Ralph’s Blog

Ralph Shaw photo

Ralph Shaw, our Illustrious Leader, writes:

My purpose in starting this uke-log of the meetings and activities of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle is to give those people who are unable to be at the a meetings a chance to get a flavour of what they missed. I can tell you now that not all the information will be entirely accurate. As I sit down to update this uke-log in the days after any given meeting I will be sure to have forgotten some key moments and one or two worthy performances and I hope that feelings won’t be hurt. I will do my best but if you notice any omissions or major inaccuracies please feel free to email them to Wendy Cutler so that corrections can be made.

Note from Wendy: Ralph has been keeping this blog since the very first meeting in September, 2000. The full set of previous years’ entries is available in the 
Blog Archives.
Starting in February, 2017, these postings are being made by Tom Saunders.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – March 20, 2018

Well, what a fun night we had as Winter turned to Spring and we arrived in glorious sunlight again. One of the main things that impressed me