Mick Angeles shares his journey through the Lord Mayors Senior Cabaret program.

I became involved in this through information received from BUMS Inc. I thought, this sounded like fun and always love an opportunity to perform.

I sent my registration onto the chief organiser, Chris Fennessy of Epiphany Productions (Aust) and he sent me information about the Cabaret. The idea behind it all is to grant seniors an opportunity to perform at showcases and possibly be picked for the main cabaret in the City Hall. Basically, auditions are run through “Masterclasses” where you perform your two songs and receive a critique from people
who work professionally as singers/entertainers in the music industry. You can use backing tracks, your own instrument or a supplied accompanying piano player.

I attended my first Masterclass at Upper Kedron/Cedar Creek Hall on the 22 July but unfortunately, I didn’t read the brief properly and hadn’t prepared the right material for the workshop. The theme for this year is “Oscar Night” and the selected criteria were Oscar winning songs. They were very nice about it and allowed me to perform my two numbers…..being a newbie! The piano player was not available for this event.

I played Ukulele for my first song which was “I Love A Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt. The Mentor for this workshop was Angela Toohey. She suggested that I get in touch with her brother in law because he too was an Ukulele player and singer. Then she said that his name was Vic Kena. I played my second song, “Cara Mia” by Jay & The Americans on my guitar and it was well received as well. Graham Hall was also in attendance at this Masterclass, so it was good to have another Uke player there.

I attended my second Masterclass on 20 August at the Old Museum Main Concert Hall in Herston. Due to the Covid Lockdown, I was only informed I could attend this workshop about 10 days earlier, so I had to cram to learn two Oscar songs of which I’m barely familiar with, and to add to my stress, I decided that one of the songs would best be played with piano accompaniment. I forwarded the chord charts to Chris Fennessy to pass onto the piano player, Sue, but he informed me later that he couldn’t open the files. I thought I’d try and learn it on my electric piano at home and if all else fails, play it on Ukulele. I learnt the chord structures and patterns and with some helpful tips from Caroline Haig, ventured off to the Old Museum. I was so worried about playing piano by myself, that I literally didn’t sleep at all the night before.

Karen Knowles & Mick Angeles

Mick meeting Mentor, Karen Knowles formerly of Young Talent Time fame

So I arrived at the Old Museum and had to park a fair distance from the entrance which meant a strenuous walk on my one half-good knee, stressing about the piano playing and suffering from a lack of sleep. I walked into the hall where my photo lab and studio used to be. I was a Photographer at the Museum from 1984 to 1986 then we moved to Grey Street. There before me was a huge stage with Kettle Drums pushed to the rear and a huge, black, orchestral Grand Piano at the other side of the stage. My heart sunk and my stress level elevated. I asked Chris if that was the piano we had to play on and he said YES! Then the facilitator came into the room. I knew her name and I thought it was Mrs Knowles little daughter Karen, but it was the actual Karen Knowles of Young Talent Time fame …. Dimples and all. Oh the pressure!

I was the fifth performer up and regrettably, acts three and four used Sue to accompany them on that big, black piano. Sue could really play that thing. I sat at the piano and played a few chords and explained to the audience, “I can play nine different instruments but, I suck at six of them, and one of those is … the Piano!” Karen smiled. Phew!

I played my intro and sang my song on this gigantic, black Grand Piano and I got through without making any “clangers”. I didn’t understand what the Clutch, Brake and Accelerator pedals did on the instrument, but I pumped the accelerator at the end of my song. The song was “Jean” from the movie, “The Prime Of Miss Jean Brody”. Never seen the movie. If it doesn’t have Clint Eastwood in it, it’s not worth watching. A guy called “Oliver” sang it at some stage. Karen said I played the piano like a natural and that I have an instinctive, easy-going personality with audiences. Fooled them.

My second song “Moon River” from the movie, “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” (again….no Clint Eastwood in it), I played Ukulele. I liked that song because I heard Andy Williams sing it and he had a wonderful timbre in his voice.

I was then invited to perform at the Lord Mayor’s Showcase at Arana Leagues Club along with a dozen other performers who impressed during the Masterclasses. There were a number of these “Showcases” throughout Brisbane taking place at several venues. As a result of these performances, a fortunate few have been be selected to partake in the Lord Mayor’s Seniors Cabaret Gala Concert at City Hall on Sunday, 24th October 2021. These lucky few will rub shoulders with the experts including Karen Knowles.

