Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the road to income sustainability....things ukulele

What a boring title - oh well.

Things have grown great in the last few months.

The Ukastle Ukestra is reaching new heights (up to 35 people one evening), and the feel is changing to something more raucous. But it has always had the seeds of raucousness. LakeMacUkestra is more staid, and fluctuating in numbers. 9 last week, something like 18 this week.

And the Bay (Tomaree Ukestra) is increasing, incrementally. 2 one week, 7 last week. 7 is good! It is most pleasant sitting outside at the Fingal Bay Sports Club, rain or shine. The cuckoos are going off in the bush around, kangaroos feed on the lawn. Ukuleles strum. V. pleasant. My drink of choice is ginger beer. And there are free peanuts.

I am now bolting off from the Tomaree Ukestra to head to Bobs Farm Public School. Student population = 40. I have a quarter of the students doing uke. My first school!!!! This is vital for my income sustainability. NEIS ends in February and I need to have a large enough and diverse enough income to be sustainable.

It is so great to be working with kids. I miss having my own kids (who have largely grown up and live far away) so I am enjoying that aspect of it. I am looking forward to the first performances. A few people advised me to only work with Grades 3-6, as younger are too difficult. But I am prepared to give that a go at the moment, and I think I have a few Grade 1s & 2s. It was funny, because the 'primary' school kids said wryly 'are you teaching the little kids? Good luck with that!'. Bobs Farm is a lovely school, like something up the north coast, set amidst palms and mosquitos. Address - Marsh Road.

On Wednesday I started at Hamilton Public, an inner city school in Newcastle, with an ethnically diverse population. David Jack is the Principal there and he is a renowned innovator. The Uke is part of his grand plan, and my suggestions appealed to him instantly.

It has been an interesting process trying to drum up schools. David was the first to go 'yes! I want that for my school!'. Megan (Bobs Farm Principal) did the same. An email did the trick and I have now got it down to 'you will either like this idea or not, and you will have room or not, please just reply quickly and we can talk if you are interested'. I really dislike it when people say they will get back to you, and they don't. But it is very reassuring when people do get back and say 'not today' or, 'I have a headache', or, 'our program is full'. At least I then know. I am pretty sure I will have a full board of calls of schools next year.

The Ukastle Ukestra have been accepted to play down at the Melbourne Ukulele Festival in February - this will be our first major outing away from Newcastle. And a whole bunch of people are performing at Roy Sakuma's Hawaii Ukulele Festival in July. I am yet to decide whether I can afford that! It's hard keeping up with the well heeled retirees!!!!

Let's not forget Maitland. I am enjoying all my Ukestras, with Maitland no exception. It is held at the Grand Junction Hotel and Liss, the publican, is one of my main participants. Her and Ben have cultivated a wonderful musical culture at this pub and hence the ukestra participants are very well schooled in alternative music (folky / country sort of inflections). The numbers there will grow, I am sure.

We have decided to have our Hunter Christmas Uke Party up there, where people will be catching a train to the pub from Newcastle - the Uke Train!!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A neglectful blogger ...

My apologies to the reader in my head. Only 1 blog in July!

I have to make comment on a number of fronts.

First, the Ukastle Ukestra is really starting to do me proud. Last weekend we performed at the Wallsend Winter Carnivale. It was a real pleasure. We were allocated the last spot in the town rotunda, after all of the brass bands. Of course they have far greater sound projection, whereas we are humble little and quiet tackers of instruments. Once we cleared the stage of brass instruments, I asked the audience to move into the rotunda with us. This was a good move.

The Ukestra excelled themselves. There were about 20 of us. We did two quick bursts down the street, then the 1 hour rotunda performance. Their voices were just lovely together - very full - and the rhythm of the ukes was VERY together, particularly on 'Dreaming of You'. And the soloists vocalists were impressive, and endearing.

Last night The Do Riders performed and our last song was our version of 'Dreaming of You'. I mentioned that we had stolen it from the Ukastle Ukestra and some young students in the audience yelled out that 'they rock!'. I asked for clarification. 'The Ukulele Orchestra! We saw them at the Darby St Fair' - how funny and fantastic is that?!

A few yunguns had seen the ukestra in a few places - I think we make quite an impression! So lovely.

