Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Laurens County honored some of it's finest last night, when most of the 193 volunteers with Hospice of Laurens County gathered for their annual dinner. It was a privilige for the YesterUkes to entertain these gentle people who, with their dear hearts, make our lives better. We even have three of our own YesterUkes who also are Hospice volunteers, and some of us have been on the receiving end of their care and compassion. Hospice provides care and support -- physical, emotional, social, financial, and spiritual -- for patients and families dealing with a terminal illness. But last night was all about the volunteers and their dedication.
The YesterUkes had fun singing old songs and newer songs (still about 50 years old!), asking the group to sing along with them. They had surprises in store, breaking out a couple of crowd pleasers--The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Rawhide. Those songs always get cheers from any audience. Could it be that both are unexpected choices for a ukulele band? Whatever the reason, people loved it!
Thank you to all Hospice of Laurens County volunteers, who gladly give of your time to bring comfort and peace to so many in our community.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Our group, the YesterUkes, is as much about friendships we have developed as about the music we love to play. Lately, we've had several of our players out with an assortment of ailments. That saying, "old age isn't for sissies", has a certain amount of truth to it. So, today we were delighted to have one of our uke players and her spouse back at practice. We hope the others are on the mend and will be back soon.
We did talk today about the possibility of a "hospital hootenanny" after one player has knee surgery in a few weeks. Wonder if it would help the healing or only get us all thrown out of the building? And probably banned forever. But research has shown that music is theraputic. We will manage some way to send a musical greeting, without a doubt.
After all the hugs, greetings and visiting, it was time to get down to business and work on songs for next week--a large dinner program for volunteers. "Work" may be the wrong word because for us, it's "play"!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Always ready for a new experience, the YesterUkes made their first festival appearance at the Stone Soup Storytelling Festival in Woodruff. Playing first for a senior adult luncheon felt like a typical performance. This audience knew all our music. One group had come from a retirement home in Spartanburg, bringing several folks using walkers and canes. One man seemed particularly challenged as he labored to get into the building. We weren't sure how much of the music he was absorbing , but then--about halfway through the program, he pulled himself to his feet. Hanging onto his walker for support, he danced and sang through the rest of the program. He made our day! Their director asked it we would come to their home and sing for all the residents. We'll go if our friend will be there to dance.
Later in the afternoon we gave an outdoor concert. We had never played outdoors before. Everything we've done has been a "learn as you go" venture and this was no exception. We did prepare for the breeze by bringing clothes pins to keep the wind from turning music pages as we sang--we thought. A gust of wind caught the director's music and blew it over mid-song, so she stepped back to read from the closest notebook. That page flipped over, too. Then it was time to pray for the memory to last.
The challenges we did not anticipate were the blinding glare off the music and all the competing noise--fire trucks, low flying helicopters, trains and even a hoot owl in a nearby tree that sang along with us! Someone said it sang in tune. But it was fun to play in the fresh air with folks sitting on park benches and blankets spread on the ground. Children had room to roam and the adults found a spot to enjoy their bowl of "Stone Soup" that was being served just up the hill. One more event to add to our ever growing list!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Learning from modern ukulele masters was a treat for the YesterUkes today. Ralph Shaw and Joel Eckhaus stopped in Laurens as part of their East Coast tour to teach a workshop for the local ukulele players. The YesterUkes worked on different strums and other techniques to add variety to the "plunka plunka" sound that most people associate with a ukulele.
They also ventured into the world of chord melody--playing the ukulele as a solo instrument. It's a different style for most of this group, but if we practice, it's possible that you will hear an instrumental song from the YesterUkes in the coming months.
The highlight of the day was an evening concert at the local library. Adults and children filled every seat. Ralph and Joel, performing as The Whiteouts ("We cover the Inkspots") dazzled the full house with songs and ditties from the heyday of the ukulele, playing songs in the style of Roy Smeck and George Formby. They also sang their version of songs by Elvis and the Everly Brothers--something for everyone. Everyone was all smiles as they left!
Friday, April 10, 2009
"Grassroots", a local radio show, informed listeners about the Stone Soup Storytelling Festival coming to Woodruff, S.C. on April 17 & 18. The leader of the YesterUkes was a guest on the show to tell about this ukulele group. She told about the group's unintentional beginning and how, in the past two years, they've become a much in-demand band. The YesterUkes are on the festival schedule to play Friday, April 17 at a noon lunch for seniors and again later that afternoon at a 5:00 PM outdoor concert at the Woodruff Library Amphitheater. Check the Stone Soup web site for more details. There will be wonderful storytellers here this year.
The radio show is broadcast from a local restaurant. If you get to Woodruff for the festival, stop by the Turtle Parfait on Main Street for a cup of coffee. And then, after your meal, browse the dessert case. If you're there Friday afternoon, you might see a YesterUke or two there in their blue shirts, relaxing between shows. Be sure to say hello!
Monday, April 6, 2009
Well, we were "all shook up" when we saw the announcement in the local newspaper. It was a nice article, larger than we expected, announcing the ukulele concert at our local library on April 14. But it's NOT THE YESTERUKES who will be performing! It's The Whiteouts--Ralph Shaw & Joel Eckhaus--who will be here than night. The paper got the photo right, the text right...but not the title of the article.
Ralph and Joel are both professional musicians who are currently on an east coast tour. They both perform and teach at ukulele festivals and workshops across the country. They will be teaching a ukulele workshop in the afternoon before the concert, so if you would like to learn a little uke, let us know. There are a few spaces left.
The YesterUkes will all be in the audience that evening to enjoy hearing how the pros do it. We hope plenty of others in our community come, too. So let's say it one more time: The Whiteouts will be in concert on April 14. The concert is free and open to the public. (See details in the Schedule section on the right side.)
After all the confusion, maybe the library will schedule us to play at a later date
Friday, April 3, 2009
The second grader with the big brown eyes picked up the sheet music from the table and looked at it. It was the Beatles' "Yesterday." She laid it back down and started to bounce away but stopped, took a step back and picked it up one more time. She stared at the music, tilted her head slightly to the left, thought a minute and then looked up and said, "I'll bet the YesterUkes took half of the word 'yesterday' and half of the word 'ukulele' and put them together to make their name. Am I right, Mimi? I"ll bet I am! Does that mean you sing songs about yesterday?" Very smart child! Yep, very smart. That's exactly what we did.
We just made up a word and it has suited us just fine. When you type "YesterUkes" in Google, you won't find anyone there but us. So far. And all of the songs we sing go back more than a few "yesterdays." We sing songs we like -- which means songs we remember. With our ages spanning three decades, it provides us a wide range of songs to draw from. Last week one audience member came forward all smiles at the end of a show all and told us, "You just do all kinds of music! That was amazing."
Maybe just seeing 16 adults playing ukuleles and singing in public is amazing.
We will have our first outdoor performance as part of the Stone Soup Storytelling Festival in Woodruff, SC on Friday, April 17. Look for us at the Woodruff Library Amphitheater at 5:30 PM. Come out and sing with us!