Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Ukulele Crazy

I've been learning the ukulele for a few months and I've never practised an instrument so keenly. I started with Steven Sproat's beginners' workshop at Elgar School of Music in Worcester, using a borrowed uke. I bought one the next day, and went to Steven's intermediate course a couple of months later. I also took part in a pilot Ukulele Club last term with David Barlow as Course Leader.

Elgar School of Music is now starting up the Ukulele Club for real. Meeting on Monday evenings 7.00 to 8.00, it will meet weekly from November 1st until Christmas. It can be paid for by the term, but I guess most people will want to pay £6 a week for a while till they are sure.

Superficially, a uke is a tiny guitar with only four strings. The chord shapes are similar, but the sound is very different because the string you hit first with your finger is an octave higher than you would expect, and it gives it a sharp attack. The chords are MUCH easier with only four strings to worry about, so I was quickly into diminished and flattened fifth chords which I skate over on the guitar. Its size is an advantage too, especially if you have small fingers like me. If it's too small for your giant fingers, you can get bigger ones.

If you like George Formby, I'm sure you'll be accommodated, but most of the players I've come across prefer something more recent. I myself like 60s and 70s stuff, but I'll play Katy Perry or even Jedward if I've got the uke chords.

The photo is not me. I got it from Stefan's blog No-one knows Stefan. I don't know Stefan, but I'm pretty sure the photo isn't him either.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Choirs and singing groups

I've been to a musical theatre workshop with the amazing Ria Keen of Voices Unlimited today. I couldn't take part fully in the all-moving performance experience because I'm on crutches after a small knee operation. But it was powerful stuff.

Yesterday I took my crutches to Helen Russell's workshop. Helen runs Express Yourself with singing groups for adults and children at Lyppard Grange Community Centre and a lunchtime adults' group at Elgar School of Music. Completely different, much less intense, but friendly and fun - just what many people are looking for.

People on both days have mentioned that they have been looking for singing groups in the area for a long time with no luck, hence this post. I'll also mention two groups I regularly go to.

Natural Voices with Ros Thomas meets in Malvern, it's a non-performing group where we learn everything from scratch at every meeting. It's calm (mostly) and wonderful. Most of the original singers still come every time, and have been joined by 50+ newer arrivals.

The long-standing Volcano Community Choir run by Hilary Davies in Worcester, sings music from all over the world and performs often. The picture, from Hilary's web site, is a small selection of us performing at Upton Water Festival.

I'm happy to mention other choirs and music groups here too, if you let me have a link in a comment.