At the Brisbane Celtic Ukulele Group a number of BUMS explore Celtic music under the guidance of Brendan Williams and Peter McMeel. Geoff Dancer explains the development of the group.


Why Celtic?

Why Celtic and not Irish? Because the group also plays some Scottish tunes and songs. Celtic generally refers to the languages and respective cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall and the Isle of Man, where Celtic languages are still spoken today.


Rather than standard ukulele tuning, the Celtic group encourages members to tune their ukuleles in D (2 semi-tones higher).

Why? This tuning tends to be a more favourable tuning for playing with other instruments used in this genre, such as the violin, mandolin and tin whistle, and particularly in the keys which are commonly used (G, D and A).

D-tuning, sometimes called Canadian tuning because it is extensively used in Canada, has a long history with the ukulele. The king and queen of Hawaii were first introduced to ukuleles which were D-tuned.


The group encourages playing by ear, in line with the strong oral tradition of Celtic music. We play and sing a mixture of songs and tunes, most of them traditional. The tunes include jigs, reels, polkas, hornpipes, waltzes and marches, and even a concerto.

The group always encourages musical collaboration with other instruments suited to this music. We also encourage people from all levels of musical ability. When starting off, playing chords to the melodies is easiest.

Group Origins

Brendan Williams and Peter McMeel, who started the group, met in Darwin. Brendan brought a rich Irish musical legacy with him from Ireland. While Peter added a love of folk music, and an interest in parlour music from the 1900s. Their talents combined in a top end band called “Catalpa”, playing Australian bush music.

Brendan and Peter later joined forces again in Brisbane, where they sold ukuleles together in market stalls around Brisbane. Peter was also a foundation teacher at BUMS. He introduced many current members to the ukulele, and ran the first free 30-minute pre-jam ukulele lessons at Coorparoo.

Session Venues

In 2017, Brendan and Peter decided to establish a Celtic session together. So the first session started on 25 May at Toowong Bowls Club because it was close to Peter’s home. A couple of the current group members were later introduced to the music at the BUMS workshop on Celtic music at Zillmere Hall held in March 2019.

The group moved briefly to ‘The Brat Cave’ in Woolloongabba in May 2019 before relocating to the ‘Dandelion Social’ restaurant in Wynnum Road Morningside in July 2019. This night-time venue was performance-based, and often included people playing a wide range of instruments other than the ukulele — guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, double bass, accordion, tin whistle, flute and bodhran (Irish drum).

At the end of 2019, it was decided to establish an additional workshop-based daytime venue. The sessions at Monte Lupo Gallery Café in Tufnell Road, Banyo focused mainly on the ukulele. One of the reasons for this new venture was to establish a quiet environment more suited to the gentle picking of tunes on an acoustic ukulele.


Covid-19 had a major impact on the Celtic Ukulele Group. Both the Morningside and Banyo venues closed. The ‘Dandelion Social’ Restaurant ceased to operate. And it is uncertain what the set-up might be if Monte Lupo Café Gallery re-opens. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the group continued by holding weekly Zoom sessions until the group could physically meet again.


A small passionate, dedicated group of ukulele players who love the music currently attend the sessions. Their expertise continues to grow in an unexpectedly exciting way throughout this COVID-19 period. The group currently meets in private homes. But now that COVID-19 restrictions are starting to ease, some thought is going into re-starting the sessions in a public venue.

The Brisbane Celtic Ukulele Group

The Brisbane Celtic Ukulele Group

The group had strong links with BUMS in the past, and has a renewed desire to keep sharing with BUMS members into the future.

You can listen to a recording of the group recently playing a Scottish tune called “Calum’s Road” by clicking on the link below:

If anyone is interested in finding out more information about the group, or coming along to one of the sessions, please give Brendan 0412 701 492 or Peter 0447 721 669 a call.

Geoff Dancer

None of us would pick a pandemic, but pandemic picking is another matter. Salli Chmura describes the Ukulele Orchestra of Greater Brisbane’s picking adventure pre-pandemic, during lockdown and the easing of social restrictions.


COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in the musical world since its onset and sent many of us to find refuge in Zoom sessions. Let me tell you about our adventures in this realm with a picking group that I set up.

in January Lesley Allan, Cath McCourt and I (Salli Chmura) attended a week-long picking workshop at Bellingen with Cathy Welsford, and followed this with Lesley, myself, Geoff Dancer and Leeanne Horne participating in a one-day ukulele orchestra in Sydney run by Ian Porter.