I have now started to teach ukulele in Maitland as well. The Maitland Ukestra is starting off low key. It is always difficult I reckon to get the word out, but one must persist! The 2nd one had 6 people, so that was really good. Mondays now generally consists of me going to do the Tomaree Ukestra in the mornings, then across to Maitland in the evenings. All interspersed with some nice time at my Mum's holiday house up at the Port Stephens.

The Do Riders are going gangbusters at the moment. I am taking a management cut and am working hard at getting us gigs and ensuring that we have a reasonable web presence. It seems to be working for us.

This week we have 5 gigs, 4 of them in a row. This is (and will be!) highly unusual. Last Sunday we played at the wonderfully old school Grand Junction Hotel in Maitland. Liss and Ben are supreme hosts, and discerning music lovers and publicans. It was a very last minute gig (a band dropped out) so we couldn't get much word out. But we had a great night.

Last night was our second turn at the Great Northern. We had quite a few there, plus a few friends and relatives. At the end of the evening a bunch of young people (uni students, early 20s) rocked in after leaving another venue. They really understood what we are trying to do. We also tried 'Fake Plastic Trees' by Radiohead for the first time. A young couple from Melbourne were also there - he had dreads and was carrying his dij in a little indian cloth satchel. They really enjoyed us. All of these accidental audiences were just what we needed.

We have also now recorded, and are very happy with that as a demo. It was vital resource for the heaps of festival applications that I have just submitted. Fingers crossed with that stuff.

Tonight we are doing a Greens benefit (have a look at this wonderful 'advertisement' from the Gruen Transfer if you haven't seen it yet).

It is funny, but the Demo is really selling well. Though it was not meant to. Have just returned from doing a Festival in Maitland, where we had a bunch of people hanging around listening carefully, they bought so many CDs! Most of this audience were over 50 at least. They loved us!

I am very hopeful that we will be able to build something sustainable.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A rare outing of the SQuidgey variety

My apologies. I have very little time to write my thoughts – even though I enjoy it. Currently on my way to Melbourne to celebrate Ruby's 16th birthday – wacko! (Just banking now over the top of Wollongong. Actually. No. I wrote this a week ago! So don't try and figure out a calendared reality from this burbling).

Had a fabulous night last night. Jane & I put up Rose Turtle Ertler – a great Australian ukulele troubadour. Her originals are quirky, anything but cliched and her ukulele playing is very wonderful, in particular her strumming and chord progressions. The workshop was very well attended prior to the concert, with most of the 20 or so people coming from the local ukestras. Two additional people came who found out through other means.

The concert was a full house (about 60-70 people) – it was a lovely convivial and congenial evening (I love those words). Dean's place (the Royal Exchange) is a fabulous terrace cum old insurance office converted to a very intimate performance venue right in Newcastle city. The beanbags are my particular favourite spot for watching performers there – right underneath their feet! Dean doesn't have a licence so 'conviviality' is subject to one's own supplies (probably not encouraged licence wise), or the fabulous (non-alcoholic) ginger beer and a few nic nacks bikkie things.

Jane & I performed in our SQuidge format – we focussed on uke songs – people whinged when I brought out the guitar! Bloody ukulele police! ( ;-) ). Jane gets rather annoyed with me as I am not too diligent a rehearser. You could tell as some of my ukulele 'solos' (which I am not accustomed to doing) left a lot to be desired! I show far more skill and 'eptness' (as opposed to 'ineptitude') on the trumpet – and that really shows. People invariably compliment me on my trumpet playing after gigs.

Jane didn't sing in the first song (Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead) where she should have because she was nervous. I am glad she is mostly over those nervous attacks! It is so much easier in The Do Riders where there are others to cover your mistakes (and more competent people like Mick to take the solos!). But we both soooo enjoyed the intimacy of the duo performance. And people really seemed to appreciate it. I even heard some oooohs and ahhhs in some of our more sensitive stuff (such as Into My Arms by Nick Cave). I love harmonising with Jane, and the baritone and tenor ukuleles just suit each other so well in the quiet sensitive songs so nicely. You don't have to overplay – minimalism is quite sufficient to get across the mood. Our baritone / tenor uke version of 'Do Right' was sublime (imho).

Nikki, Mick, Jane and myself are going to record.
Nikki, Mick, Jane, and myself are going to record.

Look carefully at those last two sentences. See the second one is slightly longer? Sentence #2 has an 'Oxford Comma'.

