On St Paddy’s Day eve, our Brisbane ukulele family were treated to a wonderful morning of Irish music to celebrate the magic of D-tuned ukulele.

Celtic Ukulele Music Workshop, March 2019

The Celtic Ukulele Workshop run by the Toowong Irish Music Session on behalf of BUMS was held at Zillmere Hall, on Saturday morning 16 March.

About 20 participants, mostly beginner level, were enjoyed 100 minutes of introductory musical study, guided by more than half a dozen enthusiastic and knowledgeable uke teachers and tutors.

The outcome was a morning of wonderful Irish Song accompanied on D-tuned ukulele. We learned the wonderful Raglan Road and Star of the County Down. The group felt another workshop soon would be great. Thank you BUMS Inc for hosting the workshop.

As a result of the March workshop, we were pleased to welcome three of the participants to their first Irish music session at our venue, Toowong Bowls Club. Everyone is welcome, regardless of levels of experience. So please come along on Thursdays between 5:30 pm and 9:00 pm.

For more information contact Pete on 0447 721 669.

Or hit us up on our Toowong Irish Music Session Facebook page.

Peter McMeel
Toowong Irish Music Session

Our first Beginners Ukulele Bootcamp for the year was held on 13 & 20 March 2019.

The March Beginners Ukulele Bootcampers hard at work.

Here’s what one of our enthusiastic Bootcampers, Eva-Maree Matson, had to say about the course.

So glad I attended Beginners Bootcamp! After struggling through countless YouTube sessions at the beginning of my uke journey, it was pure pleasure to be part of a group learning session led by patient and knowledgeable teachers, Keryn, Julie and John.

The course is really well set out, and the setting is relaxed (you do not feel pressured at all). You’ll surprise yourself, as I did, just how much you can take in if you apply yourself. And it’s such fun too with everyone playing along together!

You’re sent the course notes after attending, and I found that really helpful to reinforce what I had learnt during the session. So handy to have to refer back to as well.

I am not familiar with reading sheet music, timing, and beats etc, but Keryn and Julie explained the basics to us simply and clearly, and gave excellent tips for smoother chord progressions. By the end of the second session you’ll be equipped with a bunch of chords to take you through quite a few songs.

After such an enjoyable learning experience, I would recommend Beginners Bootcamp for anyone looking to make a strong start on the ukulele.

If you live on the northside and you’re looking for a Bootcamp closer to home, come to the FREE April Beginners Ukulele Bootcamp at Nundah. Beginners Bootcamp is specifically for ukulele players who can move smoothly amongst the basic chords like C, F & G7, and perhaps Am & G.

John and Keryn will run the April Bootcamp at the Nundah Brisbane City Council Library on two consecutive Wednesday evenings.

Session 1: Wednesday 17 April 2019
Session 2: Wednesday 24 April 2019.

Beginners Ukulele Bootcamp offers practice tips, finger dexterity drills, ear training exercises, basic music theory, and how to find clues for playing songs in sheet music. The chords used in this course include A,  A7, Am, Am7, C, C6, C7, Cmaj7, D, D7, Dm, E7, F, G, and G7.

Registrations open on 1 March 2019. Bookings are for two sessions. Arrive at 6:45 pm for a 7:00 pm sharp start. Sessions run from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Bring your uke and tuner.

Please only register if you are available for both sessions. Each person must register separately. The group size is limited to 24 participants. If you miss out, please add your name to the waiting list. Registrations close 7:00 pm on Wednesday 10 April 2019. Booking into Session 1 automatically books you into Session 2.

BUMS are holding an open mic contest in the run up to our festival SPRUKE 2019

We want your act, whether a solo, group, adult or child, as long as you play ukulele. Players at any playing level are welcome to enter, you can even share the stage with up to 10 of your friends. You can be a beginner or a seasoned open mic performer. This is a popularity contest! The winner of every round will be chosen by the most votes from our jam audiences.

For even more fun there is an element of chance in the Sprukestar Quest Contest:

  • There is a random draw of the twenty (open mic) performance spots for the 10 Sprukestar Quest rounds on Monday 25 February.
  • In addition there is one random wildcard draw into semi-final 2 from all the entries not through to the semi-final rounds.

Find all the details and entry form on the Spruke Brisbane’s Ukulele Festival website.

The finalists will perform at the SPRUKE 2019 Festival Finale Concert.
The winning act will also receive a $500 Gift Voucher and the runner up act a $250 Gift Voucher.

