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What a pleasure to be asked to share a little of Craig & Sarah’s not-so-mini ukefests with fellow BUMS!!

Who?

Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel, are known to many as the ukulele world’s most loved couple. Who would have thought a jazz singer and cellist would  combine to make such applauded ukulele music? Craig is a Hawaiian from Oahu, and Sarah a mainlander from Alabama.

I felt privileged to meet them in the Kanile’a ‘Ukulele’s showroom. “We are so excited! Craig and Sarah are dropping by,” shared Kristen and Joe Souza, Kanile’a owners. Then in response to my puzzled look, “They’re amazing world class performers.”

Introductions done, Joe asked for a song —it’s pretty much mandatory if you drop into the showroom … even I was asked — and so they did!

There was little doubt that the couple planned something more than being a performing duo. They were visiting to design their custom Kanile’a ukulele.

Why a mini-fest?

Craig & Sarah decided that they wanted to give back to the worldwide ukulele community that has given them so much. What started as a small idea blossomed into an international, multi-part virtual festival. A shout-out to members of the ukulele community across the world provided a festival billing that has never before been achieved. It quickly necessitated two separate events.

Who was “at” the event, and how did it work?

The list is too long for here, but you can access each of the programs for the two mini-fests online. It is an absolute who’s who of ukulele players across the world.

One special performance that you will not see elsewhere was the Souza family of five. They performed as a family in Madeira last year where Kanile’a was invited for the 140th anniversary of the introduction of the braguinha (or machete) to Hawaii and the birth of the ukulele. Check out their story.

It was a YouTube Live performance. Simple to watch! Over 23,000 enthusiasts viewed the seven-hour 41-minute Not-so-mini Ukefest #1 AND the 9-hour Minifest #2 events. Craig and Sarah produced, directed and delivered the entire 17 hours from their living room with glimpses of their new arrival, Cameron, and support from the many sponsors. This was a super-person task and they are certainly that!!

The events were broadcast live from the West Coast of the USA. So many people across the world were up early or very late to be part of the live event, including the artists!!! Cameron was an angel!

How much did it cost?

There was no charge to (virtually) attend the not-so-mini ukefests. For a nominal charge of $5 (but you could give more) you receive documents for each festival, and most importantly there were virtual tip jars (accepting “not-so-virtual” money … via PayPal mostly). These artists are without income due to lock downs, so the tips are invaluable. In closing Minifest #2, on behalf of the artists, Craig conveyed their thanks for the community support.

What was the program?

Not-so-mini Ukefest #1 on the 11 April featured performances,free lessons, demonstrations, play-along songs, Q&A sessions and prizes.

Not-so-mini Mini Ukefest #1 program

The billing for Mini Ukefest #2 identified 15 performances, six play-alongs and ten workshops.

Mini Ukefest #2 program

Any highlights?

There were very special performances that you might not see elsewhere – The Souza Family, and husband and wife Bruddah Sam (Spunks) and Lina Girl (Langi) in a rare performance as a duo. Kristen Souza explained and taught some traditional Hawaiian Hula (that’s probably another first) and there were some names you will likely be familiar with, like: Aldrine Guerrero, Cynthia Lin, James Hill, Victoria Vox, Herb Ohta Jr, Kalei Gamiao, and Brittni Paiva.

What about the documents?

Exceptional!!!  46 and 44 pages of absolute ukulele gold containing support material for workshops and for play-along jam songs. Many easy chords, and some challenging. Many basic ukulele charts, some lead sheets, and some with notation and tablature. Songs varied from 3-chord “Lava” to 9-chord (with a few diminished) “Summertime”.

Bryan Tolentino explained the Hawaiian Vamps, Neal Chin added colour, Daniel Ward showed how to Rhumba and Sarah released her inner jazz sharing some chord variations to embellish your jamming. Craig delivered a lesson on “Muting and Scratching” (which he has since prepared as a longer session available via an “Artistworks” subscription). Diane Nalini introduced vocal Scatting and Lil Rev shared secrets of the triple Strum

How did it end?

Uku Lenny took it out with a play-along uke, saxophone and looper. It was a blast!!