I say this because the Do Riders are bedding down rather well. We have scored several gigs at the Five Islands Recreation Club in their 'A touch of country' slot. It is an old RSL (at Lake Macquarie) that is working at staying alive. Hopefully we can help them in their goal.

Anyways – at our first gig there a YP (that's 'young person' – someone younger than, say, 35!) suggested that we try and blurgrass 'Oxford Comma' by Vampire Weekend. They were a headline band at Groovin' the Moo which my 15 year old daughter went to this year – so they must be very groovy and current.

We are recording a demo this week. 3 originals (Midnight Train by Nikki, Dead Guy (an old voicepopfoible song) and Beach Pockets by myself; and 2 covers (Creep by Radiohead & Love Cats by The Cure). We need stuff for putting into festivals etc., although the website is working very well for us in terms of publicity and providing video evidence of our competence!

I shall speak soon on the topics of ukestras – just to keep you (whoever 'you' are!) up to date.

And an Oxford Comma? It is the rather indecisive and controversial placement of the comma after the word 'Jane'. Who says the Do Riders are not hip and political!!?

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Do Riders debut in Newcastle

It was a week of grizzling about the weather. It'll never happen ... it's gunna flog down on Sunday ... we should still rehearse though ...

Lucky we rehearsed. The rain flogging happened on the South Coast of NSW and not on us at all. We had a lovely day.

The Darby St Coffee & Chocolate Festival was a great Novocastrian launch for us Do Riders. People stopped and marvelled. Well, maybe 'marvel' is too strong a word. But there was obviously a lot of 'like' out there about what we do.

A highlight for me was a young woman who clearly was delighted by our version of 'Love Cats' (by The Cure) - she recorded the audio on her mobile phone, then she signed up on our mailing list.

Despite the wind we decided to try out the 'gather around a single condenser mic' bluegrass type thing. It provides for wonderful interaction between us, and looks good for the audience, and we can hear each other a lot better, particularly vocally. You gather in a semi-circle around the mic and move in and out depending upon what instrument or voice you wish to highlight. There is quite a bit of technique involved and we will be learning that for a while.

Another highlight for myself was a comment from a woman who I have seen from the Darby St coffee lifestyle. She only knows me vaguely, but doesn't know my history.

What you do is great fun! Were you in Newcastle in the 1980s and did you ever see a band called the Castanets?. I said I was in them. She then sort of recognised me, or remembered at least the name (I was Kevin Mancini). Clearly the Castanets was a good apprenticeship for me and has heavily influenced my performance style!

It was great to have most of our parents attend! Despite being in our mid-late forties, we still had the supportive parents there! How funny is that! The only ones missing were the ones who live in Forbes. OK. We can forgive that. A seven hour drive to see your daughter play in a new band would be a big call...

Now to try what we do in the pub situation. We are really looking forward to the Great Northern Hotel on Thursday week! We are loving what we are doing and are really enjoying each other's company. This is what music should be about.

And we are gunning to get the parents from Forbes along some time. Or we will play out there.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lies, marketing and damn statistics...and Ukuleles in Port Stephens

My nephew is a writer. His work is designed to boost search engine results for companies that can afford to employ him (I remember articles on electronic cigarettes). This SEO work (don't ask) rewrites stories that are already written, merely so google rankings are boosted for that particular topic or item or company.

It took me a great amount of brain power to understand what he did when Charles first described his work. But now I understand. All too well.

My life - particularly in the world of electronic marketing - now involves some aspects of what he does for a living. Did I say I am a community musician? Have I mentioned the words Tomaree? Ukulele? Port Stephens? Lake Macquarie? Ukestra? The Do Riders? Workplace Choirs yet?

No? Ok. Then I will.

This blog is about my endeavours to start the Tomaree Ukestra up in Port Stephens for people who want to play the ukulele, just like I have done in Lake Macquarie for the LakeMacUkestra, and Newcastle with the Ukastle Ukestra, and not to mention the fact that our new band finally has a name - The Do Riders.

There. I have now mentioned all the relevant links to help my optimise search engine results (aha!!! SEO! 'Search Engine Optimisation'! - my ex-brother-in-law also is in this line of work - I told you not to ask). Google spiderbot?? Are you listening? Charles? Did I do it right?

Thank you. I could finish there, but I have got very little creative joy out of the writing so far. Now the real crapping on can begin.

Sorry I haven't written for so long. But things other than virtual activities have got in the way.