Story by Mick Angeles


P.S. Mick is so excited as he was chosen and is one of the lucky ones to perform in the 2021 the Lord Mayor’s Senior Cabaret Gala: A Night at the Oscars. Also performing is Erin Harrington (BUMS member & The Ukulele Rockers) who was a professional mentor for the program this year.

Tickets are on sale now via the Oztix website or phone 1300 762 545. Tickets are $5 each with proceeds being donated to the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Trust.

 

 

 

 

Let me introduce myself. My name is Coady Brûlé. I was born in Canada into a musical family. My mom used to manage a band when I was real young — they’d practice in our basement.

Begin with the beat

I didn’t really take to instruments until about 8 years old. Amongst others there were drums at my house, naturally I gravitated towards those … I mean who wouldn’t want to bang things and make noise!

Making melody

It wasn’t until my teens that I picked up a guitar with some real interest. My uncle casually gave me some lessons over the next few years. I mainly wanted to learn Zeppelin songs, ha ha. But I would still play the drums when I could.

Then I started working after school in restaurants, bringing my arrival at home to midnight or later, leaving the drums collecting dust and bringing my acoustic guitar to my fingers a little more often. I enjoyed the six-string, I really used it as therapy more than anything else. During the next six years pretty much no one would see me playing.

Lightening load

Years later, I found myself prepping for a solo trip around Europe and I brought my guitar! I played around here or there, usually finishing once I’d made enough for lunch or a beer … it made for a great conversation starter!

After six months of living like a nomad, when I got home, I thought, “How can I make this load a bit lighter?” You guessed it, I got my first ukulele! Since then I’ve slowly gravitated towards the four string to a point where that’s all I’ve played for the past five years.

Sharing the joy

I really enjoy playing. I also enjoy teaching and sharing. In all my jobs in the past, I was either training new staff, or training was my entire role. In 2018, I joined BUMS. It was just a natural progression to share my passion for music by leading songs at jams and beginning to run workshops.

Now married with multiple children and a ceramic business as part of a joint venture (Kylie & the Machine) with my wife Kylie, I find myself putting music further and further down the list.

 

But I always come back!

 

Thanks for reading. Coady

My name is Lauren and I’ve been playing with BUMS for around six years now. I was only fifteen when I moved to Brisbane from Wetherby in England – it was a big change in my life. I had to give up all my clubs and activities in UK and start again.

I had played ukulele in my school music club, but my new school in Australia didn’t offer ukulele. I missed it a lot so I did some research online to find somewhere in Brisbane I could play. I came across the BUMS website and saw the opportunity with local groups and jams. The first thing I came across was an ad for a new band in my area of town so I emailed to express my interest.

The Cage

I have to confess, I was a little intimidated the first time I attended a band session with the Cage. There was about twenty or so people there and I was the youngest. I wanted to give things a try though, so I joined in. Even though I was a little out of practice, it ended up being really fun.

From that point on, I attended every Sunday. I learned more techniques, more chords and made new friends. When we began performing at concerts and events, I had the best time. When the audience joins in with us by singing and dancing and I can see everyone having a good time it makes me really happy. BUMS events are always exciting, especially when everyone sings and plays together and just has fun.

Good times with friends from BUMS.

 

Life as a ‘leftie’

My playing style is a little unorthodox. I write left-handed but my fingers are more comfortable playing the ukulele right-handed. However, I didn’t realise this until I’d already bought a left-handed ukulele. So, I play it right-handed but the strings are the opposite way up so I have to read chords backwards. It’s something other ukulele players find hilarious. Thankfully it doesn’t cause me any difficulties, in fact some chords, such as D, Bb and E7, are easier to play upside-down.

The Sublime Ukelectics

I was sad when I heard the Cage would be ending. It had been one of the constants in my life since coming to Australia. The end of an era I suppose.  As they say, ‘when one door closes, another one opens.’

I became a financial member of BUMS and joined a new BUMS-affiliated band the Sublime Ukelectics led by Becky Lochel. Many former CAGE members have come across so there are familiar faces.  I am happy to be with the Sublime Ukelectics and really enjoyed their first gig in June at the Sky Lounge of the Ibis Airport Hotel.

Sublime Ukelectics, Lauren at back

Our practices are run a bit differently to the Cage. As well as practicing for our concerts, we have open mic during breaks so anyone can play their favourite songs for everybody.

