Friday, 30 December 2016

Christmas blessings of a rather special Ukafrolic kind! Seasonistas do covers of my original carol!

December made me pick myself up by the bootstraps, it always does. Busy, busy. No time to be sad or to dwell on sad things.

Christmas week with our grown-up children - totally delightful! So many blessings to count, fully mindful that many are not so lucky.

Ukulele gifts - oh yes! A "proper" metronome, as requested, from LSH, and earrings like musical notes; a funny ukulele mug among the gifts from our daughter, I should post photos but I'm not THAT organised at the moment!

And there was another very special gift that just kept growing - in the days leading up to Christmas I had a message from one of my friends among the Seasonistas of the Ukulele Underground Forum - Linda, "lelouden", wanted to video a cover of the carol I wrote two years ago, "Tread Softly To The Stable"... for Season 253 of the Ukulele. I was thrilled that someone liked it enough to want to cover it... Linda sings and plays beautifully and does the most gorgeous videos; I couldn't wait to watch it. I hadn't had time to take part that week myself, and when I checked the Season playlist I was astounded and bowled over to find that Linda had not been the first to do my song! It was Steve in York (Steve Phillips) who had done it first. And altogether, over these last few days, six Seasonistas have covered my carol!

To think that so many like it enough to do this made me feel quite dizzy! It's quite a compliment and very humbling. And I have to say it's a lovely feeling! Brian in Australia (pabrizzer) has done three beautiful videos of it now, all different, though he seems to make a point of always wearing the same shirt and hat to do it! One in 2014 when I first wrote it, one last year and again last week. How much I appreciate his support for that song I do hope he knows!

Well - a version from Steve in the English north-west, from Linda in the west of the USA; Linda on the eastern seaboard of USA; Alan in Texas, USA; (two versions!) Brian in Australia and Wim in Holland! Please forgive me for raving but I am, as we say here, "chuffed to death!" Yes that's a great thing to be! How kind and generous they all are to share this!

One thought that kept going through my mind was that I'd never done a video of it myself that I was happy with. The 2014 one was rushed, hurried, done on Christmas Eve waiting for the family to arrive, and I forgot that I'd written a fourth verse. I thought it high time that I did it again, my best effort for now. So last night I did that. I've made a ">playlist of the different performances of it, my new one is at the top. It's really interesting to listen to the different versions because no two are the same; everyone brings their own interpretation and puts something of themselves into it, and the melody varies slightly as well. My friend Alan Thornton ("decaturcomp") in Atlanta did a beautiful version two years ago and of course I have included that!

As the year draws to a close, this is a brilliant way to end the year for me. Heartfelt thanks to my friends in the Seasons of the Ukulele, and wishing them and all of you a happy, healthy and Ukafrolicking 2017!

Thanks everyone for dropping in, this time and all times - and see you next year!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Stourbridge Branch of the George Formby Society celebrates 25 years!

The nearest branch of the George Formby Society to where we live is the Stourbridge Branch. We attend the meetings, held every third Tuesday of the month, when we can, which isn't really nearly as often as we would like. But like all the society meetings, it's a place you can be assured of a warm welcome. It was so on Tuesday evening, 20th December.

It was a very special meeting - not only was it the Christmas meeting, but they were celebrating something rather special - 25 years since Malcolm Palmer had begun the branch! And Malcolm, now turned 80, has been running it with devotion and commitment ever since. Very special, that. The membership were determined to mark the occasion in style. The atmosphere was superb, full of warmth and affection, both for Malcolm and for all those so generous in so many ways, who made it such a special occasion to remember. Malcolm was presented with a lovely glass commemorative clock and a specially designed magazine featuring Malcolm himself in specially crafted images on every page, and more gifts besides! Well-deserved and a delight to witness!

Let us not forget the music! So many members turned up to play and watch that people could only do one song at first. Being the George Formby Society, most people did perform a George Formby song. There was a great selection. I did one as well, one I have only learned recently. I did "Smile All The Time" and remembered it ok, though I think I lost my way a little towards the end of the banjo-uke solo. Never mind, I thought, I'm among friends! Some of us were able to do another song later on, and I did the evergreen wartime song "We'll Meet Again" - a lovely one for everyone to join in singing, and they did! I do enjoy the join-in songs the most! In the photo, just by my strumming hand you can see seated at the keyboard the Stourbridge Branch's greatest star member - Musical Director of the whole George Formby Society, the massively talented Matthew J Richards, who plays keyboard to accompany everyone at Stourbridge and at every national GFS convention at Blackpool. Matthew is simply one of the very most musical people I know, and the most musically considerate, generous and supportive accompanist. He ably accompanies anyone on stage, even when someone loses the rhythm, he manages to stay with them and support them. All the players know this and appreciate it hugely!

I was delighted that Gabriela La Foley was able to call in and give a song, (I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate) even though she had already fitted in a busy day travelling from gig to gig! She's always a star turn, and the most vivacious and charming person you could ever wish to meet! You can just pick her out at the back of the pic here, where all the ladies were playing jingle bells to accompany the song on stage, played and sung by Lynn and Leigh Raybould and friend! (Oooh dear I don't know her name, sorry about that!) I'm there at the back too, next to Gabi; forever at the back, being tall!

I'm indebted to Chris Richards for the photos. There are more on the Stourbridge Branch website!
Well, under pressure time-wise or not, I just had to share this with you. And if I can find some time tomorrow, Christmas Eve, I'll share something else.

In case I don't make it, (the family are coming! Hooray!) I wish you all now a very Happy Christmas, with huge helpings of Peace and Joy! Thanks for finding time to pop in. Please come again!

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Kiwaya KTS-4 has gone, gone to a good home.... but why?

It's gone. The Kiwaya KTS-4 that I bought and was so thrilled with when I bought it four years ago. I posted about it here in August 2012. Yes, it's a wonderful, superb ukulele - but I wasn't playing it. Why? because I have another superb soprano uke that I love even more and have played all the time since I bought it 18 months ago - My D J Morgan long neck soprano in spruce and bird's eye maple. "Sprucey Lucy". Every now and then I would get the Kiwaya out, marvel at its satin mahogany beauty and its wonderful sound - then put it away and reach for my craftsman-built D J Morgan. Being a spruce top, the sound is different from mahogany, it's champagne rather than cognac - but the volume, the tone, the sustain and the intonation are every bit as good, and I just love it even more. Gorgeous thing.

A friend at the GFS convention in November asked me if I still had the Kiwaya; he had played it some time ago and thought it wonderful - which it is! He asked if I would give him first refusal if I decided to sell it. Of course I would. I went home, got the Kiwaya out, marvelled at its satin mahogany beauty and its wonderful sound - and reached for Sprucey Lucy. I made a decision. Within a few days the Kiwaya was in my friend's hands, and fine hands they are, too - it has gone to a very good home! No point in keeping a lovely uke if it's not played. And now it will be played and enjoyed as it should be.

