The weekend was a wonderful experience. If you ever get the chance, and you are looking for something extra, I recommend you go to a concert or workshop by the Wild Women from Anywhere Beach.
This review is biased because I am an unabashed fan of the Wild Women from Anywhere Beach. Cathy Welsford and Angie Smith are the wild women. They hale from Valla Beach near Bellingen in NSW (south of Coffs Harbour).
I attended one of their workshops in Blaxland (at the foot of the Blue Mountains) in 2019. I was immediately won over by their ukulele competency, their preparation work, and their friendly, happy style. They have a gift for teaching.
Some BUMS members had previously purchased tickets to go to their workshops at the Bellingen Arts Week 11-14 January 2021. Some of us even had our bags packed! It wasn’t to be. The Covid19 curse struck and we had to cancel. This is why we were blessed with a visit from Cathy and Angie. They hit the road and including us in a tour that also took in Yamba, Southport, Sandgate, Gympie, Toowoomba and Armidale.
Thanks to Salli Chmura for hosting the concert and workshops.
Salli offered the large, covered patio at her home in Albany Creek for Cathy and Angie to perform on Friday 30 April. It was an intimate and fun night in front of ten spectators suitably socially distanced. BUMS favourite Cath McCourt joined them on bass on many of the songs.
Angie and Cathy perform
Cathy played a range of ukes including a harp ukulele. Their repertoire included many well-known covers from Fats Waller, The Waifs, Dave Brubeck, Randy Newman, Tom Paxton and the Ventures. Their own compositions were quirky and thought provoking – the real Matilda (a song about the place of women in building Australia), and songs about domestic violence and how Australia got its name.
Angie and Cathy made a great team backing each other up, harmonising, having fun together when playing and introducing the songs.
Cathy and Angie ran four workshops over the weekend of 1-2 May.
1. Playing Fingerstyle Ukulele
- right-hand techniques including arpeggios, patterns rhythmic and solo finger picking, picking and plucking together, more advanced strumming, and percussive techniques.
- left-hand techniques including melody playing, chord melodies and chord enhancements like sus4 chords.
- exercises using these techniques before putting them to practice with songs: “All of Me”, “My Island Home” and “Aloha Oe”.
2. Playing Up the Dusty End
This was about playing up the fretboard towards the sound hole (where it gets dusty, of course!). It included:
- chord inversions, chord shapes up the fretboard, and useful theory including triads and chord types e.g. Major, Minor, Diminished and Augmented chords.
- practice with the Duke Ellington song “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and “Autumn Leaves”
3. Playing Jazz Standards
We adventured into:
- Jazz articulation and phrasing including dynamics, rhythm (swung or straight), strumming to complement the soloist, substituting jazz chords and common jazz progressions.
- expressive techniques, including hammer on/pull offs, bending, vibrato, silence, muting and harmonics.
- using these techniques in a song – the Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin”.
4. Fun workshop
The last workshop was much more informal. We just had fun. Some joined Cathy and Angie for “Moliendo Café”. Some of us from Ukulelia (aka Ukulele Orchestra of Greater Brisbane) played “La Paloma”, or at least half of it before it met a premature ending.
We worked through a medley of Queen songs, which gave me greater appreciation of Queen’s musicality. Cathy and Angie broke out into a song whenever one took their fancy. There was even some impromptu dancing (shock horror), lots of laughter and singing.
The Wild Women cater for the intermediate to advanced players. They do a LOT of preparation work, and it shows. Angie apparently spent many hours playing and listening to Queen to make sure they had the music subtleties just right. In front of an audience, they are generous, warm-hearted and lots of fun. Could you ask for anything more appropriate with a ukulele group?