• Read the Terms and Conditions.
• Make sure you can commit to the performance schedule. Download PDF.
• Get a photo of your act. Entrants will be required to provide a photograph of the entrant/act with his/her ukulele for publicity purposes: GIF/JPG/PNG image files accepted. Landscape orientation. File size less than 1MB.
• Complete the Entry Form with your personal details, and photo.
• Performers under the age of eighteen (18), download the “Minors Media Consent Form” sign and return via mediamanager@brisbaneukulele.com by Friday 22 February 2019.

Entries CLOSED midnight Friday 22 February 2019.

Stay tuned with winners of our open mic spots will be announce on Tuesday.

If you don’t enter please come and support the Sprukestar Quest performances, we need you in the audience to vote for your favourite act. Check out the schedule for all the rounds below.

Sprukestar Quest Performance Schedule- updated


Absolute Beginners Bootcamp was run at Bulimba BCC Library on 13 & 20 February. The course was over-subscribed, so we opened it up to the waiting list. One of our enthusiastic bootcampers, Donna Singleton, has this to say …

Why Bootcamp?

Brisbane Ukulele Bootcamps are FREE. There is your first draw card.

And, what have you got to lose? A few hours on a Wednesday night?

Session 2, Absolute Beginners Ukulele Bootcamp at Bulimba, February 2019

Three marvellous people, Keryn, Julie and John have designed classes to make it easier for people to start playing the ukulele, and not fluff around trying to mimic others. There are many videos on YouTube, but if you are not musically minded, this can be very daunting. Now you can say goodbye to the ‘daunt’.

At Bootcamp you learn basic strumming and picking techniques and how to read music notation, all in a very relaxed manner. The pace is set by the group on the night so that nobody is left behind. The song choices are varied, which is nice, and unexpected, as they all have limited chords. The atmosphere was very relaxed, and the lessons designed to give a basic understanding of how music is written and played, and how to recognise the sounds of notes and chords, and to feel rhythm. We also learned how to take care of and strengthen our fingers and hands.

We played … I use that term loosely … a few simple tunes on the first night. A pretty good achievement, I thought. We were supplied with notes and songsheets from the session for our homework. When we returned for the second class, we had all practised for different amounts of time. I tell you what though, by the end of that final class, we were playing more chords and more difficult tunes without too much pausing.

For a bunch that couldn’t play a chord at the beginning of the previous week, this was really pretty cool. For non-music teachers, these three are pretty awesome uke teachers.
I am now looking forward to the Beginners  Ukulele Bootcamp in March.

Donna Singleton

Beginners Ukulele Bootcamp

Registrations are currently open for:

The next cab off the rank in our jam feature series is … WE BUMS JAM!

Hope on Boundary — Home of WE BUMS.

That’s the West End folks —  on the 2nd Friday of the month.

It’s at a place called “Hope on Boundary Cafe” at 170 Boundary St West End.

That’s in Boundary Street, just up from the Vulture Street intersection heading towards Highgate Hill.

It’s licensed, it sells coffee and food, and it’s got a relaxed pleasant décor.

What else could you ask for? Music of course!

The WE BUMS jam is not new. It’s an oldie. It was started by a couple called Geoff and Francesca (everyone calls her Cesca) over 8 years ago at the Blackstar Café in Thomas Street, West End. It ran there until 2017, when they decided to move to the current address in Boundary Street.

The Venue

The current venue has an interesting history, which also provides a little insight into some previous confusion over where the jam is, which is why I highlighted the name and address.

This café itself was started by a not-for-profit organisation called Micah Projects, which provides hands-on work opportunities in the hospitality industry for those facing barriers to employment. The original café was set up in Hope Street, South Brisbane. But the organisation also opened up this second café in Boundary Street, West End.

I don’t know about you, but the word “serendipitous” comes to mind about a café to help the unemployed starting up in Hope Street.

The Jam

WE BUMS jam has a history of being small and intimate. It also has a record of running with a theme for the night, for example “rain” or “sea”. Cesca said it was a great way of learning a new repertoire of songs.

A quiet cosy night at WE BUMS.

Anyway, Geoff and Cesca needed a break, so they came to see Max – I think it was about a year ago. Geoff and Cesca still have their fingers in the pie, and are happy to step back in and give Max a break if he needs one. I think Max has set up a roster, and you risk getting a big slobbery kiss from our Presidento if you offer to lead a WE BUMS set.

But, hey, why not? Give him a call.

So, WE BUMS is an acoustic jam, set up in the outdoor area in front of the café. It’s a delightful venue with a (wait for it) casual tropical feel again. You come straight into the jam off the street, so it attracts the odd passer-by.