My time with BUMS over the past six years has been wonderful. Through BUMS I’ve made friends and had lots of great experiences. I look forward to all the fun

The ukulele was not something I had ever given much thought to. I have never been very musical and have always been reluctant to sing out loud (except when I’m alone in the car). Now I cannot believe how much richer my life has become because of the ukulele.

Origins

I was born in the Scottish Borders.  We moved while I was still quite young to North Wales and then on to the beautiful Lake District in Cumbria. I lived in several other places but ended up in the historical city of York.

Coming to Australia

In 1991, in my late 20’s, I came to Australia for a 6-month holiday (which turned into 12 months), to visit my sister who had emigrated a couple of years earlier with her family. She loved Australia and was desperate to show off this great new country of hers.

As fate would have it, I met my husband here and Australia became my permanent home too. I am very fortunate as my other sister and family emigrated here as did my father. I am still happily married to John and we have two grown up children whom I adore.

Finding the ukulele

Linda Gough (from the Ferny Grove jam) and I have been great friends for many years.  She lived in my street and gave my children guitar lessons.

Margaret and Linda – great mates

Linda wanted to teach ukulele and asked me to give her a hand with some admin in setting up and running the group. I was looking after my elderly father at the time and jumped at the chance to escape for a couple of hours and meet new people.

This is when I first discovered that ukulele players are fabulous people!

I had no intention of playing but the students had other ideas and I wasn’t allowed to sit quietly at the back and listen.  Linda miraculously pulled a spare uke out of nowhere and my ukulele adventure began. That was more than six years ago and Linda’s Uke’N’Sing is going from strength to strength.  I am still helping and playing.

Linda’s Uke’N’Sing

Finding BUMS

The natural progression from being part of Linda’s Uke’N’Sing was to also become a BUMS member.  I have been involved in quite a few group performances with Linda’s two performance groups Daytrippers and Nightriders. We love to perform at Age Care facilities and have been to quite a few different ones. It’s great to see people singing along with us, some join in with a tambourine or a shaker and even dancing along to the music.

The Nightriders

Day-Trippers

Our two groups get together at Christmas to perform at the Hill’s Carols in the Park (at Ferny Hills) and that is always lots of fun.

Fun at Hills Carol in the Park

You might have seen me at the Ferny Grove jam where I help set up the room and the stage and, of course, enjoy the jam.

Raffle winner at Northside Christmas jam

Branching out

While I was at a ukulele festival, I was introduced to the D’Jembe. I did a workshop out of a mild interest while there and I loved it! I couldn’t help myself and had to buy one. I now have two and for someone who doesn’t like to be noticed it’s certainly out there. Loud and proud!

Drumming is fun

We have a couple of people in the groups who also play the D’Jembe and so it’s become part of our performances.

Cruising

Linda invited me to go on a cruise a few years ago on the Great Barrier Reef. It was a wonderful opportunity help Linda teach ukulele. It was a ten-day cruise and we only had to teach on sea days.  But it was so much fun we found ourselves doing impromptu jam sessions most days.

While in Cairns we got together with the Cairns equivalent of BUMS, CHUG, for a jam.

Jamming with CHUG

It was a fabulous experience in many ways. I had never been on a cruise nor had I been snorkelling or to some of the places we visited.

Summing up

To me, it isn’t about the talent or skill, but my enjoyment comes from being part of something, where everyone is having a great time.

I’ve found the ukulele community to be very accepting.  People don’t judge you, but encourage you to give it a go, take part and have fun. I am still not terribly musical nor a particularly good player (probably my own fault as I don’t practice enough).

But through the ukulele I’ve found wonderful friendships.  I’ve been inspired to try new things and uplifted by people around me taking on the challenges of life.  Making music is great exercise for the old grey matter and my stiffening hands – and brings me such joy!

Bec Lochel is a regular at the Coorparoo jam where she has led a set or two. She was also co-leader of The CAGE and has started a new southside community band – the Sublime Ukelectics.

Finding BUMS

I have been involved with BUMs since the end of 2017. At that time, my two children were aged 1 and 3 years old and I needed some regular ‘me’ time.

I found it with the BUMS community band The CAGE.

The CAGE Christmas performance

I knew the leader Ian Phillips through music teaching, and my Mum (also a teacher) was a member of the band. She encouraged me to come along. I saw them perform at SPRUKE in 2017 along with the other BUMS bands. Everyone had so much fun together I thought this was just right for me.

Musical background

In my work as a music teacher, I have played guitar but never ukulele. Luckily, the skills transferred easily. I was soon strumming and singing along, revelling in a blissful two hours of music making without a child touching me!