So My D J Morgan spruce-top soprano uke is still my instrument of first choice. I pick it up and the feel and the sound are just perfect. Everyone who has seen and played it who knows anything at all about the build of ukuleles thinks it superb - and since I bought it, I can pass a shop with ukes in the window, and not give more than a passing glance - I even went to Hawaii last year and was not tempted by the first-class K brands to be had there. You just can't say better than that!

I hope to post again before Christmas. Meanwhile, thanks for dropping in! Very much appreciated... now I'm going to fetch the Christmas tree in!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

I've been missing, haven't I.... here's why.

I can't believe it's so long since I've posted. Two and a half months... well, it has been an eventful two and a half months. And it's definitely time I wrote something on here!

The day I last posted, LSH and I jetted off for a dose of Mediterranean sunshine before winter set in, so that was over a week that I wasn't around. Little Blue Uke accompanied me to a beautiful Greek island, where the ambience around the hotel was so peaceful that I didn't DARE play my uke outdoors! Seriously! But I did play it, in the privacy of our room; there's nothing quite like playing a uke to help you relax and divert the mind away from troublesome trends of thought.

Once back home I peeked in at the Ukulele Underground Forum from time to time, and in the Seasons of the Ukulele contest at Halloween the theme was songs about candy - think trick or treat! Here's my original song that I wrote for that, "Come and Share Candy Kisses"

I hope you like it!

Just a few days after I wrote that song, we had a bereavement. My only brother lost a long battle for his life. Although he had been very, very sick for a long time, and the end was expected, it still came very hard. I haven't felt any real enthusiasm for doing anything since then, and that includes playing ukulele, I have to confess; for the first time in years it's been just too easy to leave my ukes alone. And this blog, I'm afraid. But I know this loss of appetite for life is a normal part of grief and loss, and I know it will get better with time. Indeed, the fact that I'm sitting here writing this now is a step forward.

The November convention of the George Formby Society took place just two weeks after we lost my brother. I was still feeling very raw - but we went, and because of the fantastic people there, I enjoyed it, it did me good. And I was busy. Together with my good pal Kate Howard, I was a concert organiser for the Sunday afternoon. That was a first for me! Although that was less than a month ago, it feels that it was rather longer than that and the weekend seemed to go by in a bit of a blur. I think life gets like that when your mind is reeling from unpleasant events. What I really remember is the warmth of the people around me. That counts for an awful lot when you're hurting. Did I take photos? I can't remember. Possibly not. But I will scrounge some and put them here for you just as soon as I can.

And because I prefer to write blog posts that are not over-long, I'll leave it at that for now.

And I will try to post again before too long!

Perhaps next time I'll tell you some news about my Kiwaya KTS-4! Yes, that's what I'll do. Watch this space!

And... edit - here's a link to the November report of the George Formby Society convention! With Gill Walley's lovely photos - just find the link on the page and click on it!

Thanks for dropping in, seriously. I appreciate it!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Original song, When You Are Young

I call my song-writing efforts "catching fairies"... it was interesting last night to hear Barry Gibb talking live on BBC's "One Show" about his songs, how he would have a snippet come to him in the middle of the night and have to get up and hunt for his voice recorder to get it down... I had to smile because that's exactly how it is for me. A snippet of words and tune and if I don't catch it and hold it, there and then, and record it somehow, like a dream it's gone in no time. Just a whisp. A fairy.

Now I'm no Barry Gibb, but only yesterday morning I tried to count up the fairies... the snippets on my phone, (15) the snippets on my computer (24) and far too many to count in weird places through my song notebook. I thought to myself, there are too many of theses barely-started songs - the next one that comes I'm going to pin down today... and I did.

What set me off was an photo of myself that my husband, my LSH took when I was still in my teens, late 60's... I hadn't seen this pic for such a long time, it was on a slide, not a print - and it set me off with wistful thoughts, how it felt to be young with hopefully, a lifetime in front of you.

Here's the song, I hope you like it... I was singing a little quietly, I think.

On youtube here...

There we go. And I'm counting my blessings right now!

Thanks for dropping in, please come again!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

12th Street Rag in the stratosphere with Roy Smeck pupil, Vincent Cortese!

I first came across Vincent Cortese four years ago when I read and enjoyed his book about the legendary Roy Smeck, and his time as Roy's pupil and friend. (Roy Smeck: The Wizard Of The Strings In His Life And Times, by Vincent Cortese 2004 - read about the book here!)

Vincent and Roy Smeck became good friends, and one of the gifts Roy gave to Vincent was the extremely well-played ukulele that he's playing in this video!

12th St Rag is played by all the ukulele "greats" and has any number of variations.... but I have to say, Vincent's rendition here is in the stratosphere! Recorded just yesterday....

Vincent writes of this:- "This is a take on the Roy Smeck arrangement.. he taught me most of this, but figured out other choruses on my own... lots of mixing and matching as he never did it exactly the same twice."

Watch it on youtube here!

I bet you enjoyed that! Thanks for dropping in! I'll be back as soon as poss....

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Another cracking weekend with the GFS in Blackpool, and a Formby mash-up from Wisconsin!

LHS and I have just returned from the September convention of the George Formby Society at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool. It never fails to hit the spot. What a superb weekend! So many familiar, friendly faces when we walk in now... the first time we went, four years ago, we knew no-one, but we were made so welcome and slowly but surely we got to know people, and those people became friends. It's so nice to walk into a warm, welcoming atmosphere that is rather like a kind of family. Many people there are in friendship groups going back twenty, thirty, and forty years, and for a few, even longer - so it's quite an honour to be accepted as one of this long-standing and close-knit musical community. But all you have to do is to love George's music, be friendly and be kind to people, be patient and ask if you're unclear about how things are organised, and appreciate the work all the volunteers do. And remember - it's not all about individual performances - it's all about George!

Last weekend was no exception; a cracking couple of days. LHS (Long-Suffering-Husband) has now got a routine of disappearing for a while with certain other LSH's of my friends for a pint or two at one of the local ale-houses. He doesn't complain. And though he doesn't play ukulele, he's game to join in somehow if a suitable oportunity crops up. So last weekend he made an appearance as Winston Churchill, as it was Battle of Britain Day. A few witty asides vis-a-vis Europe got a titter or two, and he was happy.

I got to do a couple of songs on stage on Sunday afternoon, and then I helped out for an hour or so on the sound desk - adjusting the sound on the three stage microphones according to the loudness of performers' voices, bringing up the volume on the uke mic for the solos, and running mini-disks for the occasional backing track, which gives the band a chance for a little break. It takes some concentration, especially when you're still getting used to it. But it's good to take part, to sing a song or two and to find a way to lend a hand to help keep these wonderful weekends of entertainment running smoothly.

