BUMS Member Profile – Erin Harrington

Erin, known professionally as Miss Elm, has many irons in the ukulele fire.  She is a song writer and ukulele performer and in 2019, released two singles – ‘Clean Slate’ and ‘The Castle’.  Check out the video and music for ‘The Castle’ at https://youtu.be/IY1ZFh1NFKE

She is releasing her first solo EP ‘The Shape of Light’ on 6 February 2020 at the Junk Bar in Ashgrove as the first stop on an East Coast tour.  See https://www.elmukulele.com/blog for more details.

                                     

She’s a music teacher, an endorsed artist with Lanikai and runs ukulele ensemble classes called Ukulele Rockers. She has developed her song writing skills using the I Heart Song Writing Club, a global online community.  See http://www.iheartsongwritingclub.com/

She’s been a BUMS member since 2015 and talks positively about the value of the BUMS community in helping her development. She took a year off in 2016 to complete a fashion design degree in Melbourne but the lure of ukulele and her music drew her back to Brisbane.

Erin’s love of music started early encouraged by her jazz musician father and mother involved in the theatre. She started playing violin at age six and played piano during her later studies to gain a degree in Popular Music.  She formed a quartet called Miss Elm which produced three EP’s and was a finalist in the Folk, Singer Songwriter section of the Queensland Music Awards.

Her conversion to ukulele started when working at the Morris Brothers Music store in Stafford. She loved the simplicity, variety and powerful sound of ukuleles.  And much easier to take on the road. She soon became an accomplished performer which, together with her wide vocal range, gave her a unique sound. She has performed at festivals (including SPRUKE) and other venues across Australia.

Erin is now passionate about helping others find the joy in ukulele and music. Her Ukulele Rockers workshops are a good example where she leads a group of adult ukulele players in series of workshops over a ten-week period.  The first series in 2020 starts on 3 February at The Grange. For more details see the flyer at https://www.elmukulele.com/music

Her favourite ukulele is a six-string Lanikai. For anyone not familiar with this style, it has double C and A strings tuned an octave apart to give a fuller and louder sound. After five hard years of work, Erin’s six-string began to fail. She approached Lanikai who liked her work so much that they gave her a new uke and made her an official Lanikai artist and endorsee in 2019.  See http://lanikaiukuleles.com/artists/page/3/

Life hasn’t always been easy for Erin and her development as a ukulele professional has been challenging.  On a positive note, these times gave her the experiences and wisdom which she used as inspiration for her song writing and the ‘Shape of Light’ EP.

Over the Christmas to New Year period, Cath McCourt stepped up to keep the Woodfordia Ukulele Jam tradition alive in the Coopers Beerhouse. The uke group met every morning of the Woodford Folk Festival from 10:00 am to 11:15 am.

Geoff Dancer gave Cath a hand setting up, and encouraged crowd participation between his Woodfordia MCing commitments. And pocket rocket, Jazz Hands Cath McCourt, was soon leading a bar full of enthusiastic jammers.

Coopers Beerhouse ukulele jam, December 2019.

Woodford first requested BUMS volunteers to run daily jams in 2016. Tony Richardson took on the gig, and invited Cath to play uBass. The jams were very popular. Since 2016, the Woodfordia  jams in Coopers Beerhouse have been run by a number of our performing members including Tony, Cath and Mick Angeles. When Cath heard that Mick couldn’t make it this year, she volunteered to go solo to keep the tradition alive.

In 2019, Cath’s been running the WE BUMS jams at West End, and had a growing repertoire of jam songs. So she relished the opportunity to make the song selections for the Woodford jams. “It’s as hot as hell up there over the Christmas-New Year period, and after each year, I say, ‘never again’ … so why am I doing it this year? I love it … just love it,” said Cath when she picked up the laptop and projector for the gig. It takes about a week of preparation to cover a week of daily jams, but Cath was determined to bring new material to surprise the crowd at this year’s event with her ukulele magic.

