Thursday, October 30, 2014

The post-Newkulele Festival, TALAUG and Ukulele Leadership LetDown

Is this what success looks like? Exhaustion? and dreams of overflowing ukestras in holiday resorts?

This morning's dream was a slight anxiety one, about trying to run a beginner's ukulele session prior to one of my normal weekly regional ukestras (Tomaree Ukestra up at Port Stephens). Except instead of having the expected 2 people show up for the beginner's session, there were about 20 new people, including teenagers who should have been at school at 9am on a Monday morning. What was I going to do with them? As the 9:30 Ukestra start time encroached, this was my concern...

The Ukulele Professional Development Marathon

And then I woke to my first day of not having to rush and do something. I'm still awake with the sun just after 6am, but I don't have to rush off and be a well loved and familiar figure in my own lunch-time at a Festival or swathe of training days. I can sloth, and greet Jane slowly with our normal morning rituals, and then get into the piles of washing and administrative work that await us after a full week of full-on-ness.

The endurance marathon started last Wednesday night. We discovered that our Ukestration Manual was something like 35,000 words and 100 pages, and that it needed a final edit. So off I go (alone) at 8pm to our favourite third place to ensconce myself at a table and read the tome. Start with a double pot of chai (Bengali), quaff for an hour, order dinner, keep editing, a glass of water, eat dinner, keep editing for hours, drink water, drink peppermint tea (with honey and lemon). If I were polite I could have helped the staff (Richard, Tilley, et al.) stack the chairs at midnight, but I hadn't quite finished. At home I finish the last few pages, then start collating the edits onto the computer. Another four hours later I am done. Finally I can say I have 'pulled an all nighter', charged up on Chai Tea and a work ethic that won't let me sleep except for a snippet after 4am.

It wasn't me!

Even genius's practice. Photo: Bob Beale.
Thursday is tired and shambolic shards of work, but the famous person / new friend arrives, and the not so famous (old) friend arrives, both from distant entrepĂ´t. On Friday begins a full-on weekend of Newkulele fun, music, direction, assisting, running, ukeing, and way too much sleep deprivation. It is giant success, but people are constantly praising me for a great festival (it wasn't me, it was a committee), telling me what a wonderful thing I have done (I wasn't on the Committee! It was the Committee!), telling me that it was much better than this or that festival, and what great things I have achieved (IT WASN'T ME!!!!! I LEFT THE COMMITTEE IN FEBRUARY!!!!!).

It was others.
My new shirt. Thanks Mum. Photo: Penny Creighton
It was Christine, it was Jane, it was Martin, Susan, Marie, Pam, Ron, Lindsay, Dianne, Danielle, Kate, Gail, Ralph, and a swathe of volunteers who are so passionate about their community that they have created something very special to celebrate that. But me, the public face, inevitably gets some accolades. Thanks. But can you please stop, and start telling the not-so-public people how good they, and what they have done, is/are?

The weekend ends with an intimate gathering in our very small house, with the world's best ukulele players trading sensitive jamming riffs. That was the best bit. Oh. And maybe the new shirt. And definitely the fact that Robyn – the most deserving raffle winner in history – wins the $1300 Kamaka Ukulele. Such a hoot of quiet respect and delight when the people who know her hear the announcement.
Robyn with her proudly won and richly deserved Kamaka Ukulele

Leadership and Teaching

But this is all a prelude to the real work; the real ground-breaking stuff for us. The ignobly named TALAUG happens on the Monday, where we corral as many willing ukulele leaders and teachers as possible into one room to talk turkey. What are our common experiences, challenges and goals? It's a great day and all too short.

But wait! There is more. At the 2012 TALAUG people said, “but we want to know what YOU do, and how YOU do it”. So ok. Two years later we develop our aspirational goal – a manual. 'Cept it'll be an emanual. (Which, if said in the wrong (mostly male) company, usually draws snide glances).

These are our two days of reckoning – the Ukulele Leadership Training. The launch of a draft of the Ukestration Manual, with some rare hard copies. It's our chance to tell people what we think, and how we do it. And they want us to do this. Indeed, they have paid good money for it. And according to all reports post-ULT, it was good, very good.

Sleep returns

And so, now I can return to normal sleep patterns, and normal ukestras, and contemplate the future that was hidden for so long behind this brick wall of a festival of professional development.

Bring on today. It's 7:15am. I'm going back to sleep.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The woes of the musically literate

(--- Go on. Play this music to accompany your reading. It's the music of birds, of the morning and a girl rehearsing in the adjacent lounge. Just recorded on an phone thingie as I typed, no edits --- )

Sunday morning. Lotsa birds lost somewhere in the Strathbogies. Another great Folk Music Camp.

I write from the verandah of the 'Altos' bunkhouse, looking at the mountain, listening to the birds, and in behind me in the lounge I can hear a tentative voice repeating phrases with a guitar and pausing and resuming and pausing – I reckon she is writing a song at 7:45am – I can almost hear the pencil scrawls. In the accompanying Soundcloud clip you can hear the birds, the typing, brief conversations, the tentative voice.

The Intermediate Turkey Gobblers

And so the uke players trudge up the hill to the workshop.

Yesterday we had about 60 musically literate people show up for our first 1 hour ukulele workshop We did Royals and How to Make Gravy – it was all happening and very successful, even if we had to leave our allocated lounge classroom and be ejected onto the lawn. It is so good to work with people who are already musically literate, who listen and take instruction easily. Though they do become a noisy rabble, and without a PA we resorted to a 'modified shut up! primary school method' which involved gobbling like a turkey. I would do gobble and everyone would have to follow suit. That seemed to work, much like this video (just play a second or two of it - it is much sweeter listening to the accompanying soundcloud of birds, songstress, typing fingers and morning hellos).

Keen ukers gather for the first session. This is only a few of the final participants. I couldn't take photos. I was teaching!
So we completed the first session of turkey gobblers, for intermediate players. Phew! Glad that is over! We've dealt with 60 people out of a total of 300 registered campers (with perhaps another 100 unregistered kids). There are only 4 concurrent workshops at any time, and we feel like that will we be our fair share of punters.

The Beginners

30 minute break and then off to do the 'Beginners Ukulele Workshop'. We should only get 15 people at the most, and surely they've put us in the wrong venue for this? The main Marquee? So we toddle off down the hill to that ... and are aghast. At least another 60! What is it with the ukulele?!