Saturday evening was a concert specially put together in advance - one song from each of George's films, with different performers for each song, and many had made huge efforts with costume for the occasion. It was an absolute joy! There will be photos on the GFS website and videos on Youtube in due course. I look forward to that!

Thanks to Chris Richards for the photos of myself and Himself above!

Edit - Peter Pollard's report on the September Convention is now up on the GFS website, together with a link to photos!

Getting back to normal today I took a peep at Season 240 of the Ukulele on the Ukulele Underground. It's a mash-up week - putting bits of songs together to make hybrid songs... and a Seasonista friend of mine, a George Formby fan called Randy McSorley from Wisconsin, USA has done this!

Isn't that just wonderful! Randy's pleasure in singing George's songs shines out clear and strong! So nice to know that George is appreciated and still giving pleasure world-wide!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

All Of Me - take all of me before I die laughing!

A touch of madness, for the Ukulele Underground Seasons of the Ukulele, Season 236... the host asked us to do a song covered at any time by Tiny Tim, and involve a puppet... and perhaps announce it with the words Juanita Banana! Tiny Tim was famous for singing in a high falsetto voice....

Well, I'm game for a laugh - and so, fortunately is LSH.... but this just had to be done with one take - no way was he going to do it a second time if I loused up the playing! So I ploughed doggedly on..... I still can't watch this without laughing til I cry!

All Of Me - a jazz standard written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simon and first recorded in December 1931.

Do please drop in again...

Monday, 29 August 2016

My Milestones in Learning the Ukulele

Uke timeline and milestones

The thing about an enjoyable journey that never ends is that you can enjoy it for ever – or for at least as long as you are physically and mentally able to! After all, “It’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive!”

And that’s the thing about learning to play ukulele – you’ll never, if you’re like me, going to “arrive” - be able to play as well as you want to. I want to be able to play really well – you name a good uke player, any one of the professionals, and I want to play as well as they do. I’m never going to get there. But my goodness, I’m enjoying the journey! Frustrations abound, but with the desire to improve and some perseverance, I do improve….. slowly. And I have good times and make good friends along the way.

So - more music, more skills and more people – all sorts of milestones, and a few important purchases!

Nov 2005
Saw Joe Brown play “I’ll See You In my Dreams” – begged for a ukulele for my birthday - and got one!

Dec 2005
Played for people at a party, very informal

Got the uke out now and then, while life was otherwise very busy … for a long time

July 2009
Played with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and 1000 other ukers at the Albert Hall, London, then … I put the uke on a shelf… for two years! The shelf should not have happened...

Oct 2011
Picked up a uke in a music shop - couldn’t remember any chords apart from "C" and resolved to seriously get to grips with my ukulele

Dec 2012
Played "Leaning On A Lamppost" at a Christmas party while LSH sang it - realised that the solos was out of the question, and became interested in Formby-style

Jan 2012
Started to try learn Formby style

Feb 2012
Bought first banjo-uke, a 1920’s Slingerland

Joined the Ukulele Underground Forum

Mar 2012
Started this blog Life’s A Ukafrolic

Apr 2012
Joined a local uke group

June 2012
Went to my first George Formby Society convention

Finally got the Slingerland playable - with a little advice from "a man who can"...

Bought my second wooden uke – a mid-range laminate

Jul 2012
Bought a webcam to record my efforts at singing and playing

Made first public Youtube video – an instrumental

Entered a video to the UU Seasons of the Ukulele for the first time - Season 23

Getting to work out songs with more complex progressions by ear, on uke

Aug 2012
Bought my first solid wooden uke, first good soprano – Kiwaya KTS-4

Nov 2012
Played uke and sang on stage with mics and backing band, for the first time. Duet ...George Formby Convention

Dec 2012
Learned my first passable Formby-style banjo-uke solo – the song affectionately known as "Window Cleaner" - and played it at a party

Feb 2013
Bought my best banjo-uke, vintage 1920’s Gibson UB2

Jun 2013
Attended my first ukulele festival – UFGB, Cheltenham

Attended my first uke workshops by highly skilled professionals

Played uke and sang solo on stage with mics and backing band, for the first time. (George Formby Convention)

Jul 2013
Learned some chords up the neck, and learned the instrumental Mr Sandman

Feb 2014
worked out my first chord melody by ear…. “Sway”

Mar 2014
Playing the instrumental Mr Sandman “cleanly”… nailed those pesky chord changes up the neck

June 2014
My entry in the Ukulele Underground Seasons of the Ukulele got a mention from the season’s host… oh I was thrilled!

I wrote my first song. For Seasons of the Ukulele. It’s on Youtube

Did an impromptu duet with a Seasonista I met at the big uke-fest in Cheltenham, UFGB…. Another nice “first”, this…

Dec 2014
Wrote two more songs for a Christmas song-writing competition hosted by one of the “Seasonista” community on the Ukulele Underground.
Won the competition with a carol that I wrote. I was so proud….

Feb 2015
After recognising that proper uke lessons from a really good player would be a very Good Thing – had my first lesson from Phil Doleman

Mar 2015
Bought my first craftsman - built ukulele, a mahogany concert, from uke-builder Dave Morgan (D J Morgan Ukuleles)

Apr 2015
Hosted a Season of the Ukulele on the UU for the first time

May 2015
Visited Hawaii! Spent time with friends made online and visited the Kamaka factory, Where Fred Kamaka showed us round on one of his wonderful tours and talks...

Jul 2015
Bought my second craftsman-built ukulele, spruce/maple soprano from Dave Morgan (D J Morgan Ukuleles)

Sept 2015
Was granted an interview with Jake Shimabukuru

Nov 2015
Helped out at Jake’s concert in Liverpool – (and met Jake!)

Apr 2016
Sang a blues song for the first time - one I wrote myself! A milestone, I think...

Jun 2016
Performed a song at a festival open mic for the first (and so far only!) time....

July 2016
Worked out the chords on uke to a more complicated song, then worked out another set of chords using chords up the neck keeping the melody on the 1st string.
I felt this was a real milestone…

So here I am, thus far - nearly eleven years after first being inspired to play ukulele and getting my first... and just coming up to five years of working determinedly and steadily at it. The milestones are fewer and further between now, as the skills get harder to achieve, but every bit as satisfying, if not more so. Most of these milestones were documented along the way on this blog....

Must go. Got to play my ukulele... thanks for dropping in!

Oh, and... have just copied this page with a few added links to a dedicated page on the blog... so I can keep it updated! A lifetime of milestones to hit yet.....