Based on our enthusiastic enjoyment of both these activities, the picking group started on Wednesday nights from the end of February, working on three pieces – the Rose, Chanson d’Amour and Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom. Luckily we had four practices before COVID hit.

Zoom then became the lifeline for our group – now named the Ukulele Orchestra of Greater Brisbane – and Julie Minto (Mama Juju) joined us. We persevered with two sequential 45 minute sessions a week, working on the three pieces and adding a fourth piece, La Paloma. Unlike other music groups using Zoom, we were mad enough to have everybody playing simultaneously (unmuted) with Salli keeping the group together trying to count out loud while picking and listening to the delayed feedback of all the other pickers.

Ukulele Orchestra of Greater Brisbane

If you’re interested in how difficult and crazy this was, just check out the sound file …

I think we would all have gone crazy if the Zoom sessions had continued for much longer. However, we had lots of laughs throughout the sessions, which was very therapeutic. Our playing certainly improved when we got together in person again.

Now the UOGB is getting together once a week and we’ve welcomed Judy Holdaway to our group. We rotate homes for practices, and have a fun time catching up on gossip while working hard on our pieces. Members of the group are learning about conventional musical terms with Salli talking about first and second time endings and the like. Our practices are excellent for developing listening skills, as in a picking group it is important to be very precise with playing exactly on the beat. We are all improving our skills in reading tabs or musical notation, and Geoff, Leeanne and Lesley are having fun getting their heads around reading music for C ukuleles after having learnt to read the music at Irish sessions with their ukuleles tuned to D.

We have added several more pieces to our rehearsal list – the Harry Lime Theme, Puttin’ on the Ritz and Sweet Dreams. Puttin’ on the Ritz is very challenging but we are chipping away at it a little at a time. Some of Sweet Dreams is a challenge as the notes go up to the 15th fret, where it is difficult to produce a good sound.

Our group is very enthusiastic about the pieces we are playing. We are looking forward to exhibiting some of our expertise in the future when we can all get together again. We are very fortunate that Julie has agreed to sing with a couple of the songs and Cath is adding a fuller sound to the music with the addition of u-bass to one of the pieces. Down the track we might add some strumming to other pieces. However, we’re primarily a picking group which is how we would like to maintain it.

Everybody is learning heaps. Some are learning more about standard musical terminology and improving their skills in reading tabs. Some of us (for example me) are discovering playing the notes further up the fretboard in 7th position (I never even knew what that meant a few months ago!). Others are improving their counting skills, especially with the more difficult rhythms and counting multiple bars of rests. We are improving the tonal qualities of our notes. Lesley is working on playing in campanella style and for one song is using a tenor ukulele with baritone.
If you’d like to hear a sample of a rehearsal when we were able to get together again, click on the link.


Salli Chmura (a mad picker)

It’s the Bony Mountain Folk Festival’s 10th birthday. Find out from Norma O’Hara Murphy what the best little Aussie music festival in the bush offers.


Norma O’Hara Murphy

What was motivation?

Well, my lifelong ambition was to run a festival that was a reflection of all my ideals for the Australian festival scene. Throughout my career, I’ve performed at and attended all of our biggest & best festivals — Woodford (& Maleny) Folk Festival, Port Fairy, The National Folk Festival, Tamworth, The Gympie Muster  and many others. As an artist who toured our great land, performed at Sydney Opera House, on the River Stage at World Expo, and at many International Festivals, I do consider I should know what people want. It always seems crazy to me that we import artists from USA and other places when we have wonderful talent here. And people love to see what Australia has to offer.

So it became my idea to create something uniquely Australian to celebrate our bush music and our musical roots, to celebrate our Irish/Scottish/Celtic heritage, and embrace the wonderful pipe bands, Celtic dance, bush balladeers, bush bands, and some of the wonderful talented, original artists, songwriters and bands that we now have in Australia. Of course some of our artists play other music — but they are Aussies — that is the difference to me.

Our First Festival in 2011

Was pretty scary — had no idea who would come — if anyone would — it was an unknown. But we went in with guns blazing.  We went with Chad Morgan, and myself as the main artists and a few of our best balladeers. Terry Gordon, a veteran performer, was our MC. He was a great help, as well as an accomplished artist. We had a big program of the ever popular walk-ups with Rocket & Ally. At that time our Ukulele School was not there yet. It started approx 2013. I think we had a couple of bands like the Redland Bluegrass Boys, and some amazing volunteers. All came out of the woodwork to assist.  It all just fell into place. Our crowd was approx 200 campers, and the usual crowd of day trippers. The stage was tiny and there were no buildings other than The Shack. So the festival site has developed and grown over the last ten years!

