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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Sounds Of Silence

This ukulele business may have greater impact on our lives than we are fully aware of.  One of the YesterUkes shared this story with us at the last practice.  He had gone in search of silence, a time apart.  But here, in his own words, is what happened...

"Our ukulele group, the Yesterukes, learn new songs from time to time to update our repertoire and to stretch us a bit.  Some songs, for whatever reason, tend to stay with me longer than do others and I often have difficulty getting a tune out of my mind.  Case in point, a recent experience which I shared with the Yesterukes at last week's practice to let them know what a difference they have made in my life. 
I had missed the previous week's practice because I spent the week at Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery outside Monck's Corner, SC.  The monks take a vow of silence and retreatants are to respect the silence while in the presence of the monks.  Even meals are eaten in silence.  

I find time spent at the abbey to be a wonderful break from the world of noise and distraction in which we spend our lives and I always look forward to returning to the abbey.  Live oaks draped with Spanish moss line the road leading from the entrance to the reception center and are found throughout the hundreds of acres that make up the monastery grounds.  There is a formal garden area located on the banks of the Cooper River which adds to the peace and the beauty of Mepkin.  

It is a worshipful setting that invites the retreatant to enter the world of silence and meditation.  But whether I was walking the labyrinth, strolling through the formal garden, or sitting in the dining room enjoying a cup of coffee alone with my thoughts, what kept cycling through my mind?  Rubber Duckie!!!  If the monks had known how secular minded I was, they probably would have shown me to the gate and sent me on my way."

Monday, May 25, 2009

What Kind Of Fool Am I?

Why would successful, educated, sensible, active adults (otherwise known as the YesterUkes) choose to devote a sizable portion of their time to a ukulele band?  Some of our family, friends and neighbors probably wonder why as they watch us head out for yet another gig.  And maybe that thought creeps into our own thinking every now and then.  

Reasons given by our own members include, "It's cheaper than a therapist", "I've fulfilled a long time dream to be a musician", "You can see the joy we bring to other people", "I just like getting together with these people", "I'm happier now than before", and "I wanted to see if my brain cells would still learn a new skill."  

Well, the we are not alone in our fascination with this tiny instrument. School children, adults, soldiers, amateurs and professionals have discovered that playing ukulele brings great satisfaction. Here is a 3-minute video--actually a trailer of a coming feature documentary--that looks at the ukulele revival worldwide.

Fools?  No way!  We have found something that we enjoy, that keeps us challenged and makes other people happy.  Can't ask for much more than that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If You're Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands

The rain that has blessed us for weeks now moved out and the sun shone brightly for the Head Start graduation this morning. Some of the YesterUkes were on stage at the amphitheater, as part of the ceremony. We had fun leading over 400 people in singing a few children's songs to open the program. It is always a treat for us to spend time with young children.

These kids were excited     to be celebrating the end of the school year.       We were excited to be included in this milestone in these young lives. We were already on stage as the buses arrived, and we watched as 160 children entered the amphitheater. Proud parents and grandparents looked on as the classes took their places. Then everyone eagerly joined in as we sang.

This was the largest audience the YesterUkes have played for. These preschool children, all smiles as they clapped along in rhythm with each song, made it fun for us, too. We wish them well next year as they move into kindergarten!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

You've Got A Friend

The Internet is fascinating and frightening at the same time. It allows us access to nearly everything and allows nearly everyone access to us. That is how SMUG found the YesterUkes.

A few months back, a gentleman on Prince Edward Island, Canada, was browsing the Internet, hoping to read about ukulele bands similar to the one he had just started. In searching, he came across our blog. He emailed, telling us that he had enjoyed reading about our group. Some of the YesterUkes responded, and in short order, we had friends in far away Canada. We discovered we had much in common. SMUG (Saturday Morning Ukulele Group) is a group of folks who have fun getting together to play ukuleles. That could also describe the YesterUkes.

The YesterUkes started (if you count the beginner class) two years ago, so we have had time to develop into a performing band. But, at the core, we are still a group of folks who have fun getting together to play ukuleles. It's just that now we have an audience much of the time. We're happy to have another group to share ideas with and maybe swap a song or two.

The YesterUkes in South Carolina got a huge boost at their start from Dr. Uke, leader of the Glastonbury Ukulele Band in Connecticut. We hope that we can give a little support and encouragement to SMUG on Prince Edward Island. Bet it won't be long until they find a ukulele group somewhere else on the globe that needs a friend! And we'll all be ukulele friends across the miles.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You Make Me Feel So Young

After the program, seemed like everyone had a comment or a question:
  • "I really enjoyed that racket!"
  • "Please some back soon 'cause you didn't sing my favorite song."
  • "You sang my favorite song!"
  • "Did you know Marilyn Monroe played that song in 'Some Like It Hot'?"
  • "What's the average age of your members?" (Not sure--probably somewhere in the early 70s.)
  • "I learned all these songs from my parents."
  • "How long does it take someone to learn enough to play with you?" (Not long.)
  • "Why haven't you been on television?" ('Cause no one has asked us yet.)
  • "Do you have change for a $20?" (Of course! And then we sold him a CD.)
  • "Let me tell you about this song and what happened when I was in 5th grade."
  • "I'm a nurse and I think this is good therapy for these people." (Players or listeners?)
  • "Do you know the Kate Smith song, 'When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain' ?" (No, but we know a lot of other moon songs.)
  • "I got a ukulele for Christmas one year when I was little."
  • "That morning TV show has musicians on all the time. But they're not professional, like you."
  • "That was just delightful!"
  • "I'm SO glad my husband and I came today."
The senior adult audience today at Covenant Presbyterian Church may have been the most involved we've had. No one was in a hurry to leave after lunch. As the sound equipment was being packed, folks lingered, talking with each other, asking questions and telling stories about the songs we sang today. Song sheets are often discarded after a program. Today there were only a couple left behind on the tables.

Once again, the YesterUkes did what they do best with their ukuleles and their music...conjure up smiles and memories.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"A", You're Adorable

They filed in quietly, one after the other for five minutes. It takes a while for 125 preschoolers to come into a room and get settled on the floor. We loved watching them come in, so cute and well-behaved. The YesterUkes had come to present a program on ukuleles. It began with a short history of the instrument. Everyone knew that ukuleles came from Hawaii. But they didn't know that before Hawaii, there was a Portuguese connection. We were glad we knew at least one more thing than the four-year-olds!

We brought every size ukulele with us so the children could see them and hear each one. Many children wanted to tell us that they had a ukulele....or a guitar... or a drum... or a television, or a dog, etc. at their house. We talked about how to tune a ukulele, the "My Dog Has Fleas" pattern. And some wanted to tell us about fleas at their house. Don't you love children?

Then the music started. The YesterUkes played and led the children in singing several familiar songs. All was well until one two-year-old dissolved into tears because she couldn't remember all the words to "The Alphabet Song." And we think grownups have all the problems. Before the last song, a drawing was held and one little boy won a ukulele and lessons--lucky kid. We ended our set with "Skinnamarink." Everyone knew all the words to that one, so it was all smiles at the end. Boop, boop, ee-doo!