Saturday, 19 May 2012

Happy Birthday Huw - A Party with DIY Music - Simply Wonderful!

Have just returned with LSH (Long-Suffering Husband)from a great holiday in the Italian Lakes. Without my ukulele. Definitely suffered from finger-itch. But only a day left to prepare for ... playing for a sing-along at a party!

A close friend was celebrating a "landmark birthday". 70 years young. Now then, you have to understand - he and his family are - Welsh. Music and singing is in the blood. Every November the four of us, two couples, work on a bit of singing in four part harmony, ready to sing for a gathering at the regular Christmas party. We sing in English, for an English gathering. But as I said, these friends are Welsh, Welsh is their first language and any family gathering is seized upon as an opportunity for the family to sing, in harmony, in Welsh - and it always sounds wonderful.

So at lunchtime today there was the birthday celebration. Unknown to the "birthday boy" his wife had roped in family and friends to provide entertainment, largely musical, after the meal. Would I please play my ukulele and banjolele for a sing-song? Of course I would! Gnashing of finger-nails..... I LOVE to play - but the fingers do try to turn to thumbs under pressure. Yesterday - decide on the songs and prepare song sheets for the gathering.

Friends and family had gathered from far and near. North Wales, Bristol, London, Northumberland... and the first party piece was one of the grandsons, a ten year old, on his violin. And it was great! The William Tell theme... the room thundered with cheers and applause as he finished, and his little face shone.

There followed Welsh songs by the family - tunes familiar to many of us - Men of Harlech, All Through the Night - but the words not, of course. It was moving.

Then it was our turn, LSH and myself. Leaning on a Lamppost, a George Formby number, with my little Slingerland Maybelle making her first solo appearance in decades. (She's a well-preserved 20's banjolele). She seems so loud at home - but in a room full of people joining in the singing and a few murmuring children, I was struggling to hear her myself....but it went down well.

Then the English Sing-along, led my myself with banjolele and uke - Give Me Sunshine; great first song, lovely mood... Putting on the Style, successful. Then I took a risk. I knew it was a risk. Ghost Riders in the Sky. A cracking song, but the trouble is that no-one knows how long to hold on the long notes - and everyone does their own thing! A bit disastrous and not really to be recommended. I aborted it half-way through, but not before we'd enjoyed a Yippee-i-ay chorus! I thought it was time to quit but I'd given out song sheets and the cry went up for The Banana Boat Song.... Day-oh! That went down a storm. Well it was all great fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it - even my son, who had declared that no way would he sing, was caught joining in.

Another offering in Welsh - the Thomas family all singing something from "Under Milkwood" by Dylan Thomas - no relation. And Huw at the end, contributing a solo in his own lovely voice. Another close friend, by request, contributed a humorous monologue - in costume. Has to be seen to be believed. What a lovely party.

I can't help thinking that parties like this are a rarity in the modern age. It was a gem.

As the party began to wind up, one of the family, a young man of great musicality, admitted to me to being very curious about the ukulele - one minute to teach him the first three chords and he was playing. I just know he'll be the owner of a uke before next week is out!

Just a day in the life of a lady with a ukulele or two.

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