Friday, 19 August 2016

Chord box and tablature self-inking stamps.... ooh, useful! A Very Nice Man, too! George Walker!

Have you ever felt the need to be able to write a chord neatly on a chord box, or to use lots of chord boxes on a songsheet or memo? I know I have. My uke teacher the wonderful Phil Doleman told me that you could get chord box stamps, the self-inking kind - so I decided to try and find some.

I searched online - and came up with a supplier here in the UK. His name is George Walker and sells his stamps under the name Pencraft. I emailed George with my order and the very next day, my stamps arrived. Lovely, friendly and personal service.

On the email were useful ukulele links... I asked George if he played the uke. Oh yes he does! So we had a fine old chat. Turns out we have lots of other things in common as well... George says his main instrument is the melodeon, and that he plays for a morris team. Well, well! LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) has a melodeon that he is learning to play, and used to dance the morris!

You see, you learn to play ukulele, and one way or another you find kindred spirits and make friends! I'm thrilled with my stamps, I know I'm going to use them a lot - I bought chord box stamps in two sizes, and a stamp for tablature!

Here you go... just click to see up close! Just drop George a line and he will fix you up with what you want! I see he does beautiful calligraphy, too...

Thanks for dropping in... it's amazing, the forms that Ukafrolics take, isn't it.... LSH and I are looking forward to meeting George in person soon, he doesn't live too far away - we can talk ukulele AND melodeon and morris to our hearts content!

Come back soon - I really do have so much to share with you - all I need is the time to tell it!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Grand Northern Ukulele Festival - GNUF 2017 - dates announced!

I love GNUF.

It's so jam - packed with all sorts of exciting things going on...

It's so varied...

There are so many lovely people there...

The music is wonderful, as is the atmosphere...

And there's going to be a Fifth one!

Can you figure out the dates?

You'll spot artists from past GNUFs sharing the date here! Just click the pic!

In case you can't read them on your phone... put this one in your diary... The fifth GNUF will begin on the fifth day of the fifth month of 2017!

In Huddersfield...

The organisers will be releasing the line-up later on... but a little bird told me that the wonderfully talented and versatile Andy Eastwood will among them! Fabulous...

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Wigan Boat Express - on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway?

Second day of the George Formby Society meeting in the North Yorkshire Moors, June 2016. First day enjoyed by all, ukulele and banjo-ukulele, Formby songs and non-Formby songs, friendship and music, smiles everywhere, birdsong and sheep just a step away outside Goathland Village Hall. Idyllic. The subject of my last post.

Second day - we met on the platform of Grosmont station, ready to catch a train just up the line to Goathland. A few songs on the platform, to the amusement of the other tourists, and at last the steam train came in. What wonderful beasts these old engines are, lovingly kept going by the devoted steam enthusiasts... when this one came in, it was promptly adorned with a new (temporary) headboard - name-plate - on the front of the engine.... WIGAN BOAT EXPRESS!

The Wigan Boat Express is one of George Formby's comic songs, dating to 1940. The running joke is that Wigan is a seaside town (it isn't) and that it has a pier - where, presumably one might board a ferry or even a ship - in fact, Wigan Pier is a wharf on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, redeveloped in the 1980's - but of his book, "The Road to Wigan Pier" George Orwell wrote "Well, I am afraid I must tell you that Wigan Pier doesn’t exist. I made a journey specially to see it in 1936, and I couldn’t find it. It did exist once, however, and to judge from the photographs it must have been about twenty feet long." A boat express was a train to take travelers to catch a ferry or a boat...

Well, we sang and played The Wigan Boat Express on the platform, alongside the newly-but- only-temporarily-named train... well, what a hoot! There followed a ride on the train - some of us just went to the next station, to Goathland, and from there we walked through the beautiful moorland countryside to a lovely old pub, the Birch Hall Inn, at Beck Hole. Good beer, good pies, wonderful sandwiches... and those of us who were still there well into the afternoon - we played.

Are we going to do it again next year? You bet we are....

Personal thanks here to Caroline Stewart, Chairman of the GFS, for organising every last detail....

Photos courtesy of Robert Rayner, Tony Jackson, Kate Howard, Caroline Stewart

Friday, 8 July 2016

A Ukafrolic in the North Yorkshire Moors with the George Formby Society!

It was the summer convention of the George Formby Society the other week. We never miss. Been going regularly for four years now, LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) and I. At first it was for the welcoming atmosphere and the music, but quickly we found that we also looked forward to meeting the new friends we'd made there. But this time we did have to miss it.... all packed up and ready to head north to Blackpool, we headed south instead, to be with our daughter, who had fallen awkwardly and broken her arm. The really important things do serve to divert the mind even from Ukafrolics! Glad to say, she's on the mend...

As luck would have it, an extra meeting had been arranged to take place a couple of weeks later in the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors... at Goathland, a village on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. All organised by GFS chairman, my very good friend Caroline Stewart. We rented a cottage for a couple of nights with friends and wow, what a weekend it was! It was all willing hands welcome, when we arrived to prepare the room at Goathland Village Hall... set up all the important things - microphones and sound system, chairs and tables for the audience, the bar, and the tea/coffee station. By the time we'd finished, folk had started to arrive with their instruments and friends and family. It was just grand, and the weather smiled on us too!

It seemed to me that everyone who had brought a uke or two got up on that stage and had a go... plenty of George Formby songs, but other great songs as well, and yes, I did get up there as well .... and to crown the day we had Gabriela La Foley and we had the GFS Musical Director, Matthew J Richards. First class entertainers, both! Everyone was wonderfully entertained from 2.00 in the afternoon til 10.00 at night, with a short break for pie and peas and the raffle. Kate had made some souvenir key rings specially for the event, and every one was sold ... all costs were covered by takings and the raffle, and there was even a surplus, which went straight to the charity for prostate cancer.

And as for the fun, that was just the Saturday! I'll tell you about the Sunday next time!

So here's a few pics...

Caroline Stewart, organiser and GFS Chairman, mans the sound system!

The LSH's.... Long-Suffering-but-very-supportive-Husbands... (mine, Caroline's and Kate's!) do a wonderful job of manning the bar!

Newly-weds Clarice and Mark Ramsden!

A George Formby Society meeting is never complete without a thrash!

Photo courtesy of Robert Rayner

Lovely pic of Pat and Trev singing the Marrow song! Oh, what a beauty!

Caroline Stewart and Peter Pollard

Clarice Ramsden
Photo courtesy of Robert Rayner

Gabriela da Foley
Photo courtesy of Robert Rayner

Kate Howard
Photo courtesy of Chris Richards

Geoff and Pat
Photo courtesy of Robert Rayner

Yours truly with my Gibson UB2
Photo courtesy of Chris Richards

Caroline Stewart with my DJ Morgan uke..
Photo courtesy of Chris Richards

John, Kate and Martin in the bar

Yours truly with one of Kate's lovely commemorative key rings!

