I’m just back from Shelter Valley Folk Festival. What a wonderful place to hear and share music! The after hours campfires are led by festival performers and open to all campers to join in and so many of the small stage performances get the audience involved.
One of the highlights of the festival was the Ukulele Master Class with James Hill. I have heard James perform (as well as his amazing partner, cellist and songwriter, Anne Janelle) but I have never heard him teach. When he started the session by naming the strings, I have to admit I was thinking less “master” class than beginner intro. However, James quickly built on the basics – inserting references to music theory for those that had that background – so that everyone was learning something, yet everyone was included. It reminded me of watching Shrek with my young kids: two levels of humour but we were all enjoying the same movie. Despite being a ukulele virtuoso, James’ gift is in demystifying the music to make it accessible for everyone.
An interesting tidbit I took away from the workshop is how useful the uke can be when arranging music for 3 or 4 voices. I love harmony singing, and I play the uke, but I have never used it as an arrangement tool. I’m looking forward to trying it out.
In addition to all of us participating, Anne Janelle added her voice, cello and lovely presence to both the learning and performance parts of the workshop. James called on a brave volunteer from the audience to play the left hand (chords we had just learned) while James soloed further up the neck. The workshop was perfect blend of humour and insight; my only complaint is that it was too short. For those of us who want to hear more of James teaching he has a website called The Ukulele Way . Free membership includes 6 video ukulele lessons and access to an on-line ukulele-playing community. There is also a full membership for a fee that involves lots more.
As the summer draws to an end I hope you got outside and played some music. Although it is hard to see summer go with its campfires and festivals, many music events that take a break over the summer will be starting up again in September. See you there!