Tony Richardson and Cath McCourt lead the Beerhouse jam, December 2019.

As an additional surprise for jammers, Tony Richardson joined Cath for the weekend jams, and undoubtedly, in true Tony style, brought a change of pace and repertoire.

And the jammers just kept coming. There were a few BUMS on seats, but many new faces.

Enthusiastic ukers, Coopers Beerhouse, December 2019.

Tony Richardson believes the Woodford Folk Festival is a ‘wonderous experience’. “I’m chuffed to be part of it,” said Tony after the event. “There are a number of long-term Woodfordians amongst our BUMS members, and they have promoted and encouraged ukulele to be there. It’s soul enhancing! You should try it.” he said.

Cath McCourt reported, “I’m happy to say the jam session attendance at Woodford Folk Festival from Christmas to New Year was to the max every day. Being the new kids on the block at Woodford, it’s great to break down the barriers. Now ukulele playing patrons can feel a connection and a contribution to the festival. We received a lot of positive comments from patrons, for example, ‘the Woodford spirit in action’, and ‘thank you for reigniting my passion for making music again’, and ‘I enjoyed the song arrangements, not the same old C and G basics’. We are already planning next year!”

BUMS member, Milo Milosvek attended the jams two festivals in a row. He had a lot of fun both years, but thought this year’s song selection was particularly good.

Terry Fitzpatrick had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new ones at the jams. In his view, “Playing music with another person is a wonderful bonding experience. A sense of deeper connection is formed because of the invitation it gives to move out of our left-brain rational side into the right-brain heart-centred feeling side. Something our world desperately needs more of in these very trying heat-filled, drought-ridden days. Many tears, joy and laughter were shared so generously during these precious moments at the festival.”

“The group was beautifully led by the very talented and fun-loving Cath McCourt. I’d like to thank you Cath for making it such a joyous experience for everyone.” said Terry.

L-R: Chris Slater, Leanne Williams, Peter Grace, John Low, Caroline Haig and Frank Buckley, John Henderson MIA.

Supernova at SPRUKE. What a blast!

When Leanne’s brother-in-law turned up at Sunnybank with  two large fibreglass aliens, we knew this would make our intentions clear.  “We’re going big on Space, fun and entertainment and you can join in’.  Our aim was to create an interactive show and our audience rose to the occasion – singing, role playing, clapping patterns, shouting and waving their little stars about on cue.

So, who are Supernova?  We are seven players from the northside of Brisbane playing a wide range of ukes, a bit of percussion, a keyboard for special effects, two male and two female vocalists and an eclectic and challenging set list. Everything had a space theme covering songs from The Church to Monty Python.

To make it happen we devoted Tuesday mornings for about 4 months. Band practice included a dedicated morning tea (can’t overstate the importance of this — playing was business with lapses of hysteria, humour and discussion — but tea was proper socialising). Thus, bonded and ready, we inflicted ourselves on our unsuspecting audience.

We all play with other bands and Supernova was designed to be a one-off event. But it was so much fun, it could re-emerge at other festivals. You have been warned.

By Caroline Haig

Congratulations, Miss Elm!

Hot on the heels of Clean Slate, Erin Harrington is keeping the dream alive. This month she’s released the hauntingly captivating folk-pop song, The Castle. Erin’s also crossed yet another item off her bucket list — princess for a day — during filming of the video for the single.

Read reviews in:

  • Happy Mag — Miss Elm signals the future …
  • Partae — Miss Elm ‘The Castle’

It’s been a year of successes. Now Erin also features as an endorsed artist on the Lanikai Ukulele website.

We’re a foursome from the north side of Brisbane, who met in early 2017 when Len put an ad on the BUMS website looking to form a group.  Len, David and Peter had already met in 2012 at a U3A ukulele class (what a coincidence).