Big mistake. We set up the area without thinking of using the PA which we could have used. It is more personal, but very taxing on the voice – turkey gobbling notwithstanding.
'The Doctor' helps tune ukes. Jane girds her loins for another class.

So. Back to the beginners. The wonderful thing about teaching uke at these camps is that people are already musically literate. Or at least they are here with a desire to learn music. Such an important first step. There is no dragging kicking and screaming here. Just willing voices and fingers.

But it also has its disadvantages. Our one-hour-each-day beginners program is shot to pieces. At home we work with 10-15 people in a two hour beginners' workshop in which we can count on getting through maybe four songs and a whole bunch of techniques. Here we are with 60 people, croaking instructions, and they get through 2 hours of skill development and song learning in 40 minutes. Now what do we do? And more to the point, what do we do tomorrow?

We'll figure it out. It's not like we are strangers to this situation.

And when you have finished reading, and listening to the birds and song, you can play the videos of the final night uke concerts.

Here be the first - How to Make Gravy.

More to come very soon....

Sixish days of music, in-laws and the road - Roses Gap Folk Music Camp 2014

Facebook is a funny non-place to be. 5am at home is a good place to be. Writing and reflecting on our old front verandah, waiting for the guy swinging his budgie smugglers as he walks up the street to the beach, hearing my first koel of the season in the distance, avoiding the avalanche of emails that will drag me screaming back into the 'real world' that is my own doing.

For now I'm just going to reduce the screen brightness, type, and watch the street and its dawn.

I will go back to bed, in an hour or two, when I get a cup of tea for my love. We do not have to rush off anywhere, even though Tuesdays are a traditionally 'big' day. The life of the community musician, afternoons / evenings / and a desktop computer with so many tasks awaiting. That's why I avoid the big computer and use this small one in my lap. Not such easy access to the net, more time to sit with my brain.

The productive, creative and relaxed drive to Forbes

We had a huge weekend, a rather long one. It felt like one of our four week sojourns to the US, travelling and meeting strangers who become fellow travellers, being encased in a dream world for a couple of days, then re-emerging from our temporary cocoon to engage with the daily stresses.

We stop at Beela Rd to honour Jane's dearly departed cat.
Wednesday we left, after a good swim and a visit with Mum. We decided to do the big dogleg to Victoria, via Jane's parents in Forbes. A holy visit of obligation, and a six hour drive that we used well, bright-eyed with full attention on serious personal matters that we addressed with great productivity and creativity. The drive ended with Jane and myself taking turns at strumming a uke, practising harmonies as the trees and the dusk flit by, and the kangaroos stay safely on the verge (mostly).

Aforementioned curtains
We stayed in the same room and with the same bedroom curtains that Jane bought with her own pocket money when she was 16. Had dinner with rellos, walked around Lake Forbes, wandered the streets searching for wisteria to smell, admiring the slow architecture of the place, wondering how to address small and large family matters and difficulties. Life in a small rural Australian town – you remember Karen Smith? You went to school with her. Well she …. etc. etc. …. Life remembered as only parents can.

We played a little music outside the family estate.
The Chinese restaurant that I wouldn't recommend, except it is the only one, and it's the place in which Jane did two months as a dishpig waiting to depart home and school life for the big city university life. The discussions about distant friends, distant relatives and their fates over the last 25 years or so of adulthood, including the history of the ownership of the Chinese restaurant and the fate of their family life. We try to identify small fleeting birds of the Central Western Slopes and Plains, combing the desolate wasteland of lawns of neglect, pick bags of lemons at Harry Brown's farm. We even discuss getting the parents onto the internet and familiar with modern day computers. The last people on Earth who are not connected shall be connected. And it was good. All completed in one frenzied Thursday of indolence. And then on Friday we hop back in the car and drive off down the mighty Newell. And it was good.

The Newell

Beckom Public School kids did a geography 'B' project.
Facebook on the smartphone and iPad was well present in Forbes. So were other writings and the occasional email. Facebook and driving from Forbes to Benalla was also good. Sharing little insights of the distant rangelands along the Newell, or the more remote places on the road to Urana. Even there the lesser telephone network had its tentacles working. The relative thrivingness and welcomingness of West Wyalong. The tumbleweedness of Urana. The cuteness of a nondescript highway toilet stop decorated with geographical panache by the local school children. The preponderance of Caution! Emu! signs, and the absence of emus. The continual thrum of the tyres on the macadam at a 110km an hour that remind you that you are not actually flying, even though it feels like you are and you may as well be.
Thom, Dick and Harry's - West Wyalong. Coffee mug purchase

A wee stop and a brief enjoyment of the new Corowa Civic Centre overhanging the Murray floodlands, and then we drive into Victoria, into a deep wooded valley of the Strathbogies and enter the zone. No Facebook. No internet. Just music and damn fine people.

Roses Gap

Roses Gap Music Camp is a scion of Turramurra Folk Music Camp – the child that left home and became even bigger than the original. For a while there it seemed like Roses Gap was going to be made homeless by the bushfires that damaged the Grampians nestled Roses Gap centre that gave it its name. 

But this musical community and committee is strong and vibrant and the geographical dislocation proves a mere hiccough, and the whole camp is able to vault across the state to the Strathbogies. This new home at Charnwood seems more than appropriate to our needs, with the main challenge being what to call it? Rosewood seems to be the interim name of choice. 

And there obviously was a need for a bigger venue than the Charnwood dining hall can provide. A Port Fairy worthy marquee dominates the valley floor, betraying this little festival's potential aspirations to be like its large Folk Festival cousins. But it never will be, and never wants to be. 3-400 people is just right.

I've written at length about Turramurra Folk Music Camp – the original one that gave rise to this spillover. This feels much the same, though with many different people. Perhaps there are more families here? More kids? Though maybe not.

The lawn next to the Marquee
The format remains the same. Dinner then a Friday night concert to showcase the tutors (which includes us) and then a relatively early to bed. The catered food is good with plenty of vego and small serves that leaves one hankering for more salt and fat. I suppose that's a good thing. As tutors we are given two booklets of 'food money', but we top those payments up with a song each day in the kitchen for Deb and her other wonderful cooks.

