018, my ukulele group in West London will be playing for two hours at UK’s number one half-marathon — Ealing Half-Marathon. We will be at the corner of Cuckoo Lane and Greenford Avenue in Hanwell. I missed it last year while transiting in Dublin. What songs will we sing to cheer them on?

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Getting to and from a ukulele jam session

If you are as fanatic about playing the ukulele as I am, getting to and from a jam session could be an issue if the venue is relatively far and inconvenient and if it’s the first time (in case you get lost). If the jam experience is worth it, you’d find an alternative way to get there to make it less painful and arduous. I’m always surprised when seasoned ukulele players drive more than an hour through rush hour to come to our weekly ukulele jam sessions. It’s not always easy to find parking in our area. The first time, they say they are curious. If they come again, it’s a compliment. We’re doing something right.

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Name for a band and a brand

“What shall we call ourselves?”

Until recently, there was no need to give ourselves a name. Then, we gave our first gig. The audience was thrilled and appreciative, but they didn’t know how to address us.

Not long afterwards, some of us played in another ukulele group’s gig, for which we bought and wore T-shirts bearing their name. I felt like an imposter at that moment.

Our next gig is coming up soon. What name shall we use to play in porchfests and farmer’s markets? Continue reading “Name for a band and a brand”

Songs of location and history: Charlie on the MTA

Songs about location and history evoke nostalgia to those who have travelled or lived in these places. Long-time Boston residents know the song “Charlie on the MTA” but newcomers are curious:

  • Who was Charlie?
  • What does MTA stand for?
  • Why couldn’t Charlie get off the train?
  • Why didn’t his wife give him the money to get off the train rather than throw him a sandwich?
  • Is that why the subway card is known as a Charlie Card? Unlike the Oyster Card in London and the OV Chip Card in the Netherlands, you only need to swipe the Charlie Card when you enter the bus, trolley (tram), metro, or commuter rail (i.e. not needed when you exit).
  • Is Charlie related to the River Charles that divides Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts?

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