Workshops. How can you attend a festival where the best players in the world are giving lessons, and not partake? That's my view, anyway. I usually take two workshops, but this year my attitude has been simply to take as many as I could afford.
So, UFGB in Cheltenham this last weekend...
Any workshop offered by James Hill is a must - he is ukulele "god" as far as I'm concerned, and such a great teacher to boot. Teaching objectives carefully broken down into a step by step progression toward achievement. It was like a dance.... he guided us effortlessly through filling in the melody gaps between given chords to working out the melody line in another song for ourselves. He guided us along, then armed with the know-how and the confidence, we made it on our own. Satisfaction guaranteed! What a great feeling!
And he signed my Little White Uke...
As did Herb Ohta Jnr! Who, if he didn't actually remember us meeting at the Kamaka factory in Honolulu last month, at least graciously pretended he did! Another lovely man... the prize to be taken away from Herb's workshop, straight after James's, was a catalogue of the finger-picking patterns taught to him by his father, Herb Ohta... it was a joy. Those magic numbers on the page, (thank goodness I did have a pen...) telling you which strings to pick with which fingers and in which order - and hearing how they sound, worked into the music. The thing now is to practice them, get them under the fingers and into the brain. Definitely worth making the effort... for as Herb told us - if you can bring yourself some magic into your music, it's a wonderful thing... if you can bring some magic into your music for others to hear, that's the best of all!
We left those workshops, Caroline and I, feeling like cats who had got the cream. Having got the cream, we headed for the beer. And the concerts.
It was impossible to see absolutely every artist. You have to have refreshment... but we saw most. The line-up was pretty impressive. In the afternoon we saw Ben Rouse, Zoe Bestel and Herb Ohta Jnr before taking a break in search of something hearty. They all showcased their own individual style, and were stupendous. Then the evening concert was everything we'd hoped it would be. The first act was at 6.00 and we missed it. You have to eat. We found seats but changed them eventually as the people in front of us were quite a nuisance with their big ipads stuck up to video, and phones glaring lights up under your nose. What a relief it was to find seats where the folk around us were content to sit quietly and watch the show! Much more civilised... there, my little rant off my chest...
We saw Tobias Elof from Denmark playing wonderful Scandinavian folk instrumentals; "Shine", a trio from Barcelona playing swing music from the 30's, Ukulele Bartt, hugely entertaining; Ryo Natayama, a brilliant young player from Japan; The Hot Potato Syncopators, who put on the most polished and comedic set that had people in stitches; and of course the massively accomplished James Hill with his wife Anne Janelle on cello. Surely a line-up that takes some beating.
I have to have a special mention for Shine. Here in the UK you can't count on a standing ovation. It takes a really special performance to get everyone off their behinds. I tell you, when these fellas finished, people leaped to their feet in their appreciation. They were just so darned GOOD! Flying fingers, oodles of style, massive enthusiasm for their music - which was of the best that the swing era produced. The folk rushed out to buy copies of their CD... I know, I was one... those CD's fairly flew off the table!
That just left the Big Busk and the afternoon back at the Norwood Arms for socialising and the open mic. So here are a few pics! I'm always too busy enjoying myself to trouble with too many photos... then afterwards I regret not taking more!
Dead Man's Uke - (the coolest duo around!) and Yours Truly
Caroline and myself stealing a pic with Bartt!
My favourite pic of the lot! Stealing a pic of Bartt stealing a pic..
Cootching up close for a pic with Dave Morgan of DJ Morgan Ukuleles - The Uke on the table!
with my great pal Caroline Stewart...
Michael Adcock with Ken Middleton
and Michael on stage at the Norwood Arms!