Saturday, May 25, 2013

Announcing the establishment of the UUU - The Uber Ukastle Ukestra

Y a UUU?

It has been three and a half years since we started our first Ukestra in Newcastle. We now have 8ish ukestras, from Port Stephens to Cessnock, down at the Lake, up to Paterson and of course in Newcastle.
In that time we have always had a rather inclusive policy on how and when people can join in with performances. With such a wide variety of locations, and new people coming in all the time, we have now had to re-think how we get a performance group together.

Our aim with performing is to provide participants with:
  1. Opportunities to experience the rare joy that comes from performing
  2. An experience and motivation that helps expand and build on their skills.
We also want audiences to have a diverse entertainment experience that is more than hum n strum and which shows that the uke can be arranged, played and sung with joy, skill and finesse, yet still be inclusive.
As things stand now, it is becoming more difficult to properly include people from across all of the ukestras, and to successfully arrange songs whilst working with eight different groups. 
With these goals in mind we have decided to adopt a new approach to performance rehearsals. Our aim is to improve performance quality and an improved experience for participants (on all sides of the stage).

The UUU - a specific performance rehearsal group.

So we are announcing the arrival of the UUU - or Uber Ukastle Ukestra - a specific and regular once a month rehearsal for those who would like to be a part of 'key' public performances. Mostly these are festivals and the like (but not, for instance, cruise ship welcoming - which are generally fairly joyous boots-n-all hum n strum affairs). And not to mention of course the fabulous work that a number of groups around Newcastle do in retirement villages. 
But if you want to be part of a more highly arranged and professional ukestra performance, then the UUU - run by The Sum of the Parts (music) - may be for you.
Rehearsals for the UUU will be for an hour and a half at the Wickham Croatian Sports on a weekend afternoon.

The first one will be on Saturday 22 June from11:30-1:00pm at Wickham.

Of course this will evolve, as we see how it all works out. Just like everything in life really - under construction.

What you need to do

At this stage you are all welcome to join in once a month. However there are some participation conditions.
  1. You'll endeavour to learn the repertoire, and perform without a music stand. Memorise the songs (or have some other method that does not require a music stand).
  2. Be a current member of the Newcastle and Hunter Valley Folk Club (for public liability insurance purposes).
  3. You will have attended 1 performance rehearsal in the last 3 months and about 4 in the last 12 months. 
  4. You will have attended three ukestra sessions in the last 2 months (so we can keep abreast of your skills). We reserve the right to make exceptions to this based on our knowledge of your experience.
  5. We require you to commit to three UUU performances in a year (in the Newcastle region). We presume some people will still want to do the far away trips as well.


Performance Rehearsals will have the following cost (or not!).
  • For regular participants of ukestras - run by The Sum of the Parts (music) - there is no cost. Regular means attending a ukestra session at least 2 times in a month. 
  • If you attended a ukestra once in the previous month, the cost is $10.
  • If you attend no times in a month then the cost is $15. This option may suit some people who have a high skill level and do not wish to attend a regular ukestra session, but would like to perform.

Benefits for you

As with anything, your skills expand at a rate comparable with how much time you dedicate to practising your skill! You will have the chance to learn:
  • Parts;
  • About arranging;
  • How to be an effective leader in your ukestra or amongst your ukulele peers; and
  • How to choose your part and be an expert in it.
You will be more guaranteed of being with other people who (like yourself) are more dedicated to developing their ukulele, singing and performing skills. You will also be a part of the team from whom we select lead singers and players.

What we'll do for you

The rehearsal format will involve:
  • Practising the selected well known performance repertoire. 
  • Introducing new possibilities for ukestrated songs. 
  • Rehearsing and arranging new songs.
We will give you 2 weeks notice of the old songs that we plan to rehearse. We will chose about 3-4 songs that you need to have memorised. We will expect you to know your part although chords will probably be called out initially.

When we do new songs you can bring the music along and look at it. You do not have to memorise the new stuff for quite a while!

We'd like people from across all the groups to be involved, and we expect that we will get representation from each group.


The repertoire for the UUU primarily consists of 'ukestrated' songs - songs that lend themselves to being arranged for different ukulele parts and for choir-like voice arrangements. These are the songs that you will eventually need to know by heart (with a bit of prompting by Jane). Songs currently on our list include:
  1. Price Tag
  2. Catch My Disease
  3. The Middle
  4. Somebody That I Used to Know
  5. Sunshine of Your Love
  6. My Girl
  7. All I Want is You
  8. Bring me Sunshine
  9. My Island Home
  10. Trains n Boats n Planes
Stay tuned. Literally. And metaphorically.


  1. Congrats Mark & Jane on birth of the UUU - it's a great idea, of course lot's of hard work, but should be very rewarding.

  2. Thanks Marg & Neil. Looking forward to it!

  3. hi mark
    i'm looking for the subscribe button on your blog but can't find one.? cheers elizabeth

  4. ok, don't worry sorry it was because i was not signed in oops!

  5. Who gets the money from the performances?

  6. Anonymous is extraordinarily active! Thanks for the very good point! We'll include a more transparent process about this on the UUU webpage when it gets happening. Until then, this is a response.

    This is why we encourage people to be members of the folk club. Jane & I usually take a cut from performances (call it Director's fees), and we encourage people/events who engage the Ukestra to pay a fee that sufficiently covers our Director's fee + a contribution to the Ukulele fund of the Newcastle & Hunter Valley Folk Club. So far this year that process has raised a few thousand dollars. But of course not all events pay money, and we don't always ask for it, but we feel it important that we reimbursed for our time, and for the community that participates in the public music-making to be acknowledged for their contribution. This is the fee to the folk club. What goes around comes around!

  7. The moral of the story? Join the folk club!