Workshops all day Saturday and Sunday. The program is a relatively small one … it's easier to refer you to the website and copy and paste the dot points.
  • Art with Julian Chappel
  • Contra Dance with Maggie Duncan
  • Ensemble with Lyndal Chambers & Brian Strating
  • Federation Bells with Ariel Valent
  • Beginners and Intermediate Fiddle with  Hugh Gordon
  • Beginners and Intermediate Guitar with Jem Dunlop
  • Singing with Jane Thompson
  • Keyboard with Janet Gordon
  • Hula Hoop Dance for everyone with Donna Sparx
  • Beginners and Intermediate Tin Whistle with Pat Lyons
  • Beginners and Intermediate Ukulele with Mark Jackson and Jane Jelbart
  • Wildflower Walks with Elvyne Hogan
  • Morning Yoga with Wendy Ashton
  • Youth Band with Matt Sheers
Lanterns at night with iPhone = poor photo
It's rich and small - we partake in other morsels including yoga, singing, guitar, lantern-making, youth band and ensemble.  Talking, yabbering, networking, learning through conversations, drinking cups of tea. These too are important to being here. Alcohol is not dominant, but a mere accompaniment to a meal (perhaps).

Saturday night is always the dance, and Sunday night is the concert featuring the products of all the workshops. Sunday night begins with a rather ritualistic parade replete with a 50 ish piece marching band, lanterns, Federation Bells and solemn moments.

For me, the Sunday night concert is renowned for three distinct things. One is its length, where parents of small children must keep them awake or submit to their tiredness. Some kids inevitably miss out. Sometimes I miss out and head to bed at an unreasonably early hour like 11:30pm.

The whistle workshop invades the stage.
The second ever-present Sunday night motif is the self perpetuating funky brass band limbo competition. Daniel with his impossible limbs didn't win this year.

The third is the wonderful youthful performance surprises that turn up constantly Most of it is captivating and sheer delight. In another world this might be called a family camp, or a youth music camp. But in this world there is no distinction made between what has gone before and what is forthcoming. The old and the new, the generational pull and progression, all of it naturally slides into the other. Music is for all generations; feeds, creates and reflects each generation; everyone finds their space and does their thing, together and apart, and always, it seems, with a respect for the other - one for its mentoring and musical wisdom, the other for its apparent dedication for musical excellence and for their sense of responsibility that they are the ones travelling the tradition forward.

We wrangle and wrangle and manage to wangle and mangle four performance songs for our 120+ ukulele students. What amazes me is everyone's immense musical literacy. Even the beginners are swiftly taught. Where we would teach a beginners workshop to 10-15 people over two hours, here we only have an hour to teach 60-70 people. We achieved what we normally achieve in about 40 minutes. But I write about that more in the next blog.
Virtuosic classical guitar munchkins. Sunday night.
In the video of How to Make Gravy, particularly watch the elfin Georgina (she's the one in the guitar trio piccie, on the right) who is all over it, and focussed on the most complex riffs – and she is 9. Her classical guitar training stands her in good stead.
There are myriad stories to tell, and so many people showcase wonderful stuff. But you can't just write about it. You have to immerse yourself and be there.

And then you leave. As always, its a wrench.

The freeways of our lives

We wend our way on the dirt out of this rich musical, social and bushland ecosystem. After a few kilometres we join the freeway. We call this civilisation, the freeways that circumscribe our 'normal' lives.

And we do the most stupid thing in Albury - we go to a shopping centre. It is indescribably awful. Culturally demoralising. Reality.

The 10 hour drive back home is like a zombie journey, fraught with bickering and whinging. No creativity, no productivity, no conversations. Not a skerrick of Facebook is indulged, even though for two and a half days I have been deprived. It is the legacy of a general lack of sleep. Or is it the shock of reality?
Maybe it is grief?
We fall asleep.
And awake back home. 

5am is a good place to be.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How to read the Lark Camp 2014 blog posts from Mark Jackson (Australian Interloper)

My apologies. But these were written in chronological order, each day, at different times. Then all posted when I got online. If you want to develop a sense of what we experienced then you are best off reading the blog chronologically too. Starting with Day One!

Here is a useful contents for it if you like.

Day One - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs – Adapted - (Lark Camp Post 1)

Day Two - Whale Oil Beef Hooked. Lark Camp Day 2

Day Three - Lark Camp 2014 - Day Three – Muscle Memory

Day Four - Day Four Lark Camp 2014 – An early start and wet pocket syndrome

Day Five - Lark 2014 - Day Five - Where are all the young people?

Day Six -  Lark Camp Day 6 - We leave the Camp for the Mendocino Ukestration Workshop

Day Seven - Lark Day 7 - Friday morning - 8am. It's basically over.

Day Seven.1 - They call it Lark Camp, not Sleep Camp - Day 7 - late....

Oh. But wait. There's a contents set of links at the side ----> just over there --->>> see?

They call it Lark Camp, not Sleep Camp - Day 7 - late....

They call it Lark Camp, not Sleep Camp – if you whinge about being up too early, this is what the wise old jazz men from the morning group will quip. A day after leaving permanently, I now know what they mean. The level of fatigue is somewhat like jet lag. Lark Lag maybe. All week it was up for breakfast in the mess, then first workshops begin at 9:30am. But this is after dancing until well after midnight, then listening to some perfect music by the campfire. It's hell. I can't begin to imagine what being a soldier at war must be like.

Friday night we felt like we conquered Camp One. But we didn't really. We made a raid and survived. Almost like they didn't notice us. Except the Lord of the Camp – Mickey Zekley. He saw first hand what we can do and seemed to suitably approve. Put it this way. He didn't use the big ceremonial wooden hook which he was bearing.
Camp Director, Mickey Zekley sitting with his hook.

The ukestra opened Karen's Variety Concert (will put that youtube up soon) and then Jane and I were privileged to close the show. We have a standard closer song, which is Nick Cave's Into My Arms. As usual we forgot to record it (if anyone does have a recording it would be appreciated!). It is suitably lyrically challenging for the God Fearing United States of America - starting as it does with I don't believe in an interventionist God. But quickly redeems itself and becomes endearing.

The Lark Camp Ukestra went really well, and we added some suitable cheese with the heavy artillery of the brass band joining us for the last verse of Sunshine of Your Love. So lovely it were.

Karen introduced Jane and I using our application submission for the performance. The application asked “why do you think you would be good in this concert”. I answered “because Americans think us Aussies are cute, like chipmunks”. So she used that quote to introduce us. Needless to say people started doing chipmunk moves, and when we started talking one audience member interjected “awwww, they're so cute!”.

I also stepped into the breech of inter-camp rivalry - one more comment please - Camp Two rocks!. The suitably Camp Two stacked audience roared in approval (I think).