The group comprises David Smith playing baritone (CGEA), Diane Davis on baritone (DGBE), Len Farina on bass and Peter Grace on tenor.  We all like to sing but Peter does most leads.  Between us, we also play in The CAGE (who practice at Corinda), CHUMS (from Compton Gardens, Aspley), NUMB BUMS (Zillmere), Ukulele Saints, Supernova and in social groups. In addition, Len teaches beginner uke at U3A, and Peter is co-coordinator of the Northside jam.

Until recently we had focused on preparing sets to lead at BUMS jams so most of our arrangements remained pretty simple.  We have received lots of positive feedback from jam goers for variety and song choices.  With a few performance opportunities, especially playing at SPRUKE 2019, we developed some songs to a higher performance standard with more intricate rhythms, harmonies, backing vocals and separate ukulele parts.

By the way, on the subject of parts, most jam goers who have played with us will know that we all have synthetic body components we didn’t start out with which all help to make up spare parts in Spare Parts.

The genesis of the “Hint of Rosemary” lies within the CAGE which rehearses at Corinda State School on most Sunday afternoons. The CAGE was initially formed to recruit a group of adult beginner ukulele players and to bring them to performance standard for SPRUKE 2015. While many were indeed beginners there was also a smaller group of more experienced musicians who shared a common interest in popular music from the 50s to the 70s and who wished to focus on coming together to perform as a more intimate group.

We began rehearsing and as the group developed, we needed an identity and began throwing out ideas, some serious and some more light hearted. One of these was a suggestion that we call ourselves “A Hint of Rosemary” as one of the members of the group is named Rosemary. The name stuck and the identity grew. Our backgrounds are mostly a combination of teachers and healthcare professionals. The membership is not static as some of us still work while others enjoy retirement and travel so our travellers move in and out of the group depending on their travel plans.

The instrumentation generally comprises 5-7 ukuleles (concert, tenor and baritone), acoustic guitar, U-Bass and sometimes Cajon or other percussion. There is an eclectic mix of vocal styles and ranges so lead vocals are shared around depending on the songs we are working on with the remaining voices delivering a blend of close harmonies which is something the group has become renowned for.

Since our inception the “Hint of Rosemary” has performed widely and are regulars at SPRUKE, the Sunshine Coast Ukelele Festival at Kenilworth and other local venues. One of the highlights of our musical journey was being invited to perform as the support act for Vic Kena’s “The Australian Ukulele Show” at a fundraiser for St Sebastian’s Primary School. Following our performance at SPRUKE 2019 we are taking a break to recharge our batteries and hopefully will regroup in 2020.

Rod Iffinger

A terrific experience

Over the last few months David and I have participated in The Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Senior Concert Series, which is run each year in Brisbane, and culminates in the opportunity to perform in and around Brisbane city and in the Gala Production at Brisbane City Hall.

Each year there are ten Masterclasses presented by various “named” celebrities — Normie Rowe, Angela Toohey, David Rogers-Smith to name a few — who offer tips and tricks to enhance your performance.  These Masterclasses are not only fun, they are informative and a great opportunity rub shoulders and perform along side these wonderful individuals.

The Concert series is presented around Brisbane in various locations.  David and I had the pleasure of performing at Sunnybank Hills Shoppingtown this year and last year in 2 locations.

The experience is open to all seniors over 60 — we are not quite there yet, but there is always exceptions to the rule.

I would encourage anyone to take the time to explore this next year.

We had a great time and found this was a valuable learning experience.

Angela and David McGrath

Tyrone & Lesley at the Brisbane Festival

Celebrating 20 years of brilliance, Tyrone & Lesley are back for the Brisbane festival with a new show — “In a Spot”! A ukulele-led dance of screen and song where there are no wallflowers, Tyrone and Lesley in a Spot will transport you all the way to exactly where you are. It’s funny ha ha, funny weird and a little bit funny Valentine. It’s Tyrone. It’s Lesley. It’s their high spots in bright lights.

Get your tickets today.

The story behind Kine Kool and worthwhile lessons to share

Basically, it’s a philosophy of well-performed music, featuring ukulele, excellent vocals and having fun — a simple recipe that every ukulele band can follow …

But it can be more than that, and needs to be for longevity!