I really enjoyed singing lovely harmonies with the group and broadening my ukulele chord knowledge. For me, this is very best way to learn and to play an instrument – with others! I am always so much more motivated and inspired when I’m making music with other people. It was quite a thrill to get up on the mic during performances at jams and other events in the community.

New challenges

Six months later Ian asked me to co-lead the group with him, which added another level of challenge and enjoyment. I really enjoy working on songs with a group of people, and seeing how they develop over time. For instance, adding harmonies here or adjusting strumming patterns. Trying out different voices and groups of voices for various parts and creating arrangements.

Performing with The CAGE

My experience as a music teacher (both classroom and instrumental), particularly my training in the Orff Schulwerk style of pedagogy very helpful with this side of things.

The Orff Approach

The Orff Schulwerk approach to music teaching has been a huge influence on my life. My mother started her Orff journey when I was very young and so I had the good fortune of experiencing this way of learning music from early on. Find out more here.

Orff Schulwerk is an approach to music education pioneered by German composer Carl Orff (best known perhaps for his oratorio “Carmina Burana”) in the 1920’s. It is a way of teaching music through movement and play. It is a whole-body approach where you learn by doing and experiencing music in many different ways, through body percussion, voice, dance, drama and instruments (predominantly tuned and untuned percussion).

Early Orff experiences – Becky on the left

“Tell me, I forget…show me, I remember…Involve me, I understand.” — Carl Orff

Playing with others

I have always loved making music with others. I was very lucky after moving to Australia from Africa in year 5 to have the opportunity to learn an instrument at school.

Somehow or other I ended up playing the Cello (not what my mother had suggested!). But what a beautiful instrument which allowed me many opportunities to make music with others in small groups and large orchestras.

On cello in a high school ensemble

It, along with my Orff teacher training, provided me one of my first job opportunities teaching instrumental music and music theory.

Becky with engrossed kindy kids

Today, I teach music at two kindergartens, two mornings a week.

New beginnings

With The CAGE coming to a close at the end of 2020, I couldn’t let all the fabulous music making disappear. So, I’ve have started a new BUMS group – the Sublime Ukelectics. I’m really enjoying it so far.

I try to get a good variety of songs from different eras and with differing levels of difficulty in terms of chords, strumming, harmonies etc. I encourage members to send me song suggestions which I add to my playlist for in the car and see how they grow on me! This has been a great way to find new songs for the group that I normally wouldn’t have and I look forward to some more.

Family life

Other than all of that, my time is spent running around after my growing children.

Becky with her kids

We love getting out into the garden or the forest to get grubby and climb trees. We’re always on the look-out for any opportunity to boogie, love cuddling our cats and guineapigs (although not together) and reading books! You might see me at the odd climate strike too 😊.

Keep on strumming and singing everyone – even better, get out there and do it with someone else!

Stephen Sandlilands shares his ukulele journey.


I was bitten by the ukulele bug just after my fiftieth birthday. I’d been a poor guitar player in my youth and took it up again in 2008 and practiced alone with a few lessons. As an avid woodworker, I thought I would make an electric guitar. And, then maybe a jazz acoustic. Eventually I went down the path of making a pineapple uke. As they say – it was all downhill from there.

The fruits of my labour – a Telecaster guitar and a Pineapple concert uke

Playing with others

I soon discovered that the ukulele community is like no other in the music world. The path to fun and learning is through playing with others.

When I was mentioned writing this article to some friends, I joked ‘who haven’t I played Uke with?’ The list would include Redland City Ukes, Baysamba (Brazilian Drumming), The Cage, Kine Kool, Bulimba Tuesday night group, The Ukey Beats, GRUBS and Spin the Cat.

Starting up

Once the pineapple uke was finished, I learnt a few chords and picked a few tunes. And then I noticed an ad in the Redlands Times for ukulele players to join a new group at the Capalaba Sports Club. I joined them and the group became Redland City Ukes (RCUS). I played with them until 2019 and performed at gigs at the Sunshine Coast Ukulele Festival at Kenilworth, Binary Swing time Redfest, SPRUKE and at Newkulele in 2018.

CAGE at SPRUKE

Finding BUMS

I was at a festival in Cairns in 2011 and met my first BUMS member, Cath ‘Jazzhand’ McCourt. I joined BUMS after that and my ukulele community grew and grew. Seems funny now that after meeting Cath 10 years ago that we have just started a duo together called Spin the Cat. We led a set at the Coorparoo jam in February with Mick Angeles on bass.