El Presidento runs the show.

There were about 20 people there on a balmy summer night for my visit in February. You can tell from the shirt that Max is wearing that it’s not a black tie affair.

The good thing about a small group like this is that you don’t have to follow a script … and guess what … we certainly didn’t. Many’s the time we said let’s skip that for now, that’s too hard, we’ll do that one later, or let’s stop to get a beer. Steve Sandilands was there to help us keep rhythm, sing in tune, and add a bit of fun and devil-may-care to everything we did.


What did we sing? (What didn’t we sing, more like it.) The Beatles, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin, Blame it on the Bossa Nova, Sway, Love Potion No. 9, Mac the Knife, Everly Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Harry Belafonte, Hank Williams etc. It was a good old singalong. We all sang lustily, and had a good time. It’s a great way to finish a hard week’s yakka. And surprisingly, I didn’t have too much trouble getting a park there.

Geoff Dancer

What a great time was had by all at the introduction to ukulele night put on by Morris Brothers Music, BUMS and Linda’s Uke‘N’Sing. There were about 140 beginners attending. It was a great place to start for people with no or limited knowledge as the information was simple and clear — so easy to follow. At the start we were taught what all the bits on the ukulele were called, how to hold it and all the essential things like that. We quickly moved on though, and were playing our first song within 10 minutes from the start!

The songs to follow were a good selection of quick to master songs. The music and lyrics were projected onto a large screen at the front of the room, making it easy to see and follow along.

Linda & Paul with lyrics on the big screen.

The enthusiasm and joy buzzing around the room was infectious,” said Pam one of the participants. Linda who was leading the class had an easy manner, and an all inclusive way to make sure everyone got something out of the session. Linda and Paul (who was also running the class) worked very well together and clearly loved what they were doing.

Linda demonstrates chord shape.

We had several breaks for people to rest their fingers, have a drink, ask questions and chat with other beginners. The age range of the participants was from school-aged children to retirees, and everything in-between. Everyone was keen to learn and have fun.

There were many volunteers from BUMS on hand to give support to the beginners with things like tuning, finger placement, strumming and other tips. Morris Brothers Music had a pop-up shop with all things ukulele, so any necessary purchases could be made, and advice given.

At the end of the evening, although many had sore fingers, the enthusiasm was still buzzing and the nerves had been replaced with a feeling of achievement.

Over 140 Ferny Grove beginners & BUMS volunteers, Feb 2019

What a wonderful night, such enthusiastic teachers and learners. We had such fun and were playing songs from the beginning!” said J.H.

It was a great night and I have learnt so much,” said H.E. ‘We had a lovely night. I would recommend it to everyone. It won’t disappoint!” said V.N.

Margaret Zordan

A few fortunate Brisbane ukelists took advantage of Cathy Welsford and Angie Smith’s (The Wild Women of Anywhere Beach) Strummin’ the Rhythm, Pickin’ the Tune week-long Camp Creative course on 14-18 January 2019 at Bellingen Public School.

Combined strummers and pickers group

Lesley Allan reports …

First I wish to say we had great tutors, Angie & Cathy, who encouraged us no end, throughout a very hot week. We had 22 in the Strummers & Pickers course, and split up on the first day into a strummers group and a pickers group, to about 11 in each class. The entry level was early Intermediate, so there was a variety of skills in each class. I think the pickers might have been more experienced, but we came together,  for a couple of hours each day, to combine what we had learnt.

Cathy taught us basic good tone technique, mainly C scale, but also Major & Minor Pentatonic & Blues Scales, progressing to other scales, using same patterns. Did some work on varied 12 bar blues, especially last day, or when we were brain-tired. Cathy also brought in some good ukulele books for technique practice, and gave us recommendation on those we might choose to buy.
We did three performances, with the last one being the final concert, where a lot of groups performed, to show what we learnt in five days.

Cathy leading joint rehearsal

Our first was lunch time, songs being San Francisco Bay Blues, Let’s get a Cow, Camp Creative Song & Witch Doctor, mainly strumming with some finger-picking on chords.

The next concert was late afternoon at a local park, so a good show-off for the town. First was orchestrated When September Ends, so pickers did either an ostinato, or the melody, with strumming and singing, over that. Then we strummed Happy Earth, followed by picking & strumming Heel & Toe Polka, while the crowd joined in by dancing.

At the final concert, we did Tequila, picking & strumming, and a medley of Aussie songs.

