The Mighty Uke

March 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

Fellow editors were talking online about the ukulele band they play in. One posted a video  titled “The Mighty Uke” which was rather intriguing and a bit amusing, because you see I also own a ukulele.

I watched the video this morning and was amazed at the sounds that could come from it, and how it sounds paired with other instruments. Who would have thought that little instrument had such a history… and such possibilities.


My ukulele

We had a  piano in our home as well as my father’s steel guitar that he used when he took lessons during his school days. That guitar stayed in the back of the closet until my sister Bonnie thought she’d prefer it over piano, and took lessons on it.

My cousin Brenda had a ukulele as well as a guitar. I wasn’t so interested in the guitar at that point, but I was intrigued by the smaller instrument and wanted one so I could learn to play it too. My parents bought one for me. Whether it was a birthday or Christmas gift makes no difference now. A book and felt pick came with it and so I practised until I could play the chords and sing songs along with it.

Brenda and Dale, another cousin, and my sister Mary and I got together a little band.  Then someone got the idea that we should play a few songs for an upcoming reunion. I’m not sure which order that happened in, but all four of us practised at my aunt’s house since Dale also played piano. Mary and Dale took turns playing piano, Brenda was on guitar, and me on the ukulele.

We had a lot of fun while learning a variety of pieces, how to play together and getting our timing right. Our songs included the Sloop, John B; Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet (for our grandmother and her sisters) and several others that Brenda, Mary or Dale may remember.

Though my parents owned a camera, the selection of photos is limited, and there were certainly none of those practice sessions or playing at the reunion, though I do remember us standing on that old white bandstand at the New Hamburg Park years ago. Someone must have brought a keyboard since we couldn’t transport a piano there.

After that reunion we might have played together a time or two, but we didn’t play for any other event. We were teenagers, after all, with other interests and in summers we were all busy on farms with harvest, milking and cucumber picking. Mary continued playing piano and so did I.

I kept my ukulele and played it sometimes when I taught, loaned it for a class years later at Vacation Bible School. I added an autoharp near the end of my college years, and eventually a violin that’s still in our collection. My sisters tease me sometimes about the humorous little tuning song—My dog has fleas—that I played just for fun. And I’ve never forgotten the tuning notes for it.

Got my uke out this morning, but where’s my book and pick?

Watch this video and see the little ukulele’s possibilities.


Entry filed under: music, song, storytelling, writing family stories. Tags: , , .

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