Networking

Once you are in a community, opportunities come up. I was asked play at a little festival at Victoria Point in 2014 and was looking for a bass player to join me. I asked Jim Bills and then ended up playing with his group Kine Kool for a couple of years.

George Mzor was leading a Tuesday night ukulele group at Bulimba and when he got too busy, he asked me to lead the group in his absence. It was all a chance to improve my skills and learn some more.

Jamming it up at Imbil

The Ukey Beats

My good buddy Darrell Reeves and I played with RCUS at the Newkulele festival in 2018. On the drive back we decided to start a band doing Easy Beats covers – and that became The Ukey Beats. As a duo, we entered the SPRUKE Star competition in 2019 and were really pleased by how well our songs were received.

Steve and Darrell rocking out

We cajoled Carol Dudley (who we knew from The Cage) to be our awesome bass player. She keeps us on track. We also had Marc Ambrosoli as our drummer for a while and were a real four on the floor. We’ve played at jams, open mics and SPRUKE 2019.

The Ukey Beats at Northside jam

It takes a lot of practice and then more practice before you start to get the groove working and playing as a band. But it’s so much fun playing and working with other musos. And then there’s more practise, then some practise and you get much more proficient at your art. Can you see a theme developing there?

It’s good to surprise an audience. The Ukey Beats played at the Northside jam in February and we got good feedback about our musicality. Some of our songs really challenged the audience. For example, if you know David Bowie’s Space Oddity, you’ll recall there is no chord structure to the end. We depicted the end in the song sheet as [?] [?] [?] [?] and it worked.

Take and give back.

The best thing about playing with others is the little bits of advice and wisdom that you get along the way. I’ve learnt so much from all the bands I’ve played with – and I thank all those people.

Without this feedback, my musicality would not be where it is today. I’ll keep on learning – but I am putting back into the ukulele community and BUMS as my way of saying thanks. I am always willing to share my accumulated skills with others who ask. I fell really blessed that I have had this opportunity to share this with you all.

Here’s a tip. I try to keep everything calm and composed when I play. BUMS provides a supportive and encouraging environment to help everyone improve. For instance, when I’m performing the audience will provide feedback. They might point up if my singing is too quiet or point at other things to help improve the finished product.

As a vocalist

The uke is a perfect instrument to accompany singing. In 2015, I got some feedback that I should develop my singing. I took music lessons with Elizabeth Ross and with lots of practice and encouragement my range, power and control has really improved.

In the non-ukulele world (yes, that does exist), I’ve sung with the Queensland Services Heritage Band based at Wynnum as their male vocalist. I would not have got this opportunity were it not for the humble ukulele.

With the Wynnum Big Band (right corner)

Final tip

What I’ve learnt as a performer and entertainer is that the person up front must keep smiling. If you’re happy the audience will be happy too.

If you ever need a bit of encouragement or advice, tap me on the shoulder and say hi.

 

In response to our invitation for members to share their ukulele journeys in our newsletter, Adrian Board explains how he got hooked on uke. Please email to share your ukulele journey.


I’ve always wanted to sing and perform.  Some of my friends could play guitar and sing, and I was so-o-o envious.  I loved being with them when they jammed, but I couldn’t join in.

First jam

Fast forward to 2015.  I was 45 years old, out of work and very depressed.  I decided to take on something new whilst I looked for work.  When I rang David Hethorn, he offered to lend me a uke, and said, “Come down to Coorparoo Bowls Club next Wednesday night.” I figured he’d teach me a few chords over a beer …

When I turned up, David handed me a uke, and directed me to the beginners’ class.  I walked out being able to play the beginnings of “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. That night I joined the main jam, and was blown away by David’s set that included “Budapest, a song by Daft Punk and another by David Bowie. I couldn’t believe it. Daft Punk on a uke?  “That’s it,” I thought,  “I’m hooked.”  “Mate, this is what you’ve always wanted,” I told myself. “If you’re ever gonna find out if it’s possible, then now is the time. Don’t die wondering.”

First open mics

At my second jam, I had a crack at open mic playing Passenger’s “Let Her Go”. It was terrifying. I can’t remember whether I did a good job or not, but it doesn’t matter. I was so proud of myself. I’d set myself a very scary goal and achieved it. People were happy for me. I was definitely hooked.

