About Me

My photo
Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 25 times over and a great-grandmother of 19. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega with Genealogy Journeys where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that can be found at http://genaandjean.blogspot.com and more about my own business projects is on my Circlemending website.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A former ukulele player surrenders

Why is it that, within the course of a couple of hours, I received not one, but two, references to on-line material dealing with ukuleles? Is it coincidence or penance?

You see, I was going to blog about the Flagstaff Folk Festival, but here I am, somewhat sidetracked. Now, I need to say that I did attend the festival and did, indeed, enjoy it immensely. But, following our performance, we found ourselves trying to vacate the tight space where groups presented their material by a gang of ukulele players! And entire ukulele band was attempting to enter while we tried to leave. It was a bit crowded, and I could only nod and smile at those who were maneuvering their way in, as I thought, "there but for the grace of God, and C. F. Martin & Co, go I." You see, I did learn to play ukulele, way back in the mid-1960s. I looked at it as sort of my "starter guitar" (the desired instrument). Once I learned to play the uke "well enough" (according to my parents' standards, which were impossibly high, especially considering I was learning to play on a 1930s instrument that refused to stay tuned) I would be granted permission to "graduate" to the coveted 6-string instrument. Obviously, that happened. And, I vowed, I would never look back. (Note: A few months back I blogged about my early ukulele endeavors and how it all came about, including a photo of my mother holding that uke that I inherited. It was replaced when everyone realized that it really was not a good enough instrument to use if any level of proficiency was a goal.)

The uke that preceded my first guitar but replaced the very tired one my mother
gave me to "learn" on (why didn't I make the jump to guitar when the folks
realized that old uke would never function as it should?
Guess it's like going from elementary school to middle school
before finally being granted the pass on to high school).

Now, I will not say that I looked with scorn upon that ukulele orchestra at the festival . . . I was raised better than that. And it's a good thing since, shortly after we relinquished the stage to that group, we were amazed to hear some pretty darn good stuff coming from those little Hawaiian mini-guitars. Nevertheless, I was not tempted to run up and join them.

I have a dear friend who not only plays ukuleles, but collects them. I have no idea how many she has, but one of her instruments has an amazing sound and I admitted to Butch that I just might be tempted to play the 4-string guitar wannabe if I had one of that quality. But today I got an entirely new perspective on ukulele music, orchestras, and versatility. Check out the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (my 4th cousin in Michigan sent me a copy of this video & I was more than casually impressed . . . obviously, or I wouldn't be blogging about it). So as not to ruin it for you, let me say that it is well worth listening to (and watching) the entire 5+ minute performance!

Ironically, and entirely independent of the orchestral ukulele performance, I was sent a second uke video (2 in one day? I usually go months . . . nay - years! without such deliveries to my email inbox). This one is a little different, to say the least, but is a nice followup on the blog I did a few months ago on homemade instruments: Mark Frauenfelder has created his own uke with a some odds and ends, and the result is an amazingly vibrant sound.

So there you have it, a large amount of exposure to an instrument I have spent the last almost 50 years trying to run away from. OK, I give up. The ukulele is a respectable instrument. It has a rich history. It can hold its own (in the right hands) and should be properly acknowledged. Consider this my official surrender. (But don't expect to see me at a folk gathering hauling my uke along with me anytime soon . . . but note, from the photo above, I haven't given it away, either!)

No comments:

Post a Comment