Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Paul Culkin at the GFS June Convention - "My Little Skateboard"

I have so many ukulele goings-on in my life right now that I really am hard-pressed to write about them! After all, somewhere in-between, a little housework does have to be done, people have to be visited... LSH is doing his bit, he feeds me (shouts up the stairs when I'm working "Nosebag!" Reference to feeding a horse, you understand - as long as I get sustenance I'm not too fussy, though I'd draw the line at a bag of oats and a carrot...) and has been laying extra turf to narrow the flower beds so there isn't so much weeding to be done in the garden. Today I rushed in from going to see a sick relative and spent an hour chopping down the undergrowth... but it really isn't enough. Half an hour just now on serious uke practice for my lesson next week... and I'm determined to get a blog post in. So where do I start. Because a weekend at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival 2015 (May) has already been followed up by a weekend in Blackpool for the June convention of the George Formby Society.

The convention first, then. It was pretty fantastic, as usual. Never fails to please. Two solid days of music and good company in a great atmosphere. I enjoy watching everyone on stage, hate to miss a performance. The younger members, mostly still in their teens, just keep getting better and better and after only a few years playing they are all without exception among the finest Formby players in the Society. I'm thinking of Lewis Clifton, (also the society archivist and doing a fabulous job on displays), Stewart Lowther, Bradley Clarke, Angus Lamont, Francesca Davies and little James Bassett who's a well-seasoned performer at only eleven. Another young performer, Joe Thomas made his first appearance in Blackpool at just 15 years old and wowed everyone with his well-honed skills and Formby repertoire. They are amazing. We oldies still trying to acquire the skills all mutter "why do we bother..." but we still do because it's just such good fun.

As for me, I ventured on stage twice and did two numbers each time. Two songs including a Formby number (that's the Rools) and on the Sunday evening, two instrumentals. I risked Mr Sandman. Heaven knows, I've been practising it long enough... and at last I'm as confident as I'll ever be about that nasty fast chord change up the neck. And I did the Marcy Marxer version of 12th Street Rag that I posted on here (tuition video) quite some time ago. I think I got away with it. Then I get home and ask myself "Did I REALLY get up there and do that? Twice? However did I have the nerve?" But you know, it's such a lovely atmosphere and if you can play a bit you are encouraged to take your courage in both hands and just do it, get up there and give 'em a song. It feels natural to have a go. Everyone is so supportive. The thing is to learn your stuff, and everyone tries. Formby songs are not that easy to learn, (unless you're 13!)... the verses and choruses often don't conform to a pattern and you have to know where the solo fits in - but that's all part of the challenge. And that's why it feels good when you've done it.

Photo above (thanks to Gill Walley) - actually that was at the March convention, where I just tackled "Blackpool Rock" - and managed to miss out part of the solo! Oh well, it all helps to keep the band on their toes! They are brilliant - they never let a performer down, they manage to follow anyone, however dodgy their sense of timing. That's called musicality - and generosity of spirit. The GFS has it in spades. And that's why you go there once and you're hooked.

Here's Paul Culkin - enjoy!

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HI! I hope you enjoy this blog and I'd love to hear your comments! But I know you'll forgive me if I read them over before I click the "publish" button! Thanks!