Matt Richards leading a thrash playing his Ludwig banjo-uke

Of course there were more performers than I have pictured here - and I have tended to gather photos of my friends... more pics may well be added to this little collection in the next few weeks.

So this was the Saturday... but Sunday was a cart-load of fun, too! That'll be coming up - very soon. Regular readers will know that this is a very personal blog of a very personal ukulele journey, and I do hope you enjoy reading it. I try to document interesting points along the way, and share stuff I really like at the same time. As I said, very personal. So if you're reading this, thanks for dropping in and coming this far with me... right, back to practising Magic Ukulele Waltz!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Ben Rouse with Aldrine Guerrero and James Agg at UFGB

LSH is having the lads in tonight. This is becoming an annual tradition - himself and a few pals to chew the fat and make some noise away from the women. Last year he thought I'd be going out - I wasn't - so I shut myself away upstairs with my uke and amused herself quite satisfactorily, thank you, while gales of male laughter came up the stairs. Well, it would be no hardship to do it again tonight, but it turns out that the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are playing tonight in the next town. That'll do for me! I phoned a pal and we'll be there. The fellas can make as much noise as they like.

These days when I know the UOGB are going to be around, the first thing I think of is, "Will Ben be among them?" Ben Rouse. A really nice and highly talented young man I met for the first time at GNUF (Grand Northern Ukulele Festival) last year, although I had seen him perform before. Ben plays fantastic ukulele and I was pretty wowed at GNUF to see him doing a great job accompanying Mike Hind on double bass. So I was very pleased to see a few months ago that he now plays with the wonderful and very famous Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain!

I saw Ben most recently in Cheltenham at the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain. One of the headline acts was Aldrine Guerrero - my, what a player! (see also... Ukulele Underground) To keep this brief, what a wonderful surprise - on the Sunday afternoon open mic stage, who should appear but Aldrine, flanked as always by Aaron Nakamura but also by Ben and James Agg! Myrna and I hadn't been able to get a seat in the pub beer garden, so we were sitting on our coats on the grass right in front of the stage... how lucky... I was able to get some good video. Here it is, for your delectation!

Well, wasn't that something special!

See it on Youtube here...

There will be more on Ben and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain before too long.

Meanwhile, thanks for dropping in! Busy busy, off I go again...

Monday, 4 July 2016

I'll Get By - with LSH beside me...

I'll Get By
by Fred E Ahlert and Roy Turk, 1928

Times are just a little gloomy right now. Little tremors in the ground beneath the feet. Could be a lot worse, could be rather better... counting the blessings... and I found myself singing this song to myself this morning. "I'll get by, as long as I have you...." thinking of dear LSH of course, Long-Suffering-Husband, always supportive, always positive, always my rock for more than 40 years... "I'll get by" as long as he's there. So anyway, I thought I'd test myself and try to work out the chords by ear. I do this occasionally; I've done it since childhood to amuse myself on piano and recorder, and it's a great thing to try to do it on ukulele - I don't do it enough really. But the fact that I've worked this out with some parts as chord melody with chords up the neck (including some 9ths) is credit to the musician who was my teacher last year, and to whom I'm returning for a few more lessons - Phil Doleman. Highly recommended!

I’ll Get By (my version - if you're not keen, try Doctor Uke...)

C I’ll get by as long as E7* I Dm7 have Dm you,

C#dim Though Dm there be Dm9* rain Dm7* and G7sus4 dark G7 ness too

G7sus4 I’ll G7 not G7sus2 complain, G7 I’ll C see it C#dim through G7

C Though you may be far E7* away, Dm7 it’s Dm true A7 Dm

C#dim Say F what care D9* I, D7* dear,

C* I’ll get A9* by A7 as Dm long as Dm7 I G7 have C you

(C#dim G7)

• I use the chord shapes below …

Dm9 5557
Dm7 5555
E7 4445
D9 5657
D7 5655
C 5433
A9 0102

G7sus4 0213
G7sus2 0210

The suspended chords are just based on the G7 – here moving with the melody.

After I'd done this, I searched on line and found a version on Doctor Uke's pages. It's also in C, and a little different. Song number 640. He also has it in the key of A, which I haven't actually looked at yet.

Actually the key of C is a little low for singing here - for a woman, anyway. If I were to use this to sing with the uke I would use a uke in D tuning, or Eb... ie ADF#B or Bb Eb G C

Perhaps I'll do a video. But not today.

I'm still gathering photos to report on various Ukafrolics - keep the faith, I'll be back soon! And thanks again for dropping in!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Andy Eastwood - consummate musician!

Here's another lovely quickie for you... Andy Eastwood - well-known as a highly skilled performer of George Formby songs, perhaps not quite so well-known as all-round musician and entertainer that he is. He has great stage presence and as you see from the above video clips, he plays wooden uke, violin and piano with consummate skill. The video says it all, doesn't it!

He's featured with a full-length article in the very classy publication "UKE Magazine (issue 6) (June 2016 here in the UK.

We're delighted to have seen Andy play live several times - UFGB (Ukulele Festival of Great Britain) in 2013, at the George Formby conventions in Blackpool, when he can get there; supporting comedian Ken Dodd and in the revue "We'll Meet Again". What an entertainer!

If you've never had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Andy live, I recommend you catch up with him in July...

Coming up in July...
3 Jul: Charing Cross Theatre, London
10 Jul: Grand Opera House, York
23-24 Jul: Isle of Wight Ukulele Festival, Newport
29-31 Jul: Czech Ukulele Festival, Prague

Thanks for dropping in - I'll be back soon with another post... more ukafrolics!

See the video on Youtube here

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Streets of London - played by Ken Middleton

Lots of Ukafrolics to tell you about - which involves me sitting down and writing some.... so while I get myself organised for that, here's a lovely song from Ken Middleton, Ralph McTell's Streets of London, played by Ken on his Mike Pereira tenor at the Ukulele Festival of Scotland 2016, held in Dumfries back in May. It's rather gorgeous. He writes "I have tried to merge Streets of London with the chord sequence to Pachelbel's Canon...." Mmmmmm - lovely.....

Watch it on Youtube here....

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

As Time Goes By - Seasonistas separated by thousands of miles WILL get together to duet!

Myrna Ukelele and I are keen adherents of the Ukulele Underground, which is based in Hawaii but has members all over the world. It has a branch called the Ukulele Underground Forum, which has in its turn spawned a sub-section of light-hearted weekly contests called Seasons of the Ukulele. If you enter, you are a "Seasonista"!

