Hug a ukulele and you will be hooked on four strings. The uke is small and lightweight to hold with a narrow neck to wrap your fingers around and form chords. It is simple to learn, making it the perfect do-it-yourself music for the beach, the couch, instant sing-along or community jam session. At Ukuleles for Fun, novice musicians learn to play a few chords and join in the jam during their first session.
“I had never played any instrument,” said Susan Irving, who learned to play when she joined Ukuleles for Fun about seven years ago. “I was one of those kids that never got to take piano lessons or join a choir or anything like that. It’s a later in life thing for me. I was surprised that it was not as difficult as I thought. I learned three basic chords: C, F and G7, and gradually learned new chords. Like anything, it takes practice.”
Jan Mattock started the club nine years ago, when she was in her 70s. Open-heart surgery ended her career as a drummer in a local pipe band. At that time, Ukuleles for Fun was one of a few ukulele clubs in the province and players drove from Grinrod, Armstrong and Kelowna to learn and jam together.
Charlene Woodbury arrived at the second meeting with her soprano ukulele. As a teen, Woodbury took a year of guitar lessons from Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.
“He taught in a music store in California, and then he went off to be in a band,” she said. “Stringed instruments were my love for sure. But the guitar was too big, it hurt me.”
In the early 2000s, she shared her discomfort with co-worker Joan Ranson of Armstrong, who had taught ukulele in the elementary school system.
“She had a broken ukulele that she gave me, and when I picked it up it fit,” said Woodbury, who fixed that uke.
The ukulele craze was just beginning, and she could not find resources in local stores, so she went online.
“I just ordered books and played by myself before Ukuleles for Fun came along,” she said. “I ordered a Flea (brand) online from the States. I wanted to try different varieties and sizes. Most of us have more than one uke.”
The ukulele comes in three sizes — soprano, concert and tenor, and the banjo uke in all sizes. The four-stringed baritone and bass ukuleles are travelling-guitar size and use guitar tuning. The ukulele has becomes mainstream, and many bands and recording artists play the uke.
Ukuleles for Fun meet at the Halina Centre in Vernon on the second and fourth Sunday of every month, September to June. $4 drop-in and $2 for members. New and experienced adult players welcome. If you call ahead, group leader Patch O’Donoghue can arrange a loaner ukulele for you to try during the session.
A special Homecoming Reunion Celebration for the ninth anniversary will be held Jan. 28 at the Halina Centre to welcome past members and adults interested in joining the group. Meet and greet at 1:30 p.m. Jam session with games and prizes from 2-4 p.m. For information, contact Patch at 250-540-2290.