Like the Tomaree Ukestra. It has begun. The Fingal Bay Sports Club is the venue for my endeavours to bring ukes to Port Stephens (I can't just say "The Bay" because it doesn't help my SEO). I first flagged this in a previous blog. On 17 May I had 4 people. I stayed at Mum's holiday house (a gorgeous kitch joint which was the first house I ever lived in - from 0 to 6 months - I got washed in a plastic bucket) on the Sunday night, and 7:30am on the Monday morning I walked around the local Harbourside Haven leafleting letterboxes - not every marketing strategy is SEO.

I got to the Club and one woman in her 40s was there already (she had caught the bus). Rosie and two others who showed up had read the very prominent article in the Port Stephens Examiner and was very keen. Another woman showed up from my leafleting efforts of an hour or 2 earlier! That was it. 4 people. One struggled with the uke and decided not to return. One was already a performer - sussing out what it was all about - he won't return (maybe occasionally), Rosie is keen and the other elderly lady, well...I'm not sure. Fast forward a week.

Rosina and 3 new people showed. All VERY enthusiastic. Merv has a touch of Parkinson's and his Occupational Therapist had said the ukulele would be good for him. At one stage he said 'Have you noticed? My shaking has stopped!'. I have numerous little victory stories like this that make my life as a community musician so rich. The wonderful thing about this mob is that they all exchanged addresses and said 'let's get together tomorrow!'. My work here is done.

Except it isn't. To make it sustainable for myself I need more than 4 people. But 4 enthusiastic people is enough for me to persist for a while and to build upon. We are having fun, and I love being up at the Bay for just a night. The photo to the right is one good reason why - Zenith Beach - my favourite in the world.

In other news - The Do Riders have a name. I band formerly known as The Flying Penguins are now The Do Riders. We had a fabulous rehearsal the other weekend. It is good. Real good. So we have started to chase gigs more properly.

Jane & I went along to the Great Northern Hotel (opposite Newcastle Train Station - long live the train line!). It has been re-opened by a fabulous young couple, Ross & Chelsea of Sprocket Cafe. They have taken on a mighty big task and my Dad (rest is soul) would be proud. I remember having my 12th & 13th birthdays there. My 12th in the formal dining room before they closed it down, my 13th in the Chinese Restaurant which replaced it. Dad had a share in the hotel with Archie Stammell. (too much detail, get back to SEO writing Mark!).

Anyhoo. It is a grand hotel (for Newcastle) and the foyer area is particularly lovely. The Do Riders are playing in the foyer (they are calling it the Lobby) on June 10th - 7:30-10:30. We are toying with ideas to make it more than a gig - but I want Mick to sell his avocadoes at the gig.

Enough SEO - do your thang google (but I hope it was also worth reading by a human).

I am off for a walk.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The germ of an idea?

This weekend promises domesticity, and a day trip to Karuah for the Bluegrass Festival (going as a punter).

Last weekend was very successful. A social visit to the Blue Mountains, a family visit to Forbes followed by a family visit to Sydney to see my two gorgeous daughters (who live in Melbourne - ages 23 & nearly 16) who were at a wedding.

Forbes was very fruitful ukulele-wise. Only a week before I decided I would try to organise a ukulele workshop in Forbes. After a series of phone calls, and some very very supportive locals, I managed to have a workshop with 10 people! I do hope that they now have the wherewithall to start up a Forbes Ukulele Group (FUG?). I am now brewing ideas on continuing to offer workshops in country areas.

A key memory of the Forbes trip was watching I Walk the Line (the Johnny Cash biopic). It really educated me and I enjoyed it immensely. Am now brewing on a few Johnny Cash / June Carter-Cash songs.

The other thing that is happening is that Tuesday nights (Ukastle Ukestra) is really growing! I got a lot of word of mouth young women coming along in the last two weeks (in their 20s). One in particular sent me the following email (with pre-existing spelling errors).

hi mark, thankyou for your email. Have been on a permanent high since tue night,and havnt been able to put my uke down! i love so much (and am still quite amazed) that i can actually play a musical instrument! music is a huge love of my life and nearly all my friends are musos but after many many attempts to learn the guitar and failing, i gave up. So bless you and your awesome group, I now believe!
Adrianna is just as excited as me, and you will see us regularly, for sure. Thanks again, Learne

Now that is something! How lovely!!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Flying Penguins vids & Ukastle Ukestra public debut

Oh Please!!!! Someone give us a name!!!