How has it changed?

We must be doing something right. Bony Mountain has reached its 10th birthday. Not so much changed, but I like to think it has evolved. We have tried to give the crowd the best we can muster — but true to my original goals — we celebrate everything Australian like our Celtic roots. And we pay tribute to those people we deem worthy — our Radio Legends Award, our Bony Mountain Legends award for artists (a clay Condamine cow bell). This has now become a much treasured item. We award our local legends as well. Perhaps we have begun to lean more towards Celtic music. But we celebrate the life and legacy of Slim Dusty every year. And also we recognise Bluegrass, Blues-roots, some great songwriters, comedy, country, pipe bands, Highland  & Celtic dance as well as bush poetry. So still a very diverse range of music which our Bony Mountain crowd love. I think it is only natural we have become more professional with our stage production, and our sound and lighting crew. We’re renowned for having a top class sound here, and we deliver on that every year. Our crowd expect a certain standard now, and our Big Stage is now very big indeed with an extended dance floor to cater for large performance groups. But we continue to strive to improve, and to soar to even bigger heights for every festival. We are only as good as the people who surround us, and I have been very fortunate to have a top team here right from the beginning!

What is Ukulele related? 

As I explained our Ukulele School has evolved into a very popular and anticipated part of the Festival. It’s a credit to the dedication of Mick Angeles who really found his niche teaching ukulele to so many.

Cath McCourt & Mick Angeles on stage with their ukulele students

Over the years our local music shops in Warwick have sold out of ukuleles, and the school has expanded from approximately six students in the first year to nearly 30 students last year. I would love to see more ukulele bands attending and performing. It’s such a happy and versatile instrument! We plan to build a Ukulele Shack this year!

What are the challenges?

Well, apart from the drought, the floods, Covid 19, and the constant struggle with funding, support and just surviving,  it has been one hell-of-a challenge! But I enjoy it. What keeps me going personally, is the fact that Bony Mountain has become part of the community — part of the Southern Downs event landscape — part of the local scene. It is a much anticipated event every year. So I would not consider not running the event. To stop this event would be to leave a huge gap in the community. Our biggest challenge now is all our original volunteers are getting older, and I am hoping we can pull in a whole new group of enthusiastic younger supporters over the next few years. I’d love to get them all involved in the festival so we can really look forward to a whole new team to take over-driving Bony Mountain well into the future. I do not want to see us go commercial, or get too big. But if we can maintain our unique situation without allowing the event to get too big or too crowded. Just continue to be the best little festival in the bush!

Join us for the Bony Mountains 10th annual festival. FESTIVAL DATES are 18, 19 & 20 SEPTEMBER 2020.

Anyone keen to become part of our Bony Mountain family, please ring Norma on 074667 4604, or go to the website for more information and booking details.

Queensland Government Eases Restrictions in Stage 3- July 3 2020

We are all breathing a sigh of relief with the latest news from the Queensland Government which allows for further easing of the restrictions on business and on gatherings. READ the latest public health directions to stay COVID safe for Stage 3: Going out, travel, recreation and gathering in Queensland and Stage 3: Businesses, activities and undertakings

The key points are:

  • From midday 3 July 2020, you can gather in groups of up to 100 people in homes and public spaces.
  • You can travel anywhere in Queensland for any reason, except to remote communities (designated areas). There is no limit on distance. You can stay overnight anywhere in Queensland for as many nights as you like.

ALL physical distancing and health practices still to be followed:

  • staying at home if unwell
  • wash your hands regularly with soap and water, and use alcohol-based sanitiser
  • avoid hugs, kisses and handshakes
  • wherever possible keep at least 1.5 metres away, two big steps, from people you don’t live with.

All businesses can now:

  • have one person per 4 square metres on their premises.
  • businesses with a floor space less than 200 square metres can have one person per 2 square metres, up to 50 people at a time.

Your management committee along with BUMS jam leaders and our community band leaders have met (gotta love Zoom!) to discuss how BUMS Inc will manage our events as we transition out of our time apart. Out of this meeting came BUMS Inc COVID-19 Operating Guidelines for members.


What Stage 3 means to  the BUMS Community.

Your health and safety is our highest priority. We need to consider that many members fall into the high risk category, as well as what is required to maintain the social distancing, cleaning and disinfection protocols before we return to jams face to face.

