Saturday, 23 November 2013

Wondering what happened to Caroline?

Caroline Robson's banjo-uke solo from "Leaning on a Lamppost" is always a popular post on here. If you are one who has enjoyed it, you may be wondering what Caroline has been up to lately. Well. For a start, she got married is now Caroline Stewart. And her singing and playing goes from strength to strength.

She still plays banjo-uke of course, and in September she was elected assistant treasurer for the George Formby Society... but back in July when the society had a one-day convention at the old Winter Gardens theatre on Morecambe, free to society members and the public alike, Caroline went on stage and did THIS.... What a fabulous performance.... I think it suits her and her voice particularly well, don't you? If you're wondering about the uke, it's my Kiwaya KTS-4 soprano. I think that came over rather nicely too!

Thanks for dropping in.... I'll be back soon with more news....

Friday, 22 November 2013

The electro-acoustic itch .... what happened?

Yes dear readers, on 4th August I told you all about my itch for an electro-acoustic uke, and what happened.... what happened was a surprise gift, a disappointment, followed by a delightful find and another disappointment - and no uke at the end of it. Since then, I found and ordered another electro-acoustic that caught my eye, another Clearwater, different, this one - but I failed to make friends with it and it had to go. I find I'm pretty picky, when it comes to ukuleles. But I sold it to someone who loved it at first sight and sound - wonderful. It's gone to a good home.... but the itch was still there....

So, the news is that I have today taken delivery of a new addition to the family; it ticks all the boxes at a very good price and hallelujah, I love it. Thank goodness for that! You want to know what it is, don't you? Well when I've a few minutes to take a photo or two, I'll show you.

I promise...

Very soon!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Catalina and Francesca Davies steal all the hearts .....

I love the George Formby Society conventions. There is an incredible warmth about them and the people who attend them. LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) and I have been to six now, over a year and a half; seven if you count the one-day one in Morecambe.... but it's always the same; warmth, smiles and friendliness at every turn. It's hardly surprising when you see that it really is like one enormous family.... performers and audience are of all ages, from 6 to 86!

Francesca Davies has great banjo-uke skills and has been a popular young performer at the GFS for a long time now. As well as being a huge Formby fan, she's a fan of the 1960's and has played with Ken Dodd, Ricky Tomlinson, the Houghton Weavers, Joe Brown, Gerry and the Pacemakers and many other Merseybeat Bands. Not bad for one so young!

So at the November convention at the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool, it was lovely to see her playing her wooden uke and singing a duet with her younger sister Catalina.

They were absolutely delightful, and they brought the house down. So much so, that they were brought back on later in the day to do it again for those who missed it the first time!

'Nuff said..... see for yourself!

(Video courtesy of Peter Pollard, who does a sterling job, catching all the highlights!)

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Strum along with Ken Middleton in the Smoky Mountains!

I caught up with Ken Middleton again at the weekend, at the November convention of the George Formby Society in Blackpool. What a great weekend that was! (More about that very soon, I promise...) Once again Ken wowed the Sunday afternoon audience with his playing; first the Tennessee Waltz, then George Elmes joined him on stage to play the old bluegrass tune "Snowdrop". That's built around a repeated chord progression, so it's fun to join in for a strum.

Improvisation is what Ken is doing in this video, recorded during his recent travels to festivals in the USA. And it's something of a speciality of Ken's. I think it's time we heard Ken play in a festival in the UK.....

To improvise, (also called extemporisation), means "to play or sing (music) extemporaneously, especially by inventing variations on a melody or creating new melodies in accordance with a set progression of chords". The point is, it's "as you go along", with no previous planning. Clever stuff, eh? I've always been scared stiff of it..... deep water, as far as I'm concerned. But Ken is pretty good, don't you think?

The set progression of chords in this improvisation is G Dm F C. Playing this progression, I feel that it has a really haunting quality. That's strange, because it's in the key of C major, and major keys are bright keys, whereas minor keys have a sad or melancholy sense around them.... certainly the Dm chord adds that feeling in this progression. It's so effective here because of the beautiful autumnal Smoky mountain setting. Autumn seems to embody a sense of melancholy, with the retreating sun and the retreating green from the leaves, but the beauty is there in the reds and golds.... and the melancholy and the beauty are all here in this improvisation.

So if you've got your uke to hand (haven't you always?) strum along with it, it's fun! That's how I started my day today. I subscribe to Ken's youtube channel (good idea) so this lovely piece dropped into my email inbox this morning. And as Ken has kindly told us the chord progression he's using, I picked up my Tanglewood uke from its place right next to my computer and joined in along with Ken's friend Pete.


Good morning World.....

Oh - and actually, is this piece modal? Comments please!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Ken Middleton plays banjo uke in Tennessee, The Tennessee Waltz! Beautiful.......

Finding time to blog just seems to get harder and harder at the moment, it's not for want of trying - even finding time to play is hopeless just now - but I had to share this with you. My friend Ken Middleton (I know I can call him my friend!) is not known for his love of the banjolele, to say the very least, but he now has a lovely custom-made Beansprout banjo uke by Mya-Moe, and his rendition of The Tennesee Waltz, played here in Memphis with the insects singing a backing track behind him, is a winner. It has set my day up just fine, just fine.....

Thanks Ken!