We are not happy with 'The Flying Penguins'. There are too many penguins out there. The Ballpoint Penguins, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and Aviva and the Flying Penguins. Naming bands in the global internet age is a nightmare.

The name is good, has a lovely genesis, portrays a certain stupidity, and we have the credibility of an onboard marine biologist to confirm our unique discovery. But there is always that band in Atlanta that could confuse things for us. Newcastle. Atlanta. Newcastle. Atlanta. Damn.

We felt very pleased with our performances at St Albans, and I miss Mick & Nikki. One gets quite involved with people with whom one makes music. Mick's sister filmed us at St Albans, and Jane & I watched a suite of songs last night. Jane's first ever time of watching herself in that sort of a way. We were mightily pleased. Excited even! I am v. hopeful that the material will now provide us with sufficient propaganda for us to get gigs in the various places that would be appealing. Festivals. The snow. The reef. yay and phew .... Thank-you Kim (Mick's sister)!!!!

And yesterday was a very busy day. The Ukastle Ukestra debuted at the Olive Tree Markets. And the night before we had some really lovely television coverage on the local news. We got the cutesie 'animals & community' slot after the weather. Prime time!!! Everyone loves the weather. Betty & Ted from Argenton (who are nearly 80) said everything that I would want to say about the work I am doing. It was a good day (even though we blocked up the Markets for a while with audience).


Monday, April 26, 2010

The weary lie in bed and ramble

In the absence of my gorgeous Jane, I ramble to no-one, a typewriter.

I am quite weary, joyously so. Folk festivals are so wonderful. Each is different. The St Albans Folk Festival is in an utterly mysteriously isolated valley a million miles from Sydney, yet only a helicopter's blade away (as we found out on the Saturday night when alcohol and a misplaced esky took out one punter). Generally they are a civilised and grown up affair - life as should be lived.

The hastily named 'Flying Penguins' got an unpaid gig, two gigs, for our first ones EVER. We got the last of the Friday night band slots in the large tent (the Marquee) and we slayed it. Our brand of old-timey blurgrassey music captured people's entertainment radars and I felt a return to the days when I enjoyed life behind the microphone of voicepopfoible. However I am now ever slightly more grown up, I go by my own name, and I hope I will not be as rude or offensive as I was back then. I was back in the saddle as it were. It was Mick & Nikki's first exposure to my performance style, and by the end of the weekend they had got the swing of it, particularly Mick (mandolin & guitar) who nicely matched my onstage relationship with the audience. Jane also was gorgeous, cheeky and singing wonderfully (and belting the banjo bravely and with verve). Nikki (double bass and singer) will warm to it with her own style and it was all a lovely thing to experience. People felt welcomed, and humoured, and jigged along by our performance and our music. It was so great to see people singing my Beach Pockets song plus the covers that we did (like Prince's 'Kiss').

A pearler moment was when I asked the audience what their highlight was. And couple in their 60s (at a guess) yelled out 'getting married at the festival!!'. We then started the 'get up get up get up' audience participation to commence 'Sexual Healing' (by Marvin Gaye). It was wonderful. Jane sang the song at the couple and it all felt very 'gathered' (to use a Quaker term).

But back to Friday night. We did SO well that the festival director offered us two more gigs in the Marquee (and PAID us) to replace the Irish legend Andy Irvine who was stuck in the UK by the volcano. God bless those Icelanders! So instead of two gigs, we had four. We are now a seasoned band and ready for more. We very nearly have 3 sets of material, and will now start to incorporate more originals. But the covers are really fabulous to help consolidate a unique fun sound.

Thanks to the Ukastle Ukestrans and LakeMacUkestrans who came to the festival and actively supported us. It was a joy to have them there, as it so much contributed to broadening the community experience.

This morning I started to fret in my sleep at about 4am, thinking 'I should get up and try to write a song for the Chorus Cup which is an annual competition "held on the final morning of the Festival. Teams must have a minimum of 3 people who write a song, about the Festival, and include a Chorus! They then present to a panel of Judges, and are allowed (expected) to provide bribes!". I awoke at 7:15, grabbed the puter, wrote some lyrics describing our good fortune, the inevitable toilet mishaps etc, and had people organised into a singing rabble by 8:30 where we rehearsed some pitiful chords, harmonies and melodies.

