The Magic Ukulele

Barry Lovegrove

The newly formed UCON (Ukulele Consortium of Napanee)
[This article ran in the April/May 2014 issue of The SCOOP.]

I had been toying with the idea of buying a mandolin, a banjo, or a ukulele (also referred to as a uke) for quite a while, thinking that I’d like to learn to play another instrument other than the guitar. When I was in Marie’s Place in Napanee just before Christmas, the owner of the music store, Dale Vandusen suggested that I speak to Lucky Al Orr as he had just got a ukulele. I gave Al a call and asked a few questions. At the end of our conversation, I had made up my mind. I ordered a KALA Ukelele from Dale and waited patiently for it to be delivered.

I was really excited when he phoned me to let me know it was in. I had already ordered a book with 360 well-known ukulele songs along with the chords, so I was ready to start practicing. I found that I couldn't put this little instrument down. It is small but has a big sound, and it is an amazing instrument. Because I’ve been playing guitar for many years, learning to play the uke came a bit easier but still confusing at the same time. The "G" chord on the uke is the same fingering and position as the "D" chord on the guitar and I found myself getting mixed up for a while and still do sometimes.

The ukulele is a very popular little instrument. It originated in 19th century Hawaii, has four nylon or gut strings and comes in four sizes: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. There is a ton of tutorials on YouTube and there are many ukulele clubs everywhere. I got on the phone to Lucky Al (as he likes to be called) only to find out that both he and Dale from Marie's were already thinking about starting a Ukulele Club in Napanee and calling it UCON get it - Get Your Uke On. It stands for The Ukulele Consortium Of Napanee. How fitting is that?

Well, I had to be a part of this so Al and I with our ukuleles in hand got together on a Thursday morning not just to play our ukes but to plan how to get UCON started.

We decided to meet at 7:30 on the first Tuesday of the month at Marie's Place. Our first meeting turned out to be on one of the worst snowstorms of the year. Six people showed up. Our second meeting at Marie's was packed with twenty-seven people - wow, you could hardly move. Our third meeting was held at Dale’s home just down from Marie's on Dundas since there was more open space and room to move around. Twenty-five people showed up that evening. I don't know what we're going to do if it gets any bigger but, we'll face that problem when it happens.

The nice thing so far is that it's drawing families together and people of all ages. Yes, I mean all ages, from young to mature. Together we all played a couple of simple tunes to start with. When I looked around the room, I could see smiles on every face. What more could you ask for?

I also visited Cam Kenny in Sydenham. He has been running a ukulele club out of his house for quite a while. Cam doesn't profess to be a good teacher but I beg to differ. He gets everyone going, picking out songs from the ukulele book and playing and singing along. They were enjoying every moment and I could tell that they didn't want to stop. There is also a great ukulele club in Kingston run by Hans Boldt called the Kingston Ukes. Check out their Facebook page, it's great!

The ukulele may be small, but it has a great sound. It is reasonably easy to play at any age and its magic just grabs hold of you and won't let go.

South Frontenac Ukulele Group