Saturday, 20 May 2017

My Beltona resonator uke arrived!

My Beltona arrived a few weeks ago, finished exactly to my requirements and it is every bit as gorgeous as I knew it would be!

I have wanted one of these since I saw Del Rey play one at the GNUF (Grand Northern Ukulele Festival) in Huddersfield in 2014. Beautiful sound. I had toyed with cheaper resonator ukes in the past and had not liked them at all, but this.... was a revelation. And so I lusted after one. But quality like this does not come cheap. I saved - and waited. Til now!

These ukuleles command a lot of respect among folk who know about resonators. Built by Steve Evans to the highest standards.... everything about mine is faultless. Beautifully finished, and perfect intonation.

For more general information and a great review of one of these instruments, I would refer you enthusiastically to Barry Maz's review on the blog Got A Ukulele. It's a superb review - there is nothing there for me to argue with and I will not try to reinvent the wheel!

So I'll keep this little write-up brief, and you can look at that review for more general info.

I chose a concert size in the original double-bout shape - no cutaway.

I asked for side dots as well as fret markers. Barry had remarked that there were none on the tenor one that he reviewed - but ordering one, you have only to ask! Steve builds these to order!

I chose planetary tuners - they are geared 4:1 I believe, and don't stick out at the side, as geared tuners do - planetary tuners look more like friction tuners - but the gearing is enough to make tuning quicker and less fiddly than friction tuners. I thought the extra expense was worth it.

My uke has a new headstock shape! An elegant sort of tulip shape, and I really like it. It looks good with stick-out-the-side geared tuners if that is your choice, and of course it's lovely with friction or planetary tuners that stick out of the back.

My choices were all about colour - Beltona fingerboards are made of rosewood and I asked for the fingerboard and headstock to be simply as dark as he could do it. As for the body of the uke, I wanted a mean, bluesy look in graphity shades with a sunburst. Steve sent me some photos of previous builds and I was able to point him in the right direction.... I'm thrilled with the result! This ukulele gleams and looks silvery pale at one glance - turn it slightly and it turns dark and moody. Perfect! It looks like a mean machine - as I think resonators should look! My photos of this uke are not really very good - taken with a smart phone past its best. Note to self - must do better!

Choosing strings, I checked out youtube video reviews and noted that D'Addario Pro Arte strings came highly recommended for resonators. Steve said the same when I talked to him about it, so I happily settled for those. To me, they feel really good under the fingers, and being black, they look good on this uke too!

I love to hear a resonator uke finger-picked with picks... Phil Doleman plays this way and so does Percy Copley, I've been having a try. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I find it less tricky than clawhammer! I'll get there! Meanwhile, video.... without fingerpicks!

Thanks for dropping in! I should post more often I know - I don't know where the time goes, it just goes faster and faster!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Life has been hectic, but.... coming up...

Yes, life has indeed been rather hectic these last few weeks, and I'll be telling you why very soon... also, I'll be telling you about and showing you my two - yes two! - ukuleles! Aren't I a lucky lady, yes I am!

So please watch this space, I shall be reporting on recent events ASAP!

Wherever you are in your day, have a great one!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Alan Southworth

I was so sad to hear a few days ago that one of our most highly-esteemed members of the George Formby Society has died. Alan Southworth has been a member for many, many years, and I looked forward to seeing him at every convention since LSH and I joined the society five years ago.

I shall always remember him as a very kind man, and a knowledgeable one on George Formby, on banjo-ukuleles and all aspects of playing them, as well as a being a joy to listen to when he went onstage to perform; his banjo-uke solos were expertly played with great style and finesse; he was a real George Formby man who has made great contributions to the society in many ways. The place will not be the same without him and he will be missed by all.

Read Peter Pollard's tribute to him on GFS pages here...

Here's Alan on the left, with his great friend, Billy Uke Scott in 2002.

And here's Alan with a rendition of "My Plus Fours" from 2011.

Thanks to Peter Pollard and the GFS for the video and photo.

LSH and I extend deepest and sincere condolences to Alan's wife, Hilda and his family. Alan was a truly lovely man.

Thanks for dropping in... I have been missing. I'm working on that.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Percy Copley at The White Swan, Hebden Bridge!

I haven't posted for a while. Been busy. Life just gets busier, somehow! But the ukulele is always to hand, and the days are few and far between when I can't fit in a few minutes playing. As well as playing I love to listen to good players, good performers. At GNUF last year, one of the performers to really impress me was Percy Copley. I loved his folky-bluesy finger-picking style. He'll be at GNUF again this year, (5th-7th May) but unfortunately I will not - so when I found that we were free on Saturday, the day he would be playing at The White Swan in Hebden Bridge, I held my breath and suggested to LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) that we hop up north to Hebden Bridge, (a fair way from we are!) stay the night, and enjoy the concert! To my delight he said ok! So in a shake of a lamb's tail the case was packed, a hotel room booked and we were away. It's wonderful to do things on the spur of the moment sometimes.

Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire has changed a lot since the last time we passed through it - that was many, many years ago. More than thirty. It's prettier than it was, it's vibrant, and it has suffered. The Boxing Day floods of 2015 brought havoc and misery to the town. The floods were bad and the link will take you to a page where you can explore photos and articles about why it happened... but businesses and homeowners alike suffered as the roads and buildings went under water. The last business to reopen was the The White Swan... the landlady Liz doing an awful lot of the clearing up herself, getting by with a little help from her friends.