I missed it!

You can catch up online. Watch the entirety of both minifests, and obtain the supporting documentation from http://www.cheemaisel.com/minifest

Will there be more Minifests?

Sarah said possibly, but a little more ‘mini’ in size!

I really wanted to help. How?

Yes, to help support artists during covid downtime, you can buy merch or hit the tip jar. Simply, go to Craig & Sarah’s virtual merch site. They’ll pass it along. Check out their CDs available for download. Many are originals deserving of mainstream recognition. You’ll enjoy them.

(PS You can also check all the artist profiles from this one page!)

And lessons from specific artists?

Watch the Minifest video. Many of the artists advise how to contact them. You can also subscribe to the Artistworks website for lessons direct from Craig or Sarah.

The last word?

As well as being awesome people, with their not-so-mini ukefests, Craig and Sarah have set the bar high for future virtual and face-to-face ukulele festivals.

On behalf of the many virtual attendees I say to Craig and Sarah; “Mahalo Nui Loa” for the Aloha you have brought to the world’s ukulele community.

Jim Bills

The flood and the drought!

Over 20 people registered for the February Mini Absolute Beginners Ukulele Bootcamp, and 8 people were on the waiting list. Making sure no absolute beginner missed out was our priority. We asked people who felt that they’d mastered C, F & G7 to relinquish their places to absolute beginners on the waiting list.

The result? Fortunately, there were several generous ‘beginners’ gave up their places to ‘absolute beginners’. Sadly, one person decided not to learn ukulele, a couple sent unavoidable last-minute apologies, and several were unexplained no-shows. Unfortunately, that’s common with free events.

A grand total of eight people (including two very brave and well-organised baritone beginners) attended the February Mini Absolute Beginners Bootcamp. The unprecedent last-minute dropout rate at first seemed a little alarming … but upon reflection it was good news.

Many early Bootcamp registerers jumped in very early. Knowing they had hit their straps, jamming before February, was very heartening. Thanks to the wonderful January and February beginners’ sessions run by Donna, Linda and Erin those new to ukulele in 2020 were off to a flying start.

Bootcamp’s a Bargain

But our February Mini Bootcamp group was amazing. They whizzed through four hours work in two, and had a great time doing it.

As with most Bootcamps, we surveyed participants after the session to find out what they thought.

Kim summed up the feedback we received from most participants.

“I absolutely loved the session. The leaders were warm, welcoming and well-prepared.  The lesson flowed and allowed time to practise skills as well as play songs. It was a wonderfully uplifting and joy- filled experience, and I’ve been raving about it ever since.”

Gary pointed out the advantage of learning in a smaller group.

“We were a small group of “newbies”, therefore, it wasn’t as intimidating as a room full of people would have been. We were all made welcome and were relaxed. Although we were a small group, we had three people helping us, which meant that we all received assistance when it was needed. We were also encouraged along the way. I was amazed that after such a short period of teaching, we were all actually playing and singing songs together! I was elated that I could do this and wanted more.”

Bootcamp Take-Away

February’s Bootcampers shared some things they valued from the session.

  • It’s about having fun, and not to worry.
  • Learnt so many new chords and played songs in such a short time.
  • The ‘teacher-student’ ratio.
  • The benefits of using a neck strap.
  • Learnt the basics of how to read music.
  • Social learning was more fun than anticipated.
  • Made friends with people with similar interests to practice with and attend jams.
  • Learnt how to strum.
  • Using the Z chord.
  • Practice is the key.

What Beginners Want!

We asked what Bootcampers felt they needed moving forward. Bootcampers want. Like many Bootcampers, they found that once home alone, it wasn’t quite the same. So they said they want:

  • A beginners’ jam!
  • Chord diagrams placed on songsheets, so they don’t scroll off the page by the time you need them.
  • Tips on how to remember chord changes and progressions.
  • Learn to fingerpick.
  • Followup Beginners’ Bootcamp sessions.
  • More options for baritone players.
Mini Absolute Beginners Bootcamp

February 2020 Mini Absolute Beginners group at Bulimba BCC Library.