Myrna was there at Season number One, which to my reckoning was in 2011... and she seldom misses a Season. As you see from the title of the video below, last week was Season number 226, and although she had only just landed (literally, she flew in....) to stay with us and to travel to Cheltenham in Gloucestershire for a uke festival, we just had to get our heads together to see what we could produce as an entry for the week's Season, themed "It's About Time".

As an example of Seasonistas singing and playing together, it felt pretty special, as Myrna's home in Alaska is no less than 4,400 miles away from mine in the middle of England!

As Time Goes By

Oh my goodness, we did enjoy doing that; we have been watching each others' entries in the Seasons for four years, and it's amazing how often we've picked the same song to sing - similar musical tastes in many ways! So choosing this song to sing and play together was really quite easy.

It was written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931, and featured in the iconic film "Casablanca", (1942)

As I write, Myrna is a mile high on her way back home to Alaska, but we had the most wonderful time together at the weekend at the UFGB in Cheltenham, the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain... we sang, we played, we both took part in the Open Mic on Sunday, and we watched the most fantastic concert of varied ukulele music on Saturday. Don't worry, I'll tell you all about it, I promise!

And I won't forget to tell you about GNUF either - Grand Northern Ukulele Festival, which we both attended just a few weeks before, and I have not had time to report on! Yes I know what you're thinking, Myrna flew in for Cheltenham... yes, It's complicated! Myrna is a great traveller, and really does get around!

Trust me, just watch this space! And thanks for dropping in!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Life and Ukulele - the whirl goes on....

As I write, I have paused for a minute or two mid-mop, vac and dusting... preparing to welcome into our home a new ukulele friend from thousands of miles away, Myrna Ukelele. We live in the English midlands, she lives in Alaska. How does this come about? The first link is the Ukulele Underground, and specifically the branch of UUers who take part in the weekly fun contest, Seasons of the Ukulele. Myrna has been in there from week 1, myself from week 29. It's now week..... not sure. Been too busy to take part. OK so it's Season 226 now. So you make friends, watching each other's youtube videos. Then suddenly, someone makes it across the sea to a uke festival. Seasonistas can meet up for real. Isn't that wonderful? Myrna and I met up a few weeks ago at GNUF, the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival, held in Huddersfield in the north of England - since then she has been in France and in a couple of hours time she lands at my local airport, where LSH and I will be meeting her. A home-cooked meal later on, even a strum and a song or two ..... then tomorrow off we go to Cheltenham to the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain.

I must stop there... busy busy...

Watch this space!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Have I lost interest in the ukulele?

If you are one of the lovely people who follows my blog - and if you do you must be lovely! - you must be thinking that I have indeed lost interest. I haven't posted on here for more than two months, and this is unheard of! But no, let me assure you, my interest is as alive as ever, it's just that I have been awfully busy with other stuff. You know, life. And I don't find it easy to concentrate too hard on all sorts of things at once. The blog went right on the back-burner. Sorry about that. So this post is just to check in, and say yes, I'm still here, still playing, nothing has changed, and right now I'm looking forward to going to Huddersfield in a couple of days to go to the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival!

It's going to be great, it always is.

But now I'm off again... still busy... I'll try to get back to you pretty soon to tell you about all the wonderful ukey things I have been up to since I last posted. I promise....!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Michelle Nicole Rivera, Sunday Morning and Happy Birthday to this blog.....

I suddenly realised this morning that it's now four years since I started this blog. Four years.... so where am I now, uke-wise? As enthusiastic as ever, for a start. I own a lot more ukuleles, and there's still one that I lust after - a Beltona resonator. And I wouldn't say no to a Wendell Hall banjo-uke...

I do play a little better than I did four years ago... but then, I should, shouldn't I, if I practice - which I do. During the last twelve months I've enjoyed taking lessons from the festival favourite Phil Doleman - I've stopped now for a while - he's taught me so much that I need to work on it all before I try to absorb any more... but I'll be back in a few months. As for uke festivals and the like, I love them, and never miss the George Formby Conventions in Blackpool either, as I belong to that rather rare breed, a "foot-in-each-camp" uker. That is, wooden uke and the banjo-uke, especially played Formby-style.

Today, I'm on the last day of taking a turn at hosting the Ukulele Underground's Seasons of the Ukulele... we're on Season 212, and as I'm host, I get to choose the theme - the Season started on Mothering Sunday in the UK, so I chose "Play this one for your Mum"... and all week I've been busy keeping up with the entries, watching the videos and commenting on them. This is one of the entries, by a newcomer to the Seasons, and we all hope she'll be back to do more... Michelle Nicole Rivera. She blew everyone away with this cover of Sunday Morning... please enjoy! And Happy Birthday to Life's a Ukafrolic.... it still is, truly.. it still is!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

A pink ukulele? You can't be serious! (1)

I'm currently the owner of a pink ukulele. It and I happened to be in the same place - it, unwanted and unloved, hanging on the wall in the reclamation depot attached to our local refuse tip, and I, on the way to the tip, (been watching "Hoarders"... nothing like it for making you want to de-clutter...) was there just for a browse. How could I possibly turn my back on it, an orphan uke - it hadn't even been taken to a charity shop... the price? Just a few pounds. I looked it over, tuned it by ear and had a strum. Nothing wrong with it, the tuners held and you could see it had not really been played - no finger marks on the fretboard at all, though the frets had the first signs of rust. Of course I didn't need it... in a shop, I would not have given it a second look, but it was an unloved orphan and I simply had to adopt it.

So the Little Pink Uke came home with me. I snipped the cheapo strings off, gave the frets a quick rub up (they shine nicely now) and restrung it with a spare set of Aquilas. And then the newly-loved little uke just had to have a name... Annie! Little Orphan Annie! No, I agree, not very original... but then, she won't mind and she won't come when I call her either!

How long she'll stay, I don't know... perhaps she'll become the summerhouse uke, ready to lend out to interested folk... but one thing I didn't really expect - this baby, this little pink Mahalo has perfect intonation - yes, you read that right, perfect intonation - every fret, all the way up the fretboard! No, you don't expect that with a Mahalo, or any cheap ukulele. It just goes to show - what people will throw away.

Round about the same time, I had cause to give some serious thought to the subject of little coloured ukes, and pink ones in particular.

Curious? I hope so! More of that next time. I do like my blog posts bite-sized - easier to write, quicker to read! I suspect that you do, too! Thanks for dropping in!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

John Bianchi original, "Going Back To My Dreams"

It's so long since John Bianchi posted a uke video that I really was afraid that perhaps he wasn't playing any more - too busy blowing his trumpet with a band! Well, clarinet and saxophone, actually! Multi-talented! So to see this video of John singing one of his original songs with his vintage Martin was a lovely and very welcome surprise. And it's a corker of a song! I enjoyed it so much, I watched it twice over right away.