Into My Arms is a great song for a listening and participatory audience. There was a PA but we stepped in front of it, didn't use it, and went completely acoustic. Always the preferred option. The whole room sang (100? 150? people) in full harmony. That always sends chills up my proverbial. Such an incredible way to finish our time here.

Finally I need to make a comment on the whole cuteness issue. I get it now. We heard around camp that there was another Aussie, so after our performance I chased her down. Myf was working in the kitchen and came out when she heard her name called out in an Australian accent. We had a good chat (turns out she is an ethnomusicologist from Brisbane) but it was so giggle and smile-inducing for me to hear another Australian (I cannot hear my own accent, or Jane's).

I found her accent sooooo cute.  Like a chipmunk.

Lark Day 7 - Friday morning - 8am. It's basically over.

Click this link to hear the accompanying melancholy Lark Camp piano music that I listened to as I wrote this one. 

It's ridiculously and deliciously ironic. I come to hide in a breakfast corner, to eat my last words and breakfast. The computer is on, facing away from everyone. I want to be by myself and write, document. Just as I sit down with a plate of fruit and indescribable leftover concoctions, a man sits at the piano and starts playing melancholy. How strange. How wonderful. How sad. Another opportunity to cry at the imminent end of this camp is easily at hand.

There is a quiet frenzy of sad desperation in the air. The end has snuck up on us. The end is nigh. It is Friday, but if you stay tonight, you MUST be out by 8:30 Saturday morning. We plan to leave after Friday night performances in Camp One, and head on down to Mary Jane n Jovan's in Mendocino to a shower and soft bed.


Two people epitomise something about this camp for me. What that opityme is, I'm not sure. They are just two people. We got home last night on the esteemed 12:45am garbage truck. The fire back at home is still there, the cafe is reluctantly open. We scoff. And we aren't even stoned. Drugs n alcohol don't seem to be a real big part of this camp. Not that we've seen any anyhow. And we are this is in California where medical marijuana laws allows nearly anyone to have a diagnosis that gets you a script so you can grow your own.

Tea and scones purchased, we sit by the fire. It is a trap. After the huge swing party, it is the firetrap that sucks the final bits of life from us. Heath is one of those opityme people. Which is not to say, take pity on him. But opityme who will miss this place and the experience. I will rue the day I drive out of the forest and back into reality, in a country far far away.


Heath is a quiet Virginian, clawhammer banjo player. And teacher. But almost everyone here is a teacher. Jane has had a reserved affection for him since she started taking banjo classes with him six days ago. Heath is sitting by the fire, with three others. They are in a very close huddle, giving the strong message that this is not a welcoming jam. This is a sensitive love affair between two guitarists, a vocalist and fiddle player. The beauty and tenderness of their 1am musical ministrations is indescribable, which must be why I am writing. So much of this camp cannot be photographed or videoed, though tens of iThings desperately try. My word pictures are an endeavour to capture something richer (for me) than digital visuals.

Heath, Carlo, female guitarist / vocalist and female fiddle are singing the very essence of old timey Americana. Fine fine harmonies, tooo beautiful. Texas, lost love, flowers. I stand, with my backpack, for a while, trying to will myself to leave to go to bed. But then my bum is glued back to the seat next to Jane and for that moment it becomes the most beautiful music, most beautiful singing I have EVER heard.

I saw Heath earlier in the night, at dinner time, cajoling people to play with him quietly around the empty Camp Two campfire. Most (including us) decamp to Camp One for the Swing Dance. It looks like he has had maybe 6 hours of success. This is clearly a fin de siecle frenzy. The end is coming. I will play until I die. That is what it feels like. That is one person's act expressing their sadness the end is nigh.A fury of quiet intent playing to last for another year.


The second is Karen – the pain in the ass ukulele student whose character is all that more understandable when you realise she is one of those neurotic Woody Allen New York Jewish types. Karen has turned out to be our greatest ally here. She knows we are newbies, she likes us, she is an experienced hand at this. A very useful pain in the ass. (ass, not arse). She fusses, conniving to include us in the last night Variety concert over which she lords. The ukestra is performing two songs, and it sounds as though Jane and I will close it. Again, it will be at Camp One, which is nowhere near as good as Camp Two. But I would say that. I am an undeviably confirmed Camp Two aficionado.

Karen is so straight up and down she hasn't worn a dress in ten years. Until tonight. Amidst the myriad other swing-ready cocktail dresses, she possesses the microphone, frocked up in front of her own swing band, and a swinging audience. For just one song. There are fourteen vocalists – some novices - all taking it one song at a time, including Jane and myself. We, like Karen, acquit ourselves admirably. The scratch band sort of intelligently makes it up as they go along.

The variety concert goes an hour and fifteen over time so the big band starts really late at 11:45 or somesuch. You've got to be kidding. The trumpet works on my lips, but my eyes don't work so well on the music reading. I can do the bwa da, bwa da bits, but not so well the dibbideedipdadowwhaaadevudabadip bits. But it is fun, and my pocket is suitably wet (see previous posts).

Karen's frenzy is to organise and do as much as possible before they close the road at 9am on Saturday morning. Heath's frenzy was to put off sleeping for the sake of good music until the very very end. Though I cannot see him this morning.

Jane didn't leave the campfire. I went to bed by myself. She came in another hour or two later. I think it was 4am. (Means more early morning writing time for me). She stayed, recording the beautiful Americana songs and the tight harmonies of the intimate foursome, then threesome, then twosome, then one lonesome, as the bed takes its toll.

On being a respectful jammer

Jane also tells a rather apocryphal tale, a salient lesson in being senstiive to the dynamics of a public 'jam'. Their's was not a public jam, but one rather annoying (I can confirm that feeling from several independent sources, but, as Tim Minchin apparently quipped – if anecdotal evidence was any good, it'd just be called evidence)...I digress....where was I? Oh yeah....the salient point. This one person comes in, with their guitar and insistent voice, desperate to make the intimate circle into a more open jam (wrong! Don't do that!). The intimates gently (and perhaps not so subtly) deny her the room to ruin their feel. The interloper sings her song, then realises the error of her ways and either desists, or leaves. I can't recall, and it isn't important.

What is important is to 'read' jams or sessions, your potential to join, how your abilities and sensibilities match with those already around the fire. That is a learned skill, and an important one.