Kine Kool‘s had a couple of iterations and “re-inventions”, commencing in middle of 2013, when I joined a group of exceptional vocalists, led by an experienced vocal teacher. The group became ten, and different musical parts for each song made great music. But, with unique, complex arrangements, it’s necessary to have the whole group at every rehearsal, and this is challenging.

A major lesson for every group to learn is the difference between rehearsal and practice – practice is what you do to learn your part BEFORE you turn up to rehearsal! At rehearsal you need everyone ready to play their part together.

Practice=individual; rehearsal=group.

Why no longer a 10-piece?

Other than rehearsals, it’s important that there is music to perform that every member enjoys, and in which every member has significant part. It should be challenging, and stretching, but within everyone’s ability.

With ten minds to feed, it became obvious that although the performances and music were great, there were diverging views about song choice. Some members also experienced life changes which had them re-assessing how they allocated their time. Survival for a 10-piece group is exceptionally difficult, and there is significant work in creating an interesting arrangement for a 4-part vocal harmony, bass, baritone, tenor and concert ukuleles, Cajon and percussion.

The lesson – If you have many members, some will be lost in the crowd, and probably won’t contribute, and might become a distraction. Ensure everyone in the group has a genuine part to play, and is committed to turning up – whether it’s a duo or a 100-piece choir!

The next step

A mutual separation ensued, and I was gifted the name “Kine Kool”.

After considering the possibilities I decided that it wasn’t necessary to have such a large group to deliver interesting arrangements. So I teamed up with Steve Elbourn, who has a magic voice and plays ballad-style guitar.

Jim with well known international star at SPRUKE 2015.

After a little work, we decided to add a third member – an electronic drum machine (Alesis SR18) to create a fuller sound. The SR18 replaces the veteran SR16 which has served musicians across the world for over 20 years. It’s actually a 3-channel midi device, including capabilities to prepare a bass part as well as drums and percussion.

Does this work?

We have taken the path with ukulele aficionados to ensure that we match our performance with a screen displayed “cheat sheet” that allows the audience to immerse in the song’s arrangement. Not all arrangements are suitable for this. They might have a complex section, or are simply a duo between voice and ukulele.

We’ve received amazing responses to the couple of duos that we play. At Kenilworth in 2018, we were elated to suddenly find the audience engaged with our arrangement of Song Sung Blue so much so that both Steve and Stephen Sandilands (who was playing with us at that time) stopped to listen.

Kine Kool now! Still having fun! Jim & Steve Elbourne, Kenilworth, 2019.

Why are the arrangements different?

I’m fortunate that I learnt piano from age 5, matriculated with AMEB music and theory, and was asked to join the most popular band in town at age 18. We played clubs and cabarets, backed a new guest artist every week, and grew to be a 7-piece band playing everything from Chicago to Kris Kristofferson to a Kings Waltz – I even played for a ballet school!

Living in the 70s – Jim isn’t the one with the guitar.

We even managed to obtain the score of ”2001 A Space Odyssey” from Brian May (Melbourne Show Band 😊), that I have continued to play and learn all my life. About 20 years ago I began recording my own arrangements of covers.

The lesson here is that I also critically listen to every one of my recordings and arrangements. Even if you’re only playing a simple three-chord song and singing, you should record it for your own review. If you can, also video any live performances with the same objective.

Be critical, but remember the applause you received was because the audience appreciated you, and any errors have long since vanished from everyone else’s memory.

Whilst I have the technical skills to create complex arrangements, it’s most important to remember that the arrangement should honour the important elements of the original artist’s performance. It’s essential to respect the musicians.

BUT, with the limitations of just four strings, it is sometimes necessary to make significant changes. Be aware that this might take the song far away from the original, so that it becomes quite “awful”!