Watch it here on Youtube....

John excels at the songs of the 20's, 30's and 40's, he plays these songs so well and his voice is perfectly suited - I've been posting his videos on here for as long as I've been writing this blog - very nearly four years! His playing, on banjo-uke as well as wooden uke, has been an inspiration to me from the word "go".

Now of course - this is an original song which takes its style from and pays great tribute to those old songs from way-back-when.... and you know what? I think it's every bit as good. It deserves to be played all over the place! I do believe he has a few more like this in the pipe-line - and I can't wait to hear them!

That band.... The Buck And A Quarter Quartet.... next time you're in New York!

("Genre: Traditional jazz and classic pop from the teens, 20s and 30s...and a few vintage-themed originals..")

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Meet my new baby - D J Morgan mini-pineapple uke - "Morganino"! in maple....

A new baby always brings joy, admiring smiles, cries of "How cute!" and "Oh what a pretty little thing!" and new ukulele babies are exactly the same... none more so than a pretty sopranino. So meet my new Pineapple baby - Polly!

I knew Dave Morgan (D J Morgan Ukuleles) was building some... and I am over the moon to be the proud owner of number MP12 001 - the prototype!

The scale length is exactly 295mm, and the total length is 450mm... a typical Martin-style 12 frets to the body soprano has a scale length of 350mm, total length 515mm.
Here she is next to her big sister Sprucey Lucy - (14 frets to the body, not 12.)

Visually I like a lot of things - Dave (Morgan) has the artist's eye for balance and style... the overall look is perfectly balanced; the pineapple shape is a pleasing one and it's echoed in the shape of the sound hole. The solid maple fretboard looks just right. It's interesting that maple turns to a rich honey colour over time, and this uke will do that.

This little uke is built of solid maple with a poplar neck and finished with a matte cellulose lacquer. She's not only really pretty, with the maple grain and the signature Morgan stripes on the headstock (green veneer, suggestive of pineapple leaves) but she sounds amazing!

In spite of the short scale length, she sounds just great in C tuning, but I've tuned her up to D tuning and she really sings! Listen for yourself.... I haven't tried tuning her up further to Eb yet, but I will...

This is what she sounds like in D!

The build quality is impeccable... and Dave makes everything himself except for the frets and the tuners. Simply - can't fault 'em....

So.... this is a prototype but Dave is going to be building more... he tells me he's aiming to use sustainable woods for this line of ukes and also to keep the price very affordable. So watch out... the Morganinos are on their way!

Thanks for dropping in, I really appreciate it... do come back now!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

World Ukulele Day? What is this?

Some things make me realise what an awkward cuss I can be.... for example... World Ukulele Day....? What is this? Why? I just don't get it. What is the point, can someone tell me please?

For more than four years, every day has been Ukulele Day for me... and it just so happens that yesterday, on World Ukulele Day... (says who?) I simply did NOT play a ukulele.

At all.

So there.

Thanks for dropping in, even if it was only to hear me having a grump. Stay and have a read of some back posts, you're very welcome!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Krabbers Talks About Songwriting!

Mike Krabbers is a ukulele player who is deservedly highly acclaimed as a songwriter. If you've never heard his songs, listen to this one, and then you'll know why.

Mike, you’ve written a lot of really good songs… did you write songs before you played ukulele?

"Yes I did, I have been making up songs and poems for as long as I can remember.
My dad used to play a ukulele when I was very young and I used to muck about with that, I also had a Bontempi Reed organ which I used to play a lot."

When did you write your first song?

"I can't remember, thinking back I did make up a song whilst jamming with some friends in my dads garage called “White Mouse” but don't ask how it went!" I did write a few songs in the eighties for my various musical ventures, but then got into writing poems, some of which have become ukulele songs."

About how many songs have you written, would you say?

"Not sure, but I have started putting them on the Onsong app on my ipad and I have just over a hundred so far."

I described how I write a song - what is your usual creative process, if you have such a thing as a “usual” one? Do you start with finding a chord sequence? Your chord progressions are very interesting….
"It changes all the time, It could be a sound or a rhythm, it could be an accidental strum which sounds good, it's hard to say, most of my songs start as poems, then I muck around with chords after."

Do your words and melody come together, or does one of those come first then you find the other to fit?

"Phrases come first, then the rhyme, then a four line poem normally, or I get a good phrase and repeat it a lot, it saves on ink!"

Do you ever get song ideas in the middle of the night? If so, what do you do?

"No I don't, but I do have a dream book where I write down stuff that happens to me, I have very weird dreams!"

Has playing ukulele been an important factor in your songwriting? If so, how has it helped?

"Yes, due to it always being there, it's easy to have with you, to pick up and play."

How do you preserve your songs?

"I record them, write them down."

At what point do you decide that a song is finished? I find that once I have my lyrics, melody and chords and can play it in a way that “will suffice, the best I can currently do with it” then I’m done. But often I think I should probably craft the thing further in various ways.

I never know when a song is finished, they change a lot. One of my first MySpace songs in the days before YouTube was “I got u 2 thank” a happy country style song in C, which I used to play live in my band Six Miles Away, is now a better song in Em and spelt properly, so they change all the time.
I guess you could think them finished once you have uploaded them or pressed a CD, but for me they can keep changing. “Preowned” for instance on my CD “Secondhand Backpack” was still just an idea when we recorded it in the studio, the version on the CD was the first time I had played it, it changed almost immediately after. “Best Friend At My Side” has never changed, neither has “Leave A Light On For Me” but they are story songs, so that's probably why."

Is there one song that you think is possibly your best and favourite among the songs you’ve written?

"At the moment I think my best song so far is “Peace of Rock” but favourites are When You Come to Say Goodbye and “Candles”

One thing I would say is write or record every idea as they disappear very quickly if left hanging."

Mike, thanks so much for that!

Mike has performed at uke festivals GNUF and GSUF and will be performing, leading massed jams and hosting open mics at the Ukulele Festival of Scotland in early May... visit to book your tickets! At GNUF in Huddersfield later in May he will be performing in the duo "The Hedge Inspectors" with his wife Caroline.

If you can't get to a uke festival in the UK, you can catch Mike and Caroline in their podcast, unplugthewood

He can also be found on itunes!

Thanks for dropping in! I really mean that... come back soon!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Patsy Monteleone sings Hush a Bye

Hush A Bye, also known as "All The Pretty Little Horses"

As soon as I began to watch this video by Patsy Monteleone I knew I had to drop everything and blog it immediately. He sings this old lullaby with such sensitivity, and his finger-picking on the banjo-uke just blows me away on this! So beautifully done! And the banjo-uke as instrument of choice is simply inspired! It all falls "just right" on the ears...