2nd last dinner, the Marimba band perform
So. Jane has gotten up now. In 24 hours everyone has to be gone. But apparently many cannot stand the thought of being the last one to leave, so many will leave today. We will leave after our final ukestra performance tonight. It will be sad, but we will have a soft bed and good friends in Mendocino. Will we then return? Who knows? Let's talk about that Jane, when we get home. After our f&*%$ing 18 hour flight, via Auckland. Then the 3 hour trip up past Mullet Creek.

Lark Camp Day 6 - We leave the Camp for the Mendocino Ukestration Workshop

Our performance in the dinner line on Tuesday night (Day 4/5?) attracted some new people to today's workshop. They were impressed by our energy and what we do. After that we went into town to prepare for our Mendocino ukestration workshop. 2012 – 7 people. 2013 – 14 people. 2014 – 21 people. Not that that is a pattern or anything. Let's not get too excited.

One person at the Mendocino workshop asked a really critical question. How do we get to keep doing this? Such questions belong with a whole swag of similar queries and comments from people exposed to the prevailing 'ukulele culture'.

We aren't able to improve! We can't learn new stuff! We just sing a song and move onto the next one.

There are lots of people we are meeting at Lark Camp who - as ukulele players - are aspiring musicians. They are not satisfied by the prevailing strum n hum culture of the new ukulele movement.

My answer to the question How do we keep doing this stuff was simple.

Pay someone.

To my mind this achieves two things.

Firstly, it potentially provides a sustainable incentive for someone to harvest, arrange and teach new songs (and hence techniques and music theory), to organise and create opportunities for learning and performance.

Second, when you hand your money to someone you are saying – here, take my fifteen bucks, and you now have the responsibility to organise, teach, and handle the group and personal politics that inevitably arises. This buck is stopping with you!

So we live in hope that someone in the 20 or so Mendocino Coast souls takes up this challenge and thinks about running groups in such a way. It would / should complement the slew of volunteer groups that already exist in the area.

I feel a disturbance in The Force

But going ten miles to Mendocino was a challenge in some way. It made me think of Obi Wan Kenobi, when the Death Star destroyed Princess Leia's planet.

I'm not sure what it is, but I felt a great disturbance in The Force …

Well, I did. I felt a disturbance in my own force, my own equanimity. We got connected back to the internet. To an unwell mother, to daughters who miss their father, to business issues, to payruns, to how much money is in the bank back home, to abandoned Thai-Australian surrogate babies with child molester parents on the news, to the remnants of MH17. But we also had to re-orient ourselves back to a new set of relationships – even if only for one night.

How quickly we have become accustomed to a new set of relationships in the forest. These are now my daily community in my new life environment. The people who serve the food, who have specific musical specialties, the same haircut (is that Leo? Bill? or Radim?), the lady with the pretty (fake) hair braid who gives me the tickets for lunch (Bonnie), the San Rafael woman who I flung around on the dance floor the other night (Janene from Santa Rosa), the diurnal rhythm of the sun through the timbers (of the forest or the cracks in the cabin), the hot chocolate (chocolat caliente as the girls ask me to say in my cute accent), the rudimentary camp bed and dirty sheets, the dirty clothes in one corner, the clean still in the bag. How quickly we become comfortable, and uncomfortable with a subtle change ten miles down the road.

But always through this I have another planet with whom I revolve. It is so reassuring. Jane and her ways. And an accent that I cannot hear.

Tomorrow is our last day. It will be a big one. And in an hour or three I perform for the first time in my life with a Jazz Swing Big Band on the trumpet. Wish you could be here Mum. You'd be proud of my rather appalling music reading abilities and occasionally ok trumpet playing. You could keep company with Carol, who is 78, from Atlanta Georgia. She seems quite straight compared to all the recalcitrant 1960s hippies and draft dodgers. Yet Carol has embraced singing, marimba and all manner of other workshops. And stood on benches around the edge of the dance floor. And you could also then take the due credit for the cascade of compliments for all my lovely sweaters.
Her last swim. The footbridge just below our cabin

Lark 2014 - Day Five - Where are all the young people?

You don't mess with US Border Security services. Such a contrast to the Hanoi airport security guard who joked about me having a gun in my ukulele case. He smiled at me, laughed, said 'joke!', and waved me through. At the US Customs entry you don't make such jokes. Any jokes. Or banter of any kind. You don't even dare crack a smile. Just be straight up and down and hopefully keep walking.

Its sorta similar with me mouthing off at gigs – I often tread a fine line with what quips comes out of my mouth when I perform (or host a performance). Our debut Lark Camp Ukestra performance (to the dinner queue passing through the hall into the kitchen) went off a treat. The dubious hundreds who stayed away from the twice-daily Ukestra workshops were instant converts.

“You did that with the ukulele? You got everyone playing parts??!!! You mean you disciplined people? That sounded fantastic!! You guys have such a great time!”.

And the master musician / mentor ukulele teacher here at Lark, he came up after and very solemnly shook my hand saying what a fantastic job we had done – I think it was Mum's colourful woollen Fair Isle vest and Jane's beautiful dress, big hair and our very large quantities of happiness that helped give a good show too. Catch My Disease, My Girl, and Way Down in the Hole – all resulted in hoots of approval from the audience. The last one in particular, with big American (hungry) hoots of “Yeah!”, Bring it on!”. And the solos, introduced by yours truly, dubiously; and deferring to geography (as is appropriate).

I have worked with Skip a little, in the big band, a fellow surfer (crazy Mendocino kind of surfer – water temp is never above 14deg C), a kindred 64 year old spirit who looks 49. Ladies and gentlemen! Give it up for Mr Skip Stand Up Paddle Boarder from Mendocino County!. And then it was Julie's solo – a better uke player – except I don't know her last name either, or even worse, her geography.... uh oh … here goes mouthing off improvisation. Ladies and Gentlemen! Give it up for Julie! An American! God Bless America! - I'm just glad a bunch of straighter people weren't there, or US Border control. I think it worked. Sitting around the campfire later a passing stranger whispers to me - God Bless America.

My 6:30am start yesterday finished with a campfire performance by myself to about 3-4 people – maybe 3-4 songs in 45 minutes, in between chats. My standard folk song – Gloria Gaynor's I will survive rocked the house, with Jim, proud new owner of a Low C charango joining in with soulful backing vocals. It went off, probably much to the morning chagrin of the seven closely parked RV's.

The Ignoramus

The campfire conversations also included respectful discussions about Rolf Harris (yes, they do know about our tortured Australian childhood souls), and succession planning at such Folk Camps. I asked where are the young people?