I became an enthusiastic member of BUMS, and agreed to help at SPRUKE 2015 — Brisbane’s Ukulele Festival. I was put in charge of the volunteers.  I had two things in my favour. Having worked on IT projects, I knew how to herd cats. Secondly, I had amazing support from Keryn Henderson. We spent many hours together, and she became my ukulele wife — John seemed happy to share her. And I met the rest of the committee, and made some new friends.

During SPRUKE I did an open mic. Steve Sandilands jumped in with me. He hadn’t done an open mic before, and I assume he figured that if the newbie could be brave and get up, then he could too. Look at where he’s gone since. Amazing! During that open mic, I made a new commitment to myself that I would perform at the SPRUKE 2017.

First time leading at a jam

Next I wanted to lead a set at a jam, and BUMS and John Henderson and Mick Angeles gave me the moral and musical support.  It was an amazing experience, and it was the first of many jam sets I’ve led since. When you lead a set at a jam, you really do have the best seat in the house. It looks and sounds completely different from when you’re sitting down. You see about 50 to 100 smiling faces wishing you success. The sound of the ukes and voices coming back at you is like a wave of an accompanying band.

First public performances

My first public performance was a paid gig. I couldn’t believe it. David Hethorn asked me to join him for a corporate party. I’d only been playing a few months, and I was extremely nervous, and mostly useless, but I survived.

I followed up by establishing a group (mid 2016) with Chan Hoo, David Hethorn (on piano), Chrissy Heinrich, Steve Sandilands and Keryn Henderson to perform at Sandgate’s Masonic Lodge aged care (now Regis Sandgate). Our performance was very well received. David showed his incredible versatility on piano, and Chan stole the show with his renditions of the residents’ all time favourites. It was for my neighbour’s father. It was the last time he came out of his room before he passed.  It was a joy and a privilege to provide some happiness at that time.

Performing at Sandgate, June 2016

Running sets led to more performances with Blair Marks, John Henderson, David Hethorn (on percussion) and Paul Morris (on ubass) as Ukulele Heroes Collective.  We played first at the Pine Rivers Show,

Ukulele Heroes Collective, Pine Rivers Show, July 2016.

at City Sounds in the Queen St Mall, and in the beer garden at QPAC.

Ukulele Heroes Collective, City Sounds, Queen Street, Oct 2016

Taking and making opportunities

In 2017, David and I auditioned to be buskers at Southbank. Whilst waiting, we met a girl called Ash who was also a ukulele player. None of us got in. As we parted, I realised it would be great to play with Ash – she has such a sweet voice. I chased after her, and when I asked her to join me, she said yes.

Adrian and Ash at Coorparoo

We practised together and played on the main stage at SPRUKE 2017 in front of my family and friends. Here’s a link to a few of those songs at SPRUKE.

Share Your Air

That’s What I Like

Making more music with others

In 2019, I teamed up with Amanda Allwood and Trish Rodwell as Duo-Ver.  We performed at the Sunshine Coast Uke Fest and SPRUKE 2019.

Duo Ver’s maiden performance at SCUF, 2018.

I have learned so much from them — most importantly to perform without the music in front of me.

It was terrifying at first, but with practice I did it. We were getting ready to perform again when COVID hit … Sigh…

Sharing

I love to share what I’ve learnt – whether in my career as an IT trainer, or as a ukulele player and performer.  I’m keen to spread understanding when I play at a jam, and I’ve posted items on the BUMS Online Facebook page because I want others to learn the same things I have.

I started a beginners’ class with my work colleagues, and some of them have been brave enough to perform at jams.

Adrian and a work colleague perform an open mic at Coorparoo.

It gives me great pleasure to support and encourage other players to take this step up.  If you would like to join me in leading a set or an open mic, come and ask me.

Learnings

Ukulele helps me maintain my sanity. I travel a lot for work, and I take my uke wherever I go.  After a day’s work, I strum the day’s stress away. I’m always on the lookout for other uke players to meet new people and learn new songs.  Last week, I joined the Townsville Ukuleles for a jam.

Adrian joins the uke fun in Townsville.

Another learning for me is that I am no longer scared to be scared. There is no excitement without fear. Now I can be ‘that bloke’ who can play songs at a campfire so others can join in. Now I’ve performed at parties and corporate events, even been paid sometimes.

Performing in front of a crowd is fabulous. If you see me perform, then it is you who is giving me joy. It is such a privilege to have you take a few minutes out of your life to listen and, I hope, enjoy.

So, if you have the itch to perform, give it a go. Don’t die wondering!