The lesson – Always find the original chart, key and tempo, if you’re able. Then you should learn the chords for this key. Look for different fingerings, and extend your skill set. Whilst we can easily make key changes for many songs, simply making a change to make it easier to play may be a very bad idea!

And for the vocalists, you do not need to sing in any particular key – you have a vocal range and THIS dictates if the song should to be transposed for you. If this is confusing – talk to an accredited vocal coach.

Samples

Want to hear some of the songs I mentioned above and make up your own mind?
From 1973 “New Direction – 2001 A Space Odyssey” and a Chicago song – both live recording performed as opening act for Brian Cadd in the Silver City. 7 piece, audio recorded only from the stage mics.
https://soundcloud.com/jim-bills-475220845/2001-a-space-odyssey
https://soundcloud.com/jim-bills-475220845/does-anybody-really-know-what-time-it-is
Kine Kool – 9-piece at Stellarossa – “Walking After Midnight”
https://youtu.be/VzDdQ04Yk4E
Kine Kool – with Stephen Sandilands “Song Sung Blue”

Kine Kool – at  Sunshine Coast Ukulele Festival 2019 – “Diary”
https://youtu.be/9z13gNbSJZE

Keep on strumming and come and play, sing, dance with or just listen to Kine Kool at SPRUKE 2019 – Saturday morning 10:15 am – in The Lounge at the Sunnybank Community & Sports Club. 😊

 

Weddings, Parties, Almost Anything!

The diversity and creativity of our band Mama Juju & The Jam Tarts can be a blessing and a curse. When asked, it is sometimes a real a struggle to describe what sort of band we are, what type of music we play and what sort of events we play at … I guess the answer is we will give almost anything a go! Celtic, blues, jazz, rock, country and more!

Mama Juju & the Jam Tarts at a recent performance.

The roots of the band go back 19 years to when Julie was selling her Bodhran (Irish drum) and met Vicky. She was invited to join Irish Folk band Thornlands, who recorded 2 CDs and performed at Folk festivals from Tassie to North QLD before going their separate ways. In 2010 Julie formed a jazz/ blues duo with guitarist Sugar Cane Slim and earned the nick name Mama Juju. Fast forward to 2015 Mama Juju and The Jam Tarts original line up Mama Juju, Vicky Velour (MacDonald), Cath McCourt and Trish Rodwell (Rockwell) got together to play at a party just for fun. It was fun, the music seemed to hit a spot with the party goers and we ended up with some more bookings so we decided to keep going!

Mama Juju & the Jam Tarts tea party.

The current band line up is Mama Juju, Vicky Velour, Trish Rockwell and Connie D and between us we own more instruments than we can bring along to any one gig. All of us sing lead vocals and work on tight harmonies for many of our songs. We also tend to swap instruments between us during our performances which adds to the action and mayhem on stage.

A fact most people don’t know is that all four of us play ukulele. However, we like to have a full band sound so the drums, bass and other instruments all play a part. Juju plays tenor uke, guitar, bass and harmonica.

Trish loves to play anything percussive from drum kit, hand drums, wood blocks to washboard and lagerphone, she’s even been known to drum on tractor tyres and kitchen kettles. Other instruments Trish plays when given the chance are harmonica, tenor guitar, baritone and tenor uke.

Vicky plays flute, piccolo, guitar, bass, kazoo, baritone, tenor uke, newly added keytar and pretty much anything she can get her hands on!

Connie plays bass, drums, harmonica and guitar. This year she surprised us all by picking up a solid bodied electric uke and playing some rip – roaring solos which is a welcome addition to our ukulele band sound.

 

What is on the horizon for us next?  We are playing at a wedding at Sirromet and there are a some parties of course! We are also very excited to be at two festivals in September – Redfest  www.redfest.com.au, and as one of the headline acts for the Friday night cabaret at  Brisbane’s own ukulele festival SPRUKE.  You can find out more about us at www.mamajujuandthejamtarts.com and www.facebook.com/mamajujuandthejamtarts

Julie Minto (aka Mama Juju)