My ignorant question was answered at midnight, and in the kitchen. Us oldies are there in the kitchen, plates at the ready to be dished up our slops. Behind the counter, slaving in the kitchen are a bunch of young people – working for their ticket entry. Then at midnight the bus disgorges all the pretty young people, (they say they mostly reside in Camp One). They are ready to party and are here in spades. On our wander home to bed at midnight we pass a erstwhilely abandoned marqueed dance floor. Seems barely used in the daytime, albeit for an occasional practising piper. But why the very long electrical cable connecting it to mains power? Ahhhh!!!! now, at midnight, it is heaving with dancing to contemporary songs played by traditional instruments played by young people. Here they are! They are vampires! Only appear late late at night, or in the kitchen!

Questionus Ingnoramus Answerus.

Everywhere there are dumped instruments. Looking abandoned, they litter strategic corners, far away from their sleeping owners. Some are probably really valuable. Who knows. When you return to your own strategic corner – your instrument is there. No doubts at all.

There is a lost property box. I had a peep for my water bottle (eventually found in my trumpet case). In there I found Jane's Shower Gel that I had left in the shower, with about a centimetre of juice in the bottom. No finders keepers culture here. Just a downright honest and loving culture. My God this place, this culture, this week. It is amazing and wonderful and I will miss it in a few days when we leave.

Day Four Lark Camp 2014 – An early start and wet pocket syndrome

Dust is a feature of Lark Camp - Camp Two at dawn.
I am up at dawn. Let's see what is going on at this hour. The volunteers are cleaning the tables. Creating dust storms with brooms, but no-one has lit the fire yet.

I thought I'd crawl out of bed early to see how it feels. Wandered down to main camp, and hope no-one disturbs my writing. All the other early people (two I can count) are taking advantage of the return of daylight to read … books. And to have their first coffee.

Now (obviously) I am writing. But before I was practising and arranging St. Thomas. In the distance, at the coffee house, a loudish guy (a great drummer who always wears a tall hat), is telling jokes about Betty's Bitter Butter. I didn't hang around to hear how it ends, or even progresses.

So now I write, we are behind in the manual, but the affirmations are flowing thick and fast. Like the quote we got yesterday (see Day Three post). I don't feel like visiting the manual, but I may try. But I do have just one observation in relation to that writing task.

Jane has observed that I haven't been 'ukestrating'. Documenting what we do is taking a lot of energy and focus, so arranging for ukulele is down the priority list.

So this morning I sit on a song that I heard last night. I first heard it from a bass player in Bendigo 15 or so years ago. St. Thomas. A simple modern jazz tune. Yeah. That can work. What teaching principles can I pull out of it? Is it an engaging tune? Can we write simple sensitive accompaniment parts that still teach beginner uke players something? Can we provide a challenge for more advanced players? Bob the Builder can we fix, I think we can. But I need a little help from the internet. The Internet!!!!! I WANT THE INTERNET!

...not really. I am coping well. In reality, engaging with this computer is really difficult when every day and night is consumed with engaging with music and people.

Mum, you'd be proud. 

I've been playing heaps of trumpet. Wonderfully generous people here. Mardi from Grass Valley responded to my request on Facebook and pulled a long lost trumpet from her cupboard, took it to a fixer shop, got it serviced and has loaned it to me for the duration. It has had good use. But that means I am now caught up in the 9:30am obligation to play Glen Miller tunes. 'Play' is only one part. I have to 'read' music. That is a challenge, and I am not really up for the task or the commitment. But again, the affirmations and praise flow thick and fast. This time not because of ability, but because the band is desperately short of trumpet players. The competition for 'students' is pretty fierce. I could be at a uke workshop instead. But it is lovely to be reacquainted with my first parentally imposed musical obligation.

All the praise for my trumpet playing. I know it is primarily because they want me – Second Trumpet – to hang around. I warn some of my praising brass colleagues about wetting my pocket too much. I have to explain the lovely Australian metaphor, and tell them not to 'piss in my pocket' too much. Their praise is somewhere between praise, and fear that I will not return. So far so good though. I am hanging around.

I might leave this blog now and go visit the manual. Or maybe the fire (now started) is calling me. I think it's the fire. And the guitar. It's 7:12am.
The main action at Camp Two is in this area. The (small) RVs are circled in an defending action against the outside world.

Lark Camp 2014 - Day Three – Muscle Memory

Dancing in the dining room at Camp Two - Lark Camp 2014

Jane and Janene (from Santa Rosa), Camp One - the last night
3 nights of dancing. I think. Is it Monday? The lunch menu board says so, so I believe it is. Which makes it four nights of dancing, but three whole days. I can't keep up with Jane, who wants to keep dancing – tonight it is Cajun / Zydeco. Tomorrow's theme is Balkan, the next Swing or Contra or....

I remember Warren Coleman saying backstage at a Castanet gig in the early 80s that he loved America because if there was any minor craze somewhere in the world, then in America it was a whole big movement. That's what it is here. They've got the density and diversity thing going on big time. A different style of dance each night. If you move between tables or tents or fires then there is bound to be some different cultural form being expressed, with a whole bunch of people doing it. And this is just Camp Two. Camp One is apparently bigger – we still haven't strayed from Camp Two. There is plenny diversity here, without introducing too much Irishie Celticie streams to make matters even worse.

Around the fire I was joining the Mexican trumpet player doing Mexicanie sorta stuff, lead by a female accordion player. I have never seen so many hurdy gurdies, or guitarrons, or, or.... then back inside for some more Cajun dancing. I get told and bossed around by various women, including Jane. This is how you dance – not like that.... Cajun seems to really use my calves more - they hurt.

Workshop Area 1 - our teaching home for 7 days
The trudge home from dance, in the dark, is now more familiar. Muscle memory is kicking in. Dodge that overhanging limb – turn left at the giant sequoia tree stump – swing past someone's cabin – up the hill to the loo. Down the hill, I'm home, with minimal or no lighting.

We keep teaching people about muscle memory, for fingers on frets. We assure them that, if they practice and play then the muscle memory will soon take over.Thank God for auto-walking and auto-fretting.

We're on a mission from the Blues Brothers

People are really loving what we do, and today I think we snagged the quote of the trip...

I thought ukulele was boring til I met you guys.

And that's the point exactly. Too often we are hearing stories of newly minted, musically curious ukulele players feeling that hum n strum on the uke is the only form of music on offer. Many of them then leave disenchanted because they feel there is nothing more to it.

