By Dawn Clarke / For The Nugget
click here for a link to the article at www.nugget.ca
The ukulele is becoming a musical instrument of choice for professionals and at least 40 locals who gather each Monday night at Music City to play everything from folk to top-10 music.
Mike Perreault, from Music City, says the ukulele started gaining in popularity about four years go.
“We noticed there was such a large demand for ukuleles and it crossed all generations,” he says. “So, we came up with the idea of forming a club.”
While Israel Kamakawiwo’oles’ rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow may be the first song that comes to mind when people think of the small stringed instrument, Perreault says a number of musicians started using the ukulele in their music, including Train in the song Hey Soul Sister.
Music City provides the venue for the club and Heather J. Topps provides the expertise. Neither charges for the service. Since its inception, the group has grown from the original eight members to about 40 musicians, ranging in age from six to 80, who gather each Monday night to play their ukuleles and sing along.
The evening begins at 6 p.m. for beginners. The more advanced players join in from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Not only does the group gather for members’ enjoyment, but some of the musicians have formed an actual performing group which is kept busy playing at any number of events throughout the year.
One of the first members of the club, Shirly Kayes, is also a performing member.
“My neighbour asked my husband if he wanted to join,” she says. “I thought it was just for men.”
However, when she found out women also were welcome Kayes didn’t look back. She now owns seven ukuleles.
According to Kayes, the price of a ukulele ranges from $30 to $30,000, but she admits she isn’t in the market for any more, at least not right now.
“Who’d have thought that somebody in their sixties could learn to play?” she asks.
Describing herself as a ‘ukuholic,’ Kayes says she started out with a soprano, a four-stringed instrument and the smallest of the ukulele family.
“That’s what children usually start out with,” she says.
From there, Kayes moved on to a concert ukelele. And when her ability improved, she moved on to a tenor, and then a banjo ukulele.
“”Then I got this baby,” she says holding up her ukulele. “It is electric, has five strings and has a low G and a high G. So then, of course I had to get the amp and microphone to go with it.”
Kayes believes the ukulele is the “perfect” instrument, because, “anybody can play it.
“I tried, over the years, to play the guitar and then the piano, but I was never successful,” she admits.
She is currently teaching her five-year-old grandson and recently taught a 90-year-old woman how to play the instrument.
“If you can learn to play three chords, you can play the ukulele,” she says. “Now, I start the day singing.”
Kayes says while some people come to the Monday night sessions to play music others come primarily to sing.
“We all have one common denominator – we love music,” she says.
Pat Carriere started last August and considers herself a relative newcomer.
While she has a music background, the Monday night sessions she has with the group are some of the most precious moments in her week.
Carriere says her husband, Simon, played the guitar with a country and western band and more recently the Worship Team at St. Brice’s Church until he died several years ago.
“So, coming here makes me feel close to him,” she says. “Much of the music we play here was music he played. Sometimes, it is like he is sitting looking over my shoulder saying, ‘See, I told you.'”
While taking the ukulele lessons and joining the group was her first step, Carriere has since started taking piano lessons and sees the two as complementary.
“The group is very welcoming,” she says. “I knew no cords when I first came and somebody lent me a ukulele.
“Heather taught me two chords on the first night and every night I learn another chord. The core performing group is very gracious and sit beside us, letting us strum the wrong note. That encourages you to come back.”