Now Mary Agnes Krell, the main organiser of GNUF, lives in Hebden Bridge with her partner the ukulele builder Rob Collins. (tinguitar) They were not flooded out but being big-hearted folks they were there helping everyone else to sort out the mess. And although on the whole, the town is recovering and getting back on its feet, Liz and The White Swan could still do with a bit more help, a few more folks through the doors... so Mary got hold of Percy Copley and organised a free concert at the pub, for the sole purpose of getting more punters through the doors buying ale! I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty wonderful. Mary knows how to do these things and is very, very good at it! I don't throw these words around a lot - but Mary Agnes Krell really is AWESOME! A good head for doing things and a great heart for doing them for the right people. As I sat listening to Mary speak, and saw Liz the landlady, and realised what the night was really all about, I was very moved. It was very special.

The concert was good. Very good. Percy did a uke workshop to start off with. It wasn't easy, I could see that; various levels of experience among the uke players there, and a lot of noise from the folk enjoying themselves at the bar! But Percy battled on manfully with astonishing good humour and everyone enjoyed it, I could tell from the faces!

The concert was opened by a very talented local youngster of just fourteen, Isaac Hughes-Dennis, who writes his own (very good) and amusing songs, and has a big smile and a very engaging way with an audience. So very entertaining! How is it that these youngsters don't seem to have a single nerve in their bodies! He is definitely a name to watch.

Percy did two half-hour sets, the first being all ukulele, the second being tenor guitar and mandolin. The uke and tenor guitar were loaned to him by Rob Collins, and they sounded great.

The fact that we made a two and a quarter hour journey and paid for a hotel room overnight tells you how much I wanted to hear Percy sing and play. I knew how good he was, and on Saturday I enjoyed every minute. So did LSH. If you are a regular reader you'll know that my LSH doesn't play and has to take my word for it if I tell him that someone is worth the effort of going to see them! No, he was not disappointed. Percy sang and played a wide range of songs and we were both entranced for the whole evening.

Percy will be at GNUF again this year - get a ticket before they are all gone! And check out his website here
to see, buy and get a listen to his CDs. I have both... you need these, you really do!

Thanks for dropping in, I appreciate it. I'll try to post again before too long! I do have plenty to tell - just not a lot of time to tell it! I'll work on that!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

My next uke is on order - a Beltona resonator!

Now then, I really, really do not suffer from UAS - so-called Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome - I have not had a new ukulele since February last year, (DJ Morgan mini-pineapple).... that's nearly a year and that's good going for a ukulele enthusiast! And certainly, when it comes to wooden ukes I am more than satisfied with the ones I have, since I reckon my DJ Morgan ukes are as good as you can get and I love them. AND I can walk past a music shop window with simply a passing glance at ukuleles now, born of mild curiosity rather than acquisitive desire! But ever since I saw Del Rey perform at GNUF (Grand Northern Ukulele Festival)with a Beltona reso in 2014 and I played it in the uke bazaar afterwards, I confess I have lusted after a Beltona resonator. The sound bears no resemblance to any of the cheaper, mass-produced resos that I have tried - and didn't like!

Beltonas do not come cheap. But they're neither as expensive nor as heavy as a National Resophonic, the traditional metal reso uke that many players pay homage to. They are not built of metal, though earlier ones were. The body is moulded from glass-reinforced resin with a lightweight aluminium coverplate and the cone is their own, purpose-built. It's especially nice, speaking as a "Brit" that Beltonas are craftsman-built here in England!

For a great review and more info on Beltonas, see Got A Ukulele here...

It's taken me a while to scrape the cash together for this uke, and it's also taken me more than a while to broach the subject with LSH - (Long-Suffering-Husband) and persuade him that I really do NEED this! Any ukulele enthusiast will know what I'm talking about and sympathise here! But at last I have spoken to Steve Evans at Beltona and the wheels are now in motion. Of course I have to wait a couple of months for what I want, but I don't mind, I've waited for well over two years and I can wait a little longer, though the excitement is mounting!

For an interesting discussion on resonator ukuleles, see this thread on the Ukulele Underground Forum. On the first page there, you'll also see a YouTube video of the great Del Rey playing a resonator uke.

So, watch this space! Meanwhile, I need to practice those finger-picking skills! Oh yes indeed I do....

Thanks for dropping in, please call again and be assured of your welcome!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Caroline Stewart does the George Formby Society proud on the radio! She's just a star!

Caroline Stewart and I became friends when we met during the "thrash" at my first George Formby Convention, and her second. Since then we've become great friends, and she has gone from strength to strength with her ukuleles, her lovely voice, and with the George Formby Society itself, where she became chairman two years ago.

On Wednesday 4th January (today as I write, but you probably won't see this until tomorrow) she went on the radio, Zetland fm, to talk about how she began playing ukulele, how she extended to banjo-uke, joined the society, and to talk about George. She's a great ambassador for the GFS. She sings and plays too - a bit of Formby, with a cracking solo (I'm so jealous!) and a little something more contemporary!

See and listen for yourself... here's a link to Caroline's page on the GFS website, where you'll see a link to the 20 minute interview!

Thanks for dropping in, I'll have some more news very soon! And please could you give that Toucan a click and give us a rating, if you would be so kind - I'd really appreciate that!

See you again soon!

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!