Our Ukestration webpage sets out some of our mission - to allow people to be simple on the uke whilst continuing to learn; to introduce them to musicality, initially through their nostalgic curiosity; and to enable audiences to hear the ukulele as more than just hum n strum.

The cultural difference between this folk camp and uke festivals and camps to which we have been is enormous. Utterly enormous. So many ukers have an exciting journey ahead of them - engaging with and learning about musicality. But to achieve that one needs leaders who are musically literate and curious. Music is about so much more than nostalgic reproductions of songs. Yes the uke is introducing thousands upon thousands of new people into a life of making music and is creating new communities. But experienced leaders and musicians need to help those inexperienced musicians to know that we need a diverse set of skills so that music can help us celebrate life and help us personally mark its joyous and sad passages.

This is our mission, our mountain. That should keep us amused for a while. It's good to have a mission. And it is places and events like Lark Camp that help keep that mission focussed.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Whale Oil Beef Hooked. Lark Camp Day 2.

Day Two – Sunday.  No weather information, no communication with the outside world. Electricity only in limited places. Toilets are clean, food is reasonable. Someone else cooks it. I front up and am happy.

But tonight I am ill, ever so slightly. Means bed by ten. The walk home is dark. The useless relic of my city life – the iPhone with no reception – serves as a reasonable torch.

Words like that – torch – cause some laughter – it's 'flashlight'. But not as much consternation as my name. Hi Mike! Pleased to meet you. Or jokes about the 'cute aussie accent'.

Whale Oil Beef Hooked.

Thanks for that.

So I'm home alone. I hear a rare sound across the creek – an electronically produced noise. It's a transistor radio of some sort, playing … I mean ... replicating a sound. Voices, singing.

It is a rare sound because it is not being produced live.

Everything happening here is live. Not virtual, though I did briefly see one kid today with a gameboy (or somesuch).

All the music, all the conversations, all the learning. It is all happening face-to-real-face. I leave to go home (sick) and cannot pass up the chance to play with two of the most incredible improvising musicians here at camp. Both of them are Czech-American virtuosos – Radim and Leo - respectively - jazz mandolin and melodica. I trot back to get my trumpet and join in. I can join in, on the instrument and in spirit – I am welcomed. It is wonderful creative stuff – I help them turn Santana's 'Europa' into disco hit “I will survive” vocally, and then its back to Europa. And there is another song, that sounds like Piazola's 'Libertango'. It's all fabulous.

Life here at Lark – will I survive seven whole days?

The sun ...

I miss the sun. It does eventually penetrate through the perpetual sea fog, which doesn't quite rule this far inland, but still has an effect. It is mainly the trees that block the sun. We sunbathe in bed, between 3:30 and 3:55, the light streaming along the opening in the canopy caused by the creek. And then it is gone again, for perhaps another 24 ish hours.  The only time it really shines down is when it can shine straight down, between the giant sequoia trunks.

I now understand the comment by the previous Mendocino Woodlands caretaker who lived here for ten years, but then had to leave. It was just too dark. She now lives on a treeless ridge top with 360 deg views. I can understand that. I get that.

We are looking forward to home. But are learning and enjoying so much.

God Bless America. Well at least this tiny little bit.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs – Adapted - (Lark Camp Post 1)

Stardate – August 2nd, 2014. Now entering the second full day of life without the internet. But forge onwards I must. Everyone else has succumbed, consumed by the cavernous maw of community music. Everyone is interacting with each other, learning, copying, playing, joking, laughing, struggling. There is no hope. I'm not sure that I can last – another full six days to go before I again will have access to life's basic sustenance – a wireless internet connection. If you don't get a Facebook posting from me by 10 August, please send in the ghost of Steve Jobs, for I will have been eaten up by the non-virtual.

As an anthropological piece, and as some form of Internet Replacement Therapy, I shall type on this computer, smuggled through border security.

It's a Lark

I am trapped deep in hills and valleys, somewhere behind Mendocino, Northern California. California, ironically birthplace of the internet and all things I. Here in the giant sequoia forests there is no I. There is us. There is music. There is no internet. No Facebook. Just Faces, bodies, instruments, music.

Lark Camp shows no mercy for those virtually committed. No respect whatsoever. They have blatantly ripped off the graphical work of Jurassic Park, and made stickers and t-shirts to create Jurassic Lark. Here be hobbits and Morris Dancers, swaddled in music, from communities around the globe.

Camp One

I'm not sure I'll venture there. I believe much alcohol is consumed therein, with Irish sessions 24/7 (literally 7. This is a 7 (seven! SEVEN!!!!) day camp). Legend has it that a tunnel / time port exists there (perhaps only for the ale lines), directly through to the Temple Bar district of Dublin. As a mere tippler I fear I do not have the fortitude to enter this land of beer, Celts, and many headaches.

Camp Three

Somewhere lost betwixt One and Two (strange I know, but that's how it is). They have no dining room or hall, only a reverentially whispered cafe, which cooks mystical pastries and sweets, and ferries said contraband to Lands One and Two. I hear they play mostly Balkan.

Balkan, Eastern, 9/8 time signatures. Erghhhh....dare I enter that strange non 4/4 world?

Camp Two

We are here. Cabin 32. Our Cajun tutor flatmate ordered a transfer out as soon as we arrived. We have the cabin to ourselves. A refuge from the constant sounds and learnings of the main camp area.

Guitarron. Amazing. I want one.
Camp Two has Aloha Ville. The JF Center (note American spelling for a brief moment). A fire. Tents. Cabins. Toilets (sorry, my bad... Bathrooms) on the hills. Communal showers. Even hours for men. Odd hours for women. After ten is a shower free for all. No sex. Delineation. Contra dancing. Mexican bands. A giant guitarron (beautiful!). Exactly roughly executed Mexican trumpet. Massages. A jazz standards tent. Ukulele everywhere.

The smokers
And the strangest strangest thing. Galician pipes, who play in the gulch, so they and only they, are permitted to smoke whilst playing, for one hour, each afternoon, permitted to assault us with their smoke belching excuses for bagpipes. From the Gulch no less. In Australia we'd call it the dry creek bed. But this is California. It's the Gulch.

Our home for 7 days and nights

The bed

The sleeper

The dark at night is ink. But that is the only way home.

It's 4pm. Time for a shower. I'm not going after ten.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A brief word – daughters, Walter Mitty – oooh!!!! look!!!