We were up against some stiff children's competition, and with a little bit of rudeness we really thought we would get negative marks. And we didn't bribe the judges (except with toilet paper). Turns out we won. What a surprise!!!

And the winning lyrics?

We were young we didn't know much in two thousand and ten
But we felt we had to try it out, to launch a band again
So we threw our hat, way in too early in a land of great tradition
And launched ourselves upon the folk of a festival in St Albans

But we didn't stand a chance of doing much until the ice cap blew its lid
That iceskofellgofuku or whatever goddam it is
For dear old Andy got stuck there and it opened up the way
When Andy Irvine failed to make St Albans in oh ten Anzac Day

So iceskofellgofuku we see the great connection
Between St Albans halls, old dogs balls, and volcanic intervention
For we made good, despite lack of wood and toilets overflowing
We just clenched our cheeks, ate weetbix, and valiantly kept going

The Flying Penguins, we had our break, when that old volcano blew
For Andy didn't make the trip, that plane t'weren't able to flew (fly!)
And Friday night was wonderful, and Lainey gave us more
We kissed that wonderful lady in red, you could have said we scored.

But there were times that we wondered if that Irvine man was coming
When a helicopter from the sky came midst the Wheezers strumming
But we were relieved that Irvine didn't arrive in that contraption
But we were soon to find subdued relief in overdue constipation

Oh yes the shit man he was tardy
The shit man he was tardy
We clenched our cheeks, held our nose and were very gently farty
The shit man he was tardy
The shit cart he was tardy
But the toilets overflowed in their little blue
On my shoes and on my cardy

ahhhh yes.... what a supremo lyricist I am ! (not).

what a lovely weekend. now I must sleep.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

An open letter to my dear fellow Foibles.

I am reborn. Am sitting on a glorious front verandah couch, 6am, overlooking a small escarpment with a light smokey fog settling in this isolated valley near Bulahdelah and I think of you Aaron, Steve & Chris.

We had such a good wonderful creative dozen or so years. But after about 3-4 years of breaking up, we finally did, and I feel I have now found my new musical loves to replace what we had.

That's harsh. Of course you will never be replaced. We loved and hated and played with each other over such a long period of time (perhaps 10% of my projected years on this planet!) that it will never be replicated. But this is now where I want to be.

I am indeed a strange one, (though how can ageing be anything but strange and exciting). Strange because here I am playing some sort of faux bluegrass, doing contemporary covers and the odd original. And to boot it is with my gorgeous banjo-playing girlfriend and Mick & Nikki, a lovely couple from up the bush. We have 'a sound' and I am rather optimistic that it is going to work. What I do want to replicate is the strength, passion and richness of the relationships, the marriage to someone else's geography, the travel, the bad and the good gigs, the festivals, the lifestyle. I had found this with you my dear foibles, but the passion and focus faded (as you do), and now we have all moved on.

For now, I can feel it again. Praise the Lord in all her mysterious and glorious follow-me-ways.

Now, if only songwriting would return with vigour, and all this creative blogposturing was put into new songs.

p.s. This band is better (yesterday named Barefoot Bleuglass) simply because voicepopfoible only had 3 composite words as its name. This one has 4! So there!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Further ramblings on starting a community musician biznes

Good morning. The only time I seem to find for doing this is during occasional moments of 3/4am insomnia.

The last 3 weeks has been hellish fun/busy/too busy. Mostly with 'professional development'. What a wonderful thing it is to have professional development which is a joy.

The beginning of the 3 weeks was holidaying with Ruby. Treachery Head proved its name correct and destroyed the camper trailer. Cables broke. This is the main accommodation device for festivals, so that was a blow. Thanks to Stan (distant-father-in-law twice removed of ex sister in law type) we fixed that and I was then able to move onto the National Folk Festival with Jane.

The National is and should be an annual pilgrimage. It is how life should be lived, without nuclear weapons and with lots of music, good food (well...ok...healthy....fastish food), dancing in the streets and diversity. I was not accepted to play this year, so at the urging of Jane, and at the last minute I applied to be a volunteer. Came up with 'stewarding' which wouldn't be my preference (mc'ing, stage managing yes, stewarding - no). It involved five 4 hour shifts on a twentyfour hour roster, two of them at 4am. Turned out to be interesting and vaguely fun.

