Familiar Faces is a chance for us to get to know members while we wait for jams to resume. BUMS Inc members are invited to submit their brief bios for this section of the newsletter.
Talented couple, The Farrells, make a massive contribution to Brisbane’s ukulele community, but still have time for a myriad of other interests.
Music brought Donna and Derek, together over thirty years ago. They met when playing and singing at a friend’s party. And they’ve been together ever since. Derek began playing guitar and keyboards as a boy. Similarly, Donna began singing and performing as a toddler, and later played guitar.
One Christmas, Derek bought Donna a ukulele and the rest, as they say, is history.
Donna and Derek Farrell became members of BUMS in 2013. Soon they were heavily involved in encouraging budding ukulele players. They both love ukulele and all the wonderful people they’ve met through playing the uke.
Regulars at Ferny Grove
The Farrells are most often found at the Ferny Grove jam. Donna conducts a beginners class for an hour before the jam begins. For several years, Derek ran fingerstyle ukulele courses in conjunction with the Ferny Grove jam. In addition, he ran Saturday fingerstyle courses for BUMS Inc. They’re both keen to step up to do open mics when opportunities arise.
With their love of performing, the Farrells were also original members of NUMB BUMS, sadly leaving because of other commitments.
Donna, an exercise teacher at Compton Gardens Retirement Village in Aspley, got roped into forming a seniors ukulele group. When members of her exercise group discovered that she played ukulele, they pestered her to teach them. So six years ago, CHUMS (Compton Happy Ukulele Musical Seniors) band was formed at the village. Many of the group are in their eighties and a few in their nineties, but their enthusiasm knows no bounds.
CHUMS play concerts throughout Brisbane at retirement villages, aged care and nursing homes, church groups and other social gatherings. The group donates their performance fees to Dementia Research. They’ve raised over $6000 to date. To keep up band members’ interest and skills during this time of isolation, Donna and Derek set up a website for CHUMS. Each week they upload a “Song of the Week” video to help band members to continue practising and learning.
Derek and Donna perform around Brisbane as a duo called Totally Insane, and as a trio called Totally Eclectic with the fabulous Kev Buckley on bass. In both guises they were lucky to be invited to play at the SPRUKE 2019 festival and had an absolute ball. The next plan was to form a four-piece with Salli Chmura. Unfortunately, the coronavirus got in the way.
In addition to Music
Donna is a qualified exercise instructor, specialising in exercise, dance and aqua-aerobics for older adults. She is also a horticulturalist who works as a consultant at Kumbartcho Native Plant Nursery, and as a weed consultant for the Woodford Folk Festival site. She also runs a Bushcare regeneration project at Draper’s Crossing. Her home-based native plant nursery is a great success during isolation. Donna set up a road-side stall of free native plants for her lucky neighbours, who are busy beavering away on their properties.
Just for something to do in quiet moments, Donna, who is a coeliac, published a gluten free recipe book called “Baking for the Bush” inspired by Bushcare morning teas she’s made over the years.
Derek, on the other hand, tries to do as little as possible so that the relationship is properly balanced. But for his sins, he manages a software company — a challenging task at the moment! In fairness, he likes to build retaining walls and mend fences and other manly pursuits around the property.
In his spare time, Derek loves to compose songs. Recently, Derek felt privileged to have one of his songs recorded by the fabulous Brisbane artist Sarah Calderwood on her album “In the Forest of Things”.
The Farrells consider themselves extremely lucky to live where they live, have the friends that they have and play the music that they love. It has seen them through this time of social isolation and they can’t wait to be with everyone again, soon, and make music together.