Subtitle: how to plan a group trip to the next Irish ukulele festival
As a performer, I’m gratified when members of the audience come up to talk to me. Likewise, I never hesitate to introduce myself and talk to musicians whose performances I enjoy. In the latest case, I sent a Facebook text message to the Finnish ukulele band to welcome them to London and express my intention to see their show, before I had even met or heard them.
The 2017 theme for the annual Hanwell Carnival in London is Blues Brothers. I have my sunglasses and just need to borrow a man’s jacket, a thin tie, and a black hat. I can’t wait to join the Hanwell Ukulele Group (HUG) to strum and sing together on a float in the parade.
It doesn’t take long to learn to play a few basic chords on the ukulele and join an uke club to strum, sing, and socialize. No other instrument allows the beginner to practice playing in the relaxed company of others and travel the world with it.
Or “play, pluck, and party”
Or “jam, jingle, and joviality”
As an ukulele enthusiast, I consider the existence of so-called ukulele clubs a golden perk of playing the ukulele. I don’t know of any clubs for other instrumentalists that welcome beginners to jam with more advanced players. Perhaps barbershop quartets or multi-instrumental jam sessions may allow for that, but how common are they really? The ukulele clubs’ tradition of group playing is a fun way to push myself to learn new chords and expand my repertoire. I can’t think of a better way to combine practice with socialization.
This past January, I introduced myself in Joel Katz‘s intermediate ʻukulele class by announcing that I was downsizing from the nine foot grand piano to the less than two foot ʻukulele. People laughed.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t giving up the piano by any means. Rather, I was embracing the ʻukulele. It has my namesake after all: KU in ʻukulele.
In truth, I didn’t know what I was getting into. A few of my music students had shared their love of the instrument. One even gave me a hand-built ʻukulele stand as a parting gift. Eventually I succumbed to my usual thirst for novelty and variety.
Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” is very suitable for piano ensemble. One group can play the melody. The other can play the reggae shuffle accompaniment. The same four-chord progression is repeated throughout, with a few interruptions of a fifth chord at predictable spots.
I discovered Jason Mraz one night watching “The X-Factor” and other talent contests on Youtube. His “I’m Yours” sounded very familiar, for the ukelele version that’s played in the Hawaiian Islands. Then I saw his face on the cover of the latest edition of “On Maui” magazine.