I workshopped a lot, enjoying Kristina Olsen's 'playing lead guitar for dummies', Frank Jones' 'how to steal a song', and Ben Stephenson's awesome DADGAD / Irish guitar workshop. And the Kwela stuff with Andy Rigby was fun, as always. I learned a lot, did some choir type workshops and came home to do the uke Tuesdays.

Both the LakeMacUkestra and the Ukastle Ukestra are doing quite well and evolving at different paces. I also now have approval from the Fingal Bay Sports Club to try out a Port Stephens Ukestra (Ukestra Port Stephens? Ups?). Heaven's waiting room can have a ukestra as well I reckon. Will try and get PR happening v. soon. The Bay is where I grew up each and every weekend. So it is a vaguely attractive idea to head there once a week and to see if I can bring more uke joy to the lots of retirees who seem to hold the fort up there.

THEN. I bolted off to Melbourne. Saw Kyrie's premiere of her first feature film, a rather B-D grade horror slasher film called El Monstro Del Mar. She is the nice girl, Hannah. As it should be for my daughter. My youngest (Ruby) was also in it, as a school bus extra (which is a rather accurate reflection!).

But the PD continued in Melbourne, seeing some very old friends who are community musician types, talking and playing endlessly about how to bring music to the people. Peda & Ruth in Inverloch are very very inspiring, as are the Strating twins and Lyndal and Strat. Thanks so much to all of them for helping me with resources and thinking and music.

That should do for now. I hope it ain't so long to the next post, and that the next one is more reflective.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Still confused about blogs - #2

Does this save it as the same blog? Or a different one? Damn you to hell Mr Blog - Dispense with caution and forge onwards regardless!!!

Jane & I had a fab weekend, spending it with my brother and sister in law in Sydney. Took Bob for a scuba dive after he hasn't done so for 35 years. Saw a weedy? sea dragon, two massive blue groupers and some lovely canyons and shelves. It was great.

Professional development involved seeing a 'Dragapella' show, which Bob n'Ilse gave us for Christmas. It was great to see a drag show (part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras) that wasn't crap miming and just blokes prancing around in dresses. Rather it was a well choreographed, excellently researched, great politics and a nicely paced show of acapella and very very funny. The Kinsey Sicks performed ( - have a look at "We Arm the World" Great lyrics (parodies of popular songs). I cannot complain if my professional development involves seeing shows like this!

One last thing. Last Tuesday at Teralba an elderly couple sat on the couch for 2 and a half hours listening to the LakeMacUkestra learn and practice. They seemed to revel in it.

I got a call from them on Friday and they said (in rather frail voices - each had a phone to themselves), 'we have bought some ukes and will be along on Tuesday, but we want a lesson first'. I had the temerity to ask how old they are. '84'.

I seem to be doing a good thing!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Must wash trumpet today

Entry #1 - Star Date ..... is this how a blog is supposed to start???

A full on day of book-keeping/tax and then a packed house at Lingard Hospital, with one beautiful harmony voice there and one guy who persisted (and mastered) the uke. About a dozen listeners and singers. Then had a half hour uke student at home...then....Nikki & Mick arrived for the evening's Flying Penguin rehearsal.

This was our 3rd ever rehearsal. 1st was at their house in the bush near Bulahdelah, 2nd up at my Mum's Bay House (Fingal Bay), 3rd at my house in Merewether.

We bolted off to Bar Beach for a photo shoot (we have been asked to play at St Albans Folk Festival in April). Mick, Nikki and I wandered down with an array of instruments and dressed up. There was an immediate buzz - 'where are you playing?!', 'gee you look good!'. etc. etc.

Thanks to friend Lisa for the photos - t'was very fun as always is a fotie shoot, we sang Kiss next to the water and made sure the pink radio and trumpet and double bass didn't get wet by the occasional surge.

That done, we decided to go under the shelter and practice a wee bit. The shelter seemed like the perfect bass amplifier and it sounded wonderful. We could tell because a crowd gathered on the level above and REALLY quite desperately asked where we are playing. 'Got contact details'!

Tadaaaa!!!! I was able to pull out my brand new business cards and distribute. One guy said - 'well do you have one for me? I am looking for bands for the Port Stephens Country Music Festival and you guys would be great!'.

I think all we need to do to start playing is for me to get our PR shit together and get booking!!!! Yay!!!

And how does one end a blog entry? Rodger over and out?