Music, music, music flowing in, around and through my life: my grandmother’s career as a singer and piano player; my father’s penchant for Big Band music permeating our home on the hi-fi along with his happy whistling; Western and Eastern dance classes and folk troupes infusing my life in myriad styles of music; Beatles as a teen and forever; dabbling off and on in guitar (mostly off); incorporating musical instruments in my Montessori classroom and learning along with the students.
CHUMS – Community Group
An awareness of ukulele as a viable instrument was planted by a close BFF and fellow on and off guitar player. Irene mentioned that ukulele was the new trend.
That seed, having been planted in my subconscious, was germinated by a member of a walking group waxing lyrical about the new classes being offered in ukulele in our retirement village. So, during our summer break I joined up, lucky to have Donna and Derek Farrell as our mentors. I worked hard to be ready for my first public performance with CHUMS a few months later but what a thrill that was.
I still play with this lovely group 5 years later. Every so often, we pull a song out of the vault and after deftly completing it, we’ll say to each other, “I remember when this song was so hard to play!”
Intro to BUMS
I asked Donna for advice on how to build my ukulele skills and she extolled the virtues of BUMS jams: so many to choose from; so many benefits from joining. So off I went and was hooked. Chord diagrams and music provided; playing through songs at a consistent pace; and friendly, supportive musicians.
Jams provided me a space to learn the basics and gain more proficiency and practice new strumming and fingerstyle skills. It’s good to be able to do your own thing without disturbing anyone else since everyone is focused on the songs being presented.
The CAGE– Community Group
Concurrently, through a work friend, I met Ian Phillips and joined The CAGE in 2015.
Ian and (later) Becky Lochel did a great job of nurturing our singing, playing and performance skills. They patiently piloted our group — always providing support and challenges at all levels. Over the years we have developed a cohesive, enthusiastic group. Community groups are open to any BUMS financial member and provide a fantastic opportunity to break into live performance in front of an audience and build up your confidence. I’ve performed with CAGE and CHUMS at various community events and also at 3 SPRUKEs and the occasional jam. I’ve also played with Linda Gough’s Nightriders.
We practiced at Corinda State School until early 2020. When COVID regulations permitted outdoor gatherings, we resumed singing and playing once a month in the park.
The U+1 formula
How many ukuleles do you need? The answer is U + 1 (where U = the number of ukes you already have).
As I got to know more ukulele players, I realized that many of them had several ukes of different sizes, shapes and styles. I thought that would never be me – well, you know how that goes! I soon had a concert, a tenor, an acoustic baritone, an acoustic/electric baritone, then a guitalele (and then started adding in guitars – and guitar is now very much always ‘on’).
In early 2017, Len Farina put out the call for some players from the Northside to form a group. I joined him along with Peter Grace and David Smith. With differently strung tenors, a baritone and bass, our instruments all have a different character, adding colour to our music.
We meet once a week and our focus is developing and arranging songs to play at BUMS jams. As soon as we have performed one set, we start preparing the next one – it provides purpose to our playing. Recording for the Online jams has added another layer of creativity to our practices. Check out our performance of Purple People Eater.
BUMS is the umbrella organisation of enthusiastic volunteers that provides great support and opportunities: jams, workshops, SPRUKE, etc. I volunteer occasionally where I can (on the door, helping at SPRUKE, etc.).
And whoosh! As John Low has mentioned, membership in this amazing organisation has seamlessly augmented the friends, acquaintances, and quality of my life! You could call it [Life+] or [LIFEaug].