Most of the group camped at the show-grounds, so we got to know our fellow ukers, and we were ferried around to the schools by a free bus, or we could choose to walk. So heaps of opportunity for exercise, we were also next to the Bellinger River, so could swim there or at the local pool.

I think there might have been about 900 campers, and another 70 or so staying close by, so Camp Creative is a big influx of culture to the town.

The next cab off the rank in our jam feature series is … FERNY GROVE JAM!

The Ferny Grove Beginners Jam will celebrate its 5 Year anniversary in May 2019. It goes from 7pm until 9pm on the 3rd Wednesday of every month. It was started by Paul Morris (from Morris Brothers) and Linda Gough (from Ivory Frets Music), and they’re still going strong – maybe 60 people there on 16 January. Andrew Hunt also deserves a mention for looking after the projector for the night.

What did Santa give you for Christmas? Socks, you say? Well, I can tell you what Santa gave a lot of people who were at the Ferny Grove Jam on Wednesday night 16 January this year … a Ukulele!

Donna teaching the beginners group the basics.

That’s right folks. Donna Farrell had her hands full with many absolute beginners. I don’t know how she does it, but she had all these newcomers strumming away merrily and contributing to a song by the end of the session. Dianne Davis and Donna Farrell’s group gets underway at 6pm, before the main jam.

January 2019 Ferny Grove Jam

We are close to Australia Day (as I write this review), so it will come as no surprise that there was an Oz theme. We started off with ‘Waltzing Mathilda’ and finished the night with ‘I am Australian’. Incidentally Bruce Woodley from the Seekers was one of the co-writers of this wonderful song. The other co-writer was Dobe Newton from the Bushwackers, and I saw and heard Dobe Newton do this song with the Bushwackers on New Year’s Eve at Woodford Folk Festival,

It will also come as no surprise that we did a couple of Slim Dusty songs – ‘Pub with no Beer’ and ‘Love to Have a Singalong with Paul and Linda’ (I just modified that to see if anyone reads this). To round off the Aussie theme, we also did Peter Allen’s evocative song from afar ‘I still Call Australia Home’, and James Blundell’s ‘Living and Working on the Land’. Some of these songs strike a poignant note with the hardships of drought and heatwave conditions in the bush that we have now.

What makes a good selection of songs for a jam? Well, there surely has be variety and Paul and Linda put together a mixed bag of songs for a singalong: Some Rock ‘n Roll – ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ (The Beatles), ‘Rocking Robyn’ (written by Leon Rene), “Da Doo Ron Ron’ (The Crystals). Some pop with ‘Loco-Motion’ (Originally co-written by the inimitable Carole King), and ‘Ring, Ring’ (ABBA).

Linda & Paul leading the jam. Note the chord charts on the wall behind them.

And they also included a range of songs that test the tonsils: ‘Mull of Kintyre’ (Wings), ‘Top of the World’ (Carpenters), and ‘I Only Want to be With You’(Dusty Springfield). You could test if you could reach high notes in ‘Una Paloma Blanca’ (George Baker), particularly right at the end of the song where it goes up yet another level to Nitrogen giggle level (for me).

There was also a couple of more challenging songs, including ‘Logical Song’ (Supertramp). This is a personal favourite of mine, but the original recording has lots of keyboard from Roger Hodgson and orchestration in the British rock tradition. It worked out a treat, which goes to show you can do just about anything on a uke if you know what you are doing. Donna and Derek Farrell also stretched themselves, both vocally (Donna) and finger-picking wise (Derek), with a cover of the Jazz standard ‘I Can’t Give you Anything But Love’ (John Lloyd Young) during a break. Singers of the pedigree of Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Frankie Valli have recorded this song.

Derek & Donna Farrell

It was a good night. I’m sure everyone who was there enjoyed themselves.
By the way, Linda’s Uke’n’Sing classes at the Ferny Grove Bowls Club will be beginning shortly. To find out more information, call 0431 391 888.

Off to a flying start … mastered C, F & G7 and looking for more?

Build your strength and confidence and master a new set of chords at Brisbane Ukulele Bootcamp’s free beginners’ course on 13 & 20 March 2019 at the Bulimba BCC Library.

The chords we’ll in this course are A,  A7, Am, Am7, C, C6, C7, Cmaj7, D, D7, Dm, E7, F, G, and G7.

Please register via Trybooking. Registrations close 7:00 pm on Friday 8 March 2019. Bookings are for two sessions. Only register if you are available for both sessions. The group size is limited to 24 participants. If you miss out, please add your name and contact details to our waiting list in case of cancellations. Find out more.