As BUMS love to sing as we play there are further considerations. Singing is a very effective way of spreading COVID-19#. Consequently, in addition to the above rules and safety protocols, if there is to be singing, it is highly recommended that participants also:

  • not face each other when singing.
  • there must be 1.5m between each singer/player
  • Under Stage 3, singing is permitted with the same distancing requirements listed above ***

*** and extra info:  When and how can choirs sing again without becoming ‘super spreaders’?

BUMS Inc also recommends that if a spike in active cases occurs in South East Queensland, then face-to-face events should be cancelled immediately.

Many smaller groups have notified us that they have started to return to practise and jamming together. If this is happening at a venue like a pub or bowling club, it is expected that the venue will be following COVID safe practices. Please check with your venue what you need to do to stay compliant.

If you are hosting gatherings at your home or in public spaces (like parks) please review and follow the BUMS Inc COVID SAFE GUIDELINES V2  (updated 7 July)  BUMSInc_COVID-19_OperatingGuidelines_v2.0

In particular for activities and events, organisers should:

  • ensure attendees pre-register (name, address, e-mail and contact number).
  • maintain an attendance register of organisers, performers, presenters and attendees. Download a printable BUMS Inc Contact Tracing Register form.
  • hold events outdoors, if possible
  • ensure appropriate ventilation for indoor events, e.g. open windows and doors, or use air conditioning
  • provide hand sanitiser and encourage attendees to bring their own.

Please note: Contact information must be kept for volunteers and attendees for at least 56 days. This must include: Name, family name, address, and mobile or landline contact phone number.

In addition, attendees are encouraged to:

  • run the COVIDSafe app on their mobile phones. More info & download HERE
  • clean their hands, instruments and equipment before and after events
  • use only their own instruments, microphones, etc.
  • sanitise shared equipment (e.g. mixing desk, speakers & stands) before and after events.

Moving Forward

For as long as the Queensland Government COVID-19 public health rules apply, for each event or activity, the BUMS guidelines will be:

  • reviewed (and if necessary, updated) Last updated 7 July
  • displayed at all venues used for BUMS Inc activities and events
  • sent to attendees who have pre-registered.

Currently all of our jam leaders are in contact with our various venues to determine when BUMS Jams are welcome to return. We do not have any firm date yet when that will happen. Check the News & Events Page for the latest event information that we have received.

For the time being all official BUMS jams will continue to be streamed in our private members Facebook Group- BUMS Online. Find out how you can join HERE.

Thank you to all of our members for your patience and to all our busy BUMS community leaders who have shown amazing resilience, creativity and community spirit keeping us entertained and connected.

If you or a group you belong to are returning to meeting or rehearsing please email details to Jo Kunde via .

It is with much regret that I am announcing all jams and band practices for April and May are cancelled.

In line with the Federal Government’s health and safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of Covid 19, your BUMS committee have made this decision to protect all our members. Of course these cancellations will be reviewed regularly in line with the latest recommendations.

The BUMS committee are putting their creative minds together to create some fun online events for you even though we can’t be together at jams. Stay tuned for those announcements soon!

We wish any of you dealing with health concerns a quick recovery. To those who are self-isolating, here is an opportunity to learn that new style, strum or song which you never could find the time to do.

We are so lucky in the ukulele community to have so many who generously create tutorials, song arrangements and create online events. I ask you to please support your music community and teachers, perhaps this is a great time to take a lesson via Skype, or an online course you’ve may have put off.

Keep on strumming,

David Pedler

BUMS Inc President

To all our fabulous BUMS we are taking this action to keep everyone in our community safe. Many of our family are either in the high risk category for Covid 19 or care for others who are.

As a precaution to help limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and ensure the health and safety of all BUMS, all jams for the rest of March are cancelled.

TUTUS Jam at Toowong — Tuesday 17 March

BUMS Ferny Grove Jam — Wednesday 18 March

BUMS Northside Jam — Tuesday 24 March

Please contact the organisers of any other jam or event listed on our website as to whether they are going ahead.

Please everybody take common sense precautions as advised by health professionals and keep yourselves and your families safe.



Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and keeping away from others when they are — or if you are — sick is the best defence against most viruses. You also should:

    • wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet
    • cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser
    • if unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people)
    • exercise personal responsibility for social distancing measures

The good news we all know that playing your uke make you happy, so keep on playing at home. Can’t wait to hear what you’ve been practising at the open mics when we all get back to jamming!

Keep an eye on our Facebook page, website and newsletter as to what is happening in April.

The BUMS Executive Committee.