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...