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!