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Uke jammed

I know that some of you are alarmed at the thought that I may have put away my ukulele. Fear not. I broke it out (briefly) to torture entertain friends at the Vintage Trailer Jam, and I still practice often. I hope to get to a point where people will actually invite me to come play it, as opposed to being politely tolerant when I force it on them.

The ukulele scene, as everyone knows, originates from Hawaii (where it was imported by Portuguese immigrants, believe it or not). On the west coast there are many active ukulele clubs and festivals, but as you head east the number of enthusiasts drops off rapidly, reaching a nadir somewhere around DeTour, MI. Even in Tucson we are on the eastern fringe of the ukulele action.

So you can understand that here in Vermont, where until recently pizza was considered “ethnic food,” ukuleles are hard to find and uke enthusiasts are even rarer. Thus I was extremely excited when Eleanor discovered that the father of one of our friends was a member of the honorable-sounding Vermont Ukulele Society, an organization I’d never heard of.

… with good reason. The VUS is a relatively recent gathering of six people, including a grade-school music teacher and leader, who meet every couple of weeks in a private home up in the tiny town of Lincoln VT. With me joining them on Monday night, we had seven people ranging from rank beginner to fairly advanced. Skill-wise, I was somewhere in the middle.

The whole point of the extravagantly-named VUS, as far as I can tell, is to have fun playing uke. Thus standards for admission to the group are reasonable: you must want to try to play ukulele. Knowledge of actual chords is optional at first; members will teach you as you go. If you don’t have a uke, you might be able to borrow one from a group member.

Obviously we’re not talking about really high standards for admission. The idea is to encourage new members, or as we in the Vermont Ukulele Society say, “bring in new converts.” (I think it was admirable that the founders named it a society rather than a cult. It shows some restraint.)

My induction was rather simple. We tuned up, handed out music, and sat down to play in the dining room. No dues, no rules, no member handbook, and no snacks. I was pleased to find that all of the songs were within my range, and thanks to assiduous home study, I knew nearly all the chords. It was a great experience, and a nice break from the endless slog of work and rain lately.

Having played adequately through exactly one rehearsal session, I was invited to join the Society for their second-ever “gig,” which is today. We are playing at a local restaurant at noon, to lighten up a local group’s annual lunch. Our public repertoire consists of playing and singing two songs in quick succession, after which we will sit down and hopefully not be asked for an encore. Not everyone in the group is entirely ready for this, but as our leader sensibly pointed out, “Nobody is expecting perfection. They’ll be amazed there even is a Ukulele Society.”

So there you have it: my first official public performance. I’d invite all of you but this is a private function. I’ll let you know when our album is available on iTunes.

6 Responses to “Uke jammed”

  1. Barry Says:

    Excellent!!! With a Uke being my first stringed instrument (my mother says the first instrument were the pots and pans in the cupboard used as percussion) over 50 years ago, I still have it and play occasionally.

    Before long you will be giving Jake a run for his money!!! Keep practicing.

  2. Bill Kerfoot Says:

    Rich,

    Tommy will be so proud of you.

    Bill

  3. Rich Says:

    Well, I’m back from the “gig” and yes, they did ask for an encore. We were a hit! It was very exciting.

    Given the weather lately in Vermont, we played some appropriate songs: “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” followed by “I Can See Clearly Now [The Rain Is Gone]”. For the encore we played “Ukulele Lady”.

  4. dr. c. Says:

    Loyal blog followers should not be exposed to illicit material.
    Let’s see, “raindrops keep falling on your head”, then what next, “stars fell on Alabama” ? Duets with harmonica and triangle enthusiasts ?
    Evidently you have suffered a head injury and may soon receive a Get Well card from DeTour, Mi., HQs of the “Prevent Ukelele Kitsch Exhaust” Society, hereinafter referred to simply as P.U.K.E.Those Vermont rains must be producing hallucinogenic mushrooms.

  5. terrie Says:

    congratulations on your first gig…..glad you guys really did have an encore up your sleeves…..Uke on……

  6. Bill Doyle Says:

    Congratulations!

    BTW, a west coast festival, Voodoo Vacation on Zombie Island, is happening in San Diego, August 14 – 17 at the Crowne Plaza. Tiki lovers from around the world will descend upon this oasis for a weekend of Tiki related symposiums, art, music, shopping, fashion shows, dancing and entertainment.

    And (take note, dr. c.) the uke jam occurs 2 – 3 p.m., Sunday!

    More info at: http://www.tikioasis.com

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