I dropped daughters numbers one (Shona) and two (Blase) at the airport early the other morning. Really early. Tired early.

I watched a movie the other night. I rarely watch movies. it was Hollywood Ben Schtiller schlock – about a guy who 'zones out' and goes into crazy fugues and fantasies. Eventually (over many months) he comes around to his senses, achieves 'something important' and (presumably) gets the girl.

Apparently I do that (zone out. I already got the girl), or so my girls tell me.

“Dad! Shona is talking to you!”.

Oh yeah. But the car needs to be parked here at the airport, and the woman in the car in front is dicking around, and I'm blocking traffic, and Shona is telling me a story, and …. and …. there's a favourite song in my head. So I start singing it, apparently whilst trying to achieve the parking and the talking.

It was a bit of a wakeup call to me - to be more present; not to zone out inappropriately; not to be inappropriate.

Which reminds me. When I am playing music and teaching uke in the hospitals, people are down, or up, or up set. Generally just not mentally well. Perhaps they are all Schtiller's character - Walter Mitty?

But when they play uke, or sing, or listen to someone else singing beautifully. Then they zone in. And often exclaim – “that's the best I've felt all day!”.

We are on the train to Waikiki, via Sydney. It's a long way. Jane is meditating in the seat beside me.

Oooohhhh!!! Look!!! A squirrel!!!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

An Open Letter to Pam and Charlie

I dunno if it is funny or sad. But here I am, up at 6am, trying to find warmth and electricity and somewhere to write. You can't do that in a tent that is fractured by frost.

I can feel inadequate on so many levels at the National Folk Festival here in Canberra. I don't drink anywhere near enough. I don't have the stamina to stay up late. I get to bed before 11pm, get up at 5, and am here in the Session Bar, ready to write, when I should have been up all night, playing and drinking.
 Session Bar - 5:30am, Good Friday 2014
It's Easter Monday and the remnants are still still here. The sun is tinging the sky but they are craicing on. They do eventually wander off to bed (I presume), ignoring what must be an awful impending reality of significant headaches.

A mere shadow of a musician

Of all the shameful inadequacies I display at the Nash, my association with the uke seems the one that condemns me the most amongst my folkie peers. I am able to redeem myself occasionally, a bit of pathetic trumpet, or a traditional song on the guitar. But when acquaintances of musical stature introduce me to their enormously talented friends, there is a vague condescension, a whiff of inferiority, maybe a taint of disreputable musicianship about my UCV (ukulele curriculum vitae).

From the personal to the political

I am sure my personal feelings reflect what is happening with the ukulele community. It's great to see the Ukulele Republic of Canberra (UROC) integrated into the program at the Nash, even though their allocated presence is kept to 8:30 to the 10. Not pm. But am. That's in the morning. Unheard of for REAL musicians.

But it suits all the uke-toting retirees who keep reasonable hours, bed at 9:30pm, up at 7:00am. Showered, breakfasted and reading chords from the projector screen and playing their baby boomer repertoire with so much joy and satisfaction by 8:30.

UROC leading the uke-jam 2014 National Folk Festival

As great as the offering is, I feel uncomfortable about the folk-uke union at the Nash. I feel it in my own inadequacies, but I am sure that my antennae for making broader observations are well tuned. These personal and general observations speak to me of a quandary.

How do we harness this amazing revival in music-making that the ukulele has wrought?

Is there some bridge that needs to be crossed?

What sort of overtures and work needs to happen from and between both the experienced musicians and organisers of the folk movement, and the nascent musicians and organisers of the ukulele movement?

What UROC and the National Folk Festival have come up with is great, and it is clearly catering for a demand from the new musicians of the ukulele world. But much more needs to happen, which I suspect comes down to leadership, education and tolerance.

For as happy as ukers are in playing their sofa repertoire, musical leadership – which the Nash displays in buckets - means one thing. Education. Ukulele players need educating. I don't think there is any question about that. They need educating about musical skills other than just the chord shapes necessary to play songs together. They need scales for melody playing, and they need exposure to the vast swathes of musical culture beyond latest hits and greatest memories. That not only includes repertoire, but an openness and curiosity about all of the other instruments that are out there beyond the four nylon strings that has fleas.

Ukestral Voices - 2014 National Folk Festival in Canberra
That has been achieved to a small degree here at the Nash. We can see it amongst our Newcastle ukulele mob who came to be a part of the street choir program with Ukestral Voices. They have explored singing, various instrument workshops, and seen some of the world's best musicians performing, from cultures from all over the world, and displaying virtuosity on a bewildering array of instruments. Just being here is a wonderful education.

But there is something lacking which I'm not sure I can yet identify. Certainly there is disdain for the ukulele from some quarters, and in many respects it is understandable. The hotshot musicians sit with each other in the session bar, swapping tunes, egging each other on, challenging their skills to new heights. Just because the ukulele has offered an enormous cohort of (mostly older) people an opportunity to play music, doesn't mean that the hotshots have to nurse or pander to the inadequately skilled new musicians. But neither should they be dismissive. For many expert musicians (and people in general), tolerance for others less skilled is not one of their strong points.

Learning how to session - is this what we need?

My trumpet playing sessioning is just ok. But it really depends upon the culture or genre, and how sensitively I try to blend in. (yes. Those two words can work together – 'blend' / 'trumpet').

I sat in on a session the other night, of Mediterranean music, lead by a clarinet and accordion. They were brilliant and fast. It was well beyond my skill and knowledge level, but I jammed a mute in the bell, tried to find the key, and fumbled along. I got there on one slow song, and I got a quiet nod of approval and welcome from the session leader. In contrast there was a woman who was drunkenly honking on a euphonium or somesuch. I'm sure she could play well in her right context, but in this context she displayed little sensitivity.

Perhaps this is one thing that is needed at such festivals. An explicit overture to the ukulele community from festival management ...

How can we better help your members skill up? 

What do they need?

Perhaps one of the workshops could be specifically aimed at encouraging and integrating ukulele players with other instruments, and introducing them to the complementary ideas of sensitivity, listening and taking turns.

Yes we do need a continual stream of beginner ukulele workshops, but we are now at a point where the burgeoning ukulele playing population needs to take their skills further, and to become better integrated into the general folkie community. They need to start to be able to call themselves 'musicians', and not just 'ukulele players'.

It takes two to tango. And the benefits will be rich. Ukers will expand their musicality, and the folk movement will be able to embrace and grow from a rich seam of new and curious musicians.

Uke on folk!