 

In the next instalment of the series, we find out about John Low’s uke journey.


It’s never too late to start a new journey.  I took up the ukulele four years ago when I finally retired aged 76. My plan had been to spend my twilight years as a (very) mature-aged triathlete.  Sadly, the combination of an irregular heartbeat and stern cardiologist caused me to reassess my future.

Musical heritage

My Mum was a talented pianist.  Sadly, her future on the concert stage was somewhat curtailed by two smashed up fingers from a friendly (?) hockey game.  She misguidedly believed her musical talent resided in her eldest son. After ten years of classical training, she finally admitted that she was possibly wrong.  I left music behind although I can still read music.  And I have a love of the blues – where that came from, I’ve no idea.

I have owned several guitars but never really learned to play any of them.  They spent most of their lives under the bed, dusty and unloved.

A dilemma at 76

So, there I was at a bit of a loose end.  How was I going to remain socially connected and also learn some new skills? A second language didn’t particularly appeal.  And my dear wife didn’t like the idea of me making a hobby of binge-watching GoT on streaming services.

About this time, I attended a couple of concerts in Brisbane.  The first was the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (where I ran into my then GP – a keen ukulele player unbeknown to me).  The second was by Jake Shimabukuro. Wow, this ukulele was a serious musical instrument. Maybe my Mum wouldn’t roll over in her eternal slumber if I took it up.

Finding BUMS

Coincidentally, I came across the Brisbane Ukulele Musicians Society (BUMS) and the fact that they put on ‘jams’ (whatever they were).  Apparently, you could go along to a nominated venue with a ukulele and ‘play music’. I purchased an inexpensive ukulele, presented myself at the Northside Jam, paid my $5 and joined the beginner’s group. My uke journey had begun, but at that stage I had no idea as to where.

Next, I joined BUMS and bought the Ukulele Club Songbook (doesn’t everybody?).  I found ’do-it-yourself’ ukulele lessons on the ‘interweb’ and applied myself to my instrument for an hour a day. I also attended a number of workshops put on by BUMS. They were totally beyond me but at least told me what I had yet to learn.

Finding NUMB BUMS

About six months into my ukulele journey, I was at a workshop put on by Derek Farrell about alternative chording or something.  Jo Kunde announced that the Northside community band, NUMB BUMS, was actively seeking new members.

I explained to Jo that I gave new meaning to the word ‘novice’ but would it be okay if I came along. She told me to come along, stand at the back and ‘fake it till you make it’.

Three months later, I attended my first gig as a NUMB BUMS member.  I was standing in the back row in the Queen Street Mall, mostly ‘making it’ rather than ‘faking it’. It was another step in my uke journey, although I was still not quite sure where.

NUMB BUMS, Feb 2020

Growing performance skills

The following year NUMB BUMS was preparing for SPRUKE 2017.  Zöe Watson asked if I would be interested in doing a rap-based duet with her as part of NUMB BUMS performance. Zöe was not someone you refused, so after I established she wasn’t joking, said yes please.

I heard that three NUMB BUMS members had started a small group to practice together.  I asked them (Frank Buckley, Peter Grace and Chris Slater) if I could join in and the Ukulele Saints (Francis, Peter, Christopher and John) was formed.  We’ve added a few members and had a lot of fun since.

Saints early days

Later Day Saints

Bring on the baritone

During this period, I went over to the dark side and purchased a baritone ukulele, then a second one (couldn’t help myself).  The a few months later exchanged my Cordoba Tenor ukulele for a tenor guitar (a four string beast and quite rare).  And then I capped it all off with the purchase of a ubass.

John Low and baritone

More performing

In the last couple of years, I have been fortunate to perform with both NUMB BUMS and the Ukulele Saints at many events. We went to Newkulele in 2018 (as the BUMS Festival Group), the Sunshine Coast Ukulele Festival 2019 and SPRUKE 2019 (with Supernova).  I’ve played at BUMS jams and also in a wide range of gigs in Brisbane and surrounds.  These have ranged from kindergartens to aged care homes and pretty well everything in between. And over the last 12 months, I have found myself teaching others.

Supernova, 2019

More new directions

Being a little bit nerdy, the technical aspects of recording, both audio and video, interested me.  Now my home contains a plethora of microphones, cables, mixing desks, DAW’s, and amplifiers.

During the COVID close-down, a few enthusiastic members of the bands I am involved with produced videos with which band members can practice. These were extremely useful when face-to-face practice was not possible and and we found playing together through Zoom was almost impossible.