 The Blue Mountains Ukulele Group held its 11th annual festival at Katoomba in the second week of February.  BUMS members Lesley Allan, Salli Chmura, Leanne Horne and Geoff Dancer were there to join the love of ukulele.

It started on Friday night with a dinner and performances by MARLOWE – a uke soloist from Minnesota.  See her mashing it up at https://youtu.be/QvR8zcaoVt4 Followed by  Simple Souls – described as Hawaii’s hottest female acoustic duo.

Ukulele Republic of Canberra, performing in wet attire. Blue Mt Uke Festival, 2020. Photo courtesy: Lesley Allan.

Thousands attended the festival and braved the persistent rain though the show did go on, except for the Big Jam on Saturday night.

There were up to eight stages in operation over the whole weekend with 25 minute performances and quick turn arounds.  It was a challenge to know who to see next and how to get there without getting too wet on the way.  Impressive acts from Queensland were Miss Elm (Erin Harrington), a BUMS member on her east coast tour and Accidentally on Purpose – three teenagers from Maleny.

Other top performers were the Outlaws Big Ukulele Band – a unique ensemble led by Ian Porter and the energetic Lightly Strung Orchestra from Sydney’s Northern Beaches.  See them at https://youtu.be/QOVebkSvX5I

Sunday was a good participative day at the Carrington Hotel with a series of performances interspersed with a strum-along from the Blue MUGS songbook.

Thanks to Lesley Allen for her report on the festival.  Never one to miss an educational opportunity for ukuleles, the BUMS group took a trip down to Blaxland to take in a pop-up workshop run by the Wild Women of Anywhere Beach (Cathy Welsford and Angie Smith).  This was an orchestration workshop culminating in a performance of a Russian song ‘Ochi Tchor ni ya’.  (Editor’s note:  I hope it was easier to play than to say).

Wild Women of Anywhere Beach & with Dennis on bass. Blue Mt Uke Festival, 2020. Photo courtesy: Lesley Allan.

Once a year in early February, Morris Brothers offer a free beginner ukulele workshop to anyone who purchased a uke from us over the Christmas period. Many other beginners also come along and the workshop has become a popular way for newcomers to the uke to get started.

December 2019 was a massive month for uke sales with hundreds changing hands. The popularity of ukuleles continues to grow and grow. We have over 100 ukuleles in store in what is the biggest and best range of ukes in Brisbane. Morris Brothers is proud to be actively involved in the ukulele community and a major sponsor of BUMS.

Our beginner night at Ferny Grove Bowls Club on 5 February was a huge success with over 100 people there with many of our regular Ferny Grove jam members providing assistance. The night was run by Linda Gough and Paul Morris in a similar way to other BUMS jams (albeit a bit slower).

Thanks to the superb teaching skills of Linda, we had the whole room playing and singing before the night was out. Most of the group had never played a ukulele (or any other instrument for that matter) before – and by the time they left they could play almost 20 songs.

We used the night to show beginners what BUMS jams are like and encouraged them to come along to the monthly jams at Ferny Grove, Northside, Albany Creek and all the other fabulous BUMS events.

The night was a huge success. Our thanks go to everyone who participated and volunteered to help out.

Thanks to Paul Morris for providing the information for this article.

www.morrisbrothersmusicstore.com

 

What’s it like to play in a ukulele orchestra?

The Willoughby Ukulele Orchestra in an initiative of Ian Porter – a ukulele teacher from Sydney.  Last year, it attracted 55 uke players. This year a similar number attended, including four BUMS members. Together, under Ian’s expert guidance, they learnt, played and recorded three songs.  The workshop was held in Crow’s Nest, just north of the Sydney CBD.

Ian Porter with Outlaws, Willoughby, 2020. Photo courtesy of Lesley Allan.

The aims of the program were to experience being in a structured orchestra, to understand the conductor’s instructions, to learn to fit into a large musical group, and to be exposed to three different musical genres.  Oh, and of course, have fun.

Lesley Allan, Geoff Dancer, Leeanne Horne and Salli Chmura at a pre-Willoughby Orchestra practice. Photo courtesy: Lesley Allan.

The music this year was Mozart’s ‘Symphony #40’, Beach Boys ‘I Get Around’ and a James Hill jazz arrangement of ‘Ja Da’. Six parts were developed for each musical piece including bass and strumming.  There were four picking parts of various levels of difficulty.  Participants selected their ‘skill level’ and appropriate musical parts were sent out two months in advance along with audio files and YouTube videos.

The workshop itself was run by Ian (and three other uke teachers) on 1 February 2020.  There were three rehearsal sessions in the morning focusing on individual parts.  In the afternoon participants played together, and the day culminated with a recording of the whole orchestra.

BUMS members Lesley Allen, Salli Chmura, Leanne Horne and Geoff Dancer chose different musical parts and were thrilled by the musical result – and with what they learnt along the way.  To hear the orchestra,  go to https://youtu.be/b7PrB9K_gcs

Ian expects to run a similar program again later in the year or 2021.

Thanks to Lesley for providing the information for this article.

East of West Performance and Ukulele Masterclass with Philip Griffin held on Sunday February 16th 2020.

Folk Redlands put on an excellent afternoon which included a Ukulele Masterclass Workshop with Philip Griffin. Prior to the workshop we were treated to some fantastic world folk, Balkan and Middle Eastern music played on oud and double bass with various hand percussion. Philip, Malindi and Goran were all virtuoso musicians and told us a bit of history about the instruments and the tunes. You could hear a pin drop as everyone was enthralled by the performance which was totally acoustic and unplugged.

There was a very good turn out of interested spectators and uke players who stayed for the workshop after the performance. There were quite a few BUMs on seats (pardon the pun) to learn a Venezuelan tune called La Perica (The Parrot) arranged by Philip. There were 3 ukulele parts – strumming, picking and the melody line, also a part for baritones and a part for the U bass. It was surprising how quickly all the parts came together within an hour as an ensemble and how good it sounded.

All in all it was an enjoyable and very educational afternoon.

For more of Philips music check out his website http://www.philipgriffin.com/

Reviewed by Julie (aka Mama Juju

 

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FOLK REDLANDS
Folk Redlands Inc. is a not for profit organisation run by a dedicated committee of volunteers. Established in 2005, Folk Redlands aims to build a music community, supporting local and visiting artists and lovers of Folk, Acoustic, Original, Traditional or Contemporary music in a friendly relaxed environment.

They hold events every 3rd Sunday at Redlands Modern Country Music Club, 226 Cleveland Redland Bay Rd, Thornlands (Pinklands Reserve). Check their website http://folkredlands.org/ for more details and a calendar of events.

 

 

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.

Pluck Upz is a relatively new community ukulele group from the Moreton Bay Region. The mostly Polynesian group currently practises fortnightly on Tuesdays at Murrumba Downs McDonalds from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

The group leader, Hine, had been a ukulele student of Vic Kena. Soon she began receiving a number of enquiries from other people keen to learn to play. So Hine asked Vic how to go about starting up ukulele a group. And he said … you have the skills, just do it.

With Hine in charge, Pluck Upz got off to a flying start … and in September Vic featured the band as special guests during his Sunday morning segment on 4EB 98.1Fm.

John and Keryn visited the group in November. “Pluck Upz were very friendly, helpful, welcoming, and happy to share their music. The group has a wonderful focus on fun and a lively upbeat vibe.

Pluck Upz welcomes people of ages 10 to 65+ from any cultural backgroup and skill level. Although Pluck Upz generally practises fortnightly, occassionally there are extra practices thrown in leading up to gigs.

It’s lots of fun to play along with The Pluck Upz. If you live in the Moreton Bay Region pluck up the courage to go. Hine provides excellent support for beginners. And you never know … you might learn a new language as well.

Try before you buy — first visit is free, and to join is $10 annual membership. It would be handy to take a music stand and display folder, and arrive early to tune up and have a chat before practice starts at 6:00 pm.

Visit the Pluck Upz Facebook site for updates about practice dates and venues, and the gigs they’re playing, or contact Hine by calling 0420 647 531 or emailing .