The origin of this song is not fully known. Read all about here on Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Youtube

Just a quickie, see! Sometimes I just have to drop everything and do it, a very quick blog post to share something I think is stupendous! Thank you Patsy, for this!

As for me, I know I really want to study that finger-picking pattern!

Thanks for joining me on here for this! Coming up... it's Krabbers!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Songwriting - to me it's like trying to catch a fairy...

Catching a fairy - I nearly caught one yesterday but I let it go - I woke up at about 5.00 am, and there was a flash of a fairy's wing, a short musical phrase formed in my head... I clung to it, words came to it... the "fairy" was becoming tangible...I allowed myself to wake up a little and developed the song - I know I had it about a third written, being happy that it was original, it was "my" song... and remember thinking "I need to capture this on paper before I go back to sleep..." but I failed to do that. Next thing I knew, it was 7.30, I had slept again and the song had gone forever. I could not remember the tiniest bit. The fairy had flown. Folk who have flashes of nocturnal inspiration will be quite familiar with this scenario - the inspiration that dissolves with sleep.

The number of songs that I have finished writing and committed to video has risen from "a few" to "several" now... and they have all come the same way, not necessarily having their birth in the middle of the night or early in the morning... though actually, that does apply to most. So I thought I would share my own creative process.

I have often seen the advice to would-be songwriters, "play around with a chord sequence until you like it, experiment with a melodic line over it, then add lyrics"... and I know that many people use this method with success. As yet, that doesn't seem to suit me. I can only speak of my personal experience... when I have tried this, I haven't enjoyed it and it seems alien to me. Also, I find it difficult to begin to add words to a melody that's already formed. During the waking day, If I want to write a song, I do need to be in the mood, need to have that "magic cloak" on me... actually this comes to me most easily when I'm feeling very thoughtful and contemplative, generally. Living in my head. It may be a few words that someone said, a phrase that makes me think... and that sets me off. If I see a flash of that fairy wing I need to capture it right away... sometimes I grab my mobile(cell) phone and sing it into the "record" facility for later; if I can grab the minutes to develop it right away it's the notebook and pencil approach - but that bit of melody line must be preserved somehow... I might scribble out a quick five lines of stave and write it down, or write the pitch as tonic sol-fah - (d r m f s l t d) (doh ray me fah soh lah te doh)... and the rhythm in shorthand. I know I'm lucky to be able to do this - learned it years ago. The fact is, it has to be recorded somehow or it's forgotten. I have kept the song notebook and pencil by my bed for months now... and have been known to put the bedside light on at 5.30 am and start to scribble! The songs that have worked the best have been the ones where I know what I want to say in the lyrics... the most personal ones. If I've nothing to say, I have no real urge to write a song. I think that's why the "chord sequence" first has not worked worked for me yet. It's always the first words of the lyrics along with the first notes of the song that come first - and I build the song from there. When I've got enough of it down on paper to be a verse or chorus, I might sit down with the uke and start to put the chords in. I know how I want it to sound and I fiddle about with chords til I find the ones I want. This is where the ukulele scores for me - although I've played piano by ear to a small degree since I was in my teens, I could not have done this in my "before the ukulele" days. My keyboard skills and knowledge of chords structures simply didn't stretch that far. The uke is a godsend to songwriters!

What made me decide to start writing songs? Two things...

One, I decided a couple of years ago that I ought to be able to do it, therefore I should try... as a child of ten and eleven my favourite occupation was writing poems. I filled notebooks with them. Playing with rhyme is fully established in my brain from childhood. As for writing melody, it was an essential component of what used to be GCE "O" level Music back in the 1960's... which I did - always been a music lover. In fact in those days, for this exam at 16, we were taught to harmonise, on paper, a short melody for a choir to sing in 4 part harmony, SATB, (soprano, alto tenor and bass)... the syllabus for that exam is the basis of my musical knowledge. Similarly, we would be be given a few bars of the bass line, and have to write a melody over it. I don't know at which point in musical education this is learned in Britain these days. I wasn't that good at those things, it wasn't easy... but it was musical knowledge and experience, and priceless in its way. I did pass the exam though! At teacher training college I chose music as my main subject and again, there was some composition to do. No songwriting, however! But I love music, love language, enjoy being creative with both - and decided that I should at least TRY to put the two together and write some songs. I've left it late in life... but it's at this time in my life that having the time to do this presents itself. And time won't wait...

Oh yes the other thing? Briefly, seeing that other players on the Ukulele Underground Forum habitually write songs. I thought, "yes, perhaps I can do this, too..."

There is personal satisfaction to be had in completing a song, uke chords added... how much satisfaction depends entirely on my own perception of its quality... I don't like to feel that a line is clumsy, and I don't like the feeling that I've written a line of melody that in fact might be from a melody I've heard somewhere before. This is the aspect of songwriting that causes me some angst... but there you go, you can only do your best. I think my greatest thrill is in writing just one line of lyric that I'm particularly pleased with - a "golden line"... if I can write a couple of golden lines in a song, then I feel as if I've caught a particularly pretty fairy... perhaps even a green one - but that's another story!

There's a page with links to my songs.

Thanks for dropping in, thanks for reading! Perhaps you write songs, too - how do you go about it? Message me!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

New Uke Day for Caroline Stewart! And we got to do a duet..

Regular readers will know what a fan I am of DJ Morgan Ukuleles. What's more, I take them places, people see them, play them, recognise them for the fine instruments that they are and very soon, they have one, too - or even two, too! So yesterday, my pal Caroline made the trip down to the Midlands from her home in North Yorkshire to pick up her own beautiful new DJ Morgan soprano.

Here it is...
Made of solid American Walnut, it sings like - it sings like every Morgan uke sings. Beautiful tone, and it's loud. The headstock features Dave's new signature design of three sets of twin thin lines, set art deco style... they look wonderful. And on this uke he has crafted a wooden rosette.

Here it is next next to my DJ Morgan soprano, my Sprucey Lucy! They make a fine pair!

Caroline stayed over with us and it was great to have an evening to play ukes, sing together and natter - so we did this video and posted it on the Ukulele Underground Seasons of the Ukulele...

That was such fun - and a rare treat to do, as we don't live near to each other at all. The video is very raw - recorded simply in front of my PC with the webcam, it's not edited in any way and I think the two ukes overpowered the microphone somewhat. But we had such fun doing it! I hope it's not too long til the next time! I'll see Caroline again at the next George Formby Convention, in Blackpool at the end of February... she'll be performing, as will a lot more highly talented players, especially of George Formby songs! Why not come along? Now, there's something to look forward to at the end of winter!

Thanks for dropping in! I'll be back soon, don't go too far away now!