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 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

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.


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

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 Phillip Griffin held on Sunday February 16th 2020.

Folk Redlands put on an excellent afternoon which included a Ukulele Masterclass Workshop with Phillip 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. Phillip, 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 Peridisa arranged by Phillip. There were 3 ukulele parts – strumming, picking and the melody line, also a part for barritones 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.

Reviewed by Julie (aka Mama Juju

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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 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

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

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.