The real benefits

But most importantly, I have met amazing people, many of whom have become close friends.  All this at a time of life when many of us in the older age groups are faced with a diminishing, rather than an expanding, social group. This, together with the new musical skills I have learnt (okay, okay – am learning) over the last 4-5 years helped to keep the ravages of age mostly at bay.

Buy a uke and start on a musical journey – you never know where it will lead you.

In response to last month’s invitation for members to share their ukulele journeys in our newsletter, Peter Ransom tells us about life with uke. Please email to share your ukulele journey.


My first acquisitions

On a whim I bought my first ukuleles back around 1981. In those days I played banjo and guitar in the Caxton Street Jazz Band and I really had no idea about what to do with my purchase!  I actually bought two ukes — both 1923 Kumalae sopranos, solid koa construction with friction tuning pegs. They belonged to a chap who had, amongst other things, been a scriptwriter for The Man from UNCLE. He’d bought both instruments from the factory in Hawaii while working in a band on a cruise boat operating between the USA west coast and the Hawaiian Islands. Sadly, he’d suffered a stroke, and I became only the second owner of these little gems. I still have one, but it needs a little TLC — at 97 years, who wouldn’t?

The Moonshine Five (actually only four members), a folk/jazz/skiffle group in Melbourne , 1963. Yours truly on banjo, Bruce Woodley (Seekers) left rear on guitar. The blonde is Prue Acton.

Ukuleles shelved

This acquisition didn’t lead to any great passion for the instrument. Every two or three years I would play one or the other for a few minutes and then put it away. There was a missed opportunity, though. In 1997 I transferred to Hong Kong and a uke would’ve been ideal to play in my tiny apartment, but they’d been rushed into storage. After 18 hectic months in HK, and a stint in Japan, returning to Brisbane was good for me in many ways. I met and later married Jennie, and restored some lovely vintage cars.

Beginning at BUMS

Eventually, in 2011, I went along to BUMS at Coorparoo with one of my little Kumalae ukes. Not exactly a light bulb moment, but something connected! But I realized that here was an opportunity to play and sing with like-minded people.  After the rather restrictive traditional jazz genre I could get into virtually anything I fancied, be it rock, Latin, swing, or C&W.  I prefer the great melodies of the 30s and 40s.

For folk who’ve recently taken up the ukulele, it’s an entrée to an unpretentious world of musical pleasure and fun, with as much challenge as you care to take on. I’m like some others who have come from a longer-term musical background. I started at 14 on guitar, soon took up banjo and eventually made the ukulele transition, which fits nicely with my time of life. Music was never my day job, and I’ve always been happy with where it’s taken me.

I’ve settled on the concert uke as my preferred instrument and had a gorgeous custom instrument built by Allen McFarlen (Barron River Guitars & Ukuleles in Cairns).  An indulgence? Yes, but a great investment!

Performing

Presenting the occasional set at our jams is something I really enjoy, along with doing open mic spots. Appearing at uke festivals as GIRT BY C is an opportunity to present material that’s typically a bit different, very old and requires a lot of work to get it right. In 2015, I took my ukulele on Channel 9’s ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’. I was told that to get through the selection process you need to stand out. Talking about my uke certainly played a part in it. Check out my performance.

Working on my own is my preference. That’s largely because I can’t reasonably expect anyone else to be sufficiently interested in the genres I tap into. Going solo also eliminates any conflict on issues like repertoire, arrangements, presentation and where and when to rehearse!

The Caxton Street Jazz Band in Brisbane c. 1979. Me again on banjo.

Having said that, I miss the true jam sessions of the jazz world. A world in which a bunch of musos agree on a tune and a key and then play — totally unrehearsed, no charts, no arrangement, anyone can join in or drop out.  The results are always interesting and sometimes breathtaking.

Latest challenges

Putting some of my songs up on BUMS’ private Facebook page has been an interesting exercise. I can get it reasonably OK from a technical perspective but playing, singing, recording and actually publishing can be confronting! While I happily perform solo in front of a big audience at festivals, playing to a camera is sterile. It requires some skills that I just don’t possess. Should I have bothered? Why can’t I smile? Does anyone like my stuff? Look at the chords I fluffed! But as the man said, the sun still comes up each morning, and since I’ve survived the challenge I’ll probably go again.

Stay tuned …

PjR

Girt by C Website: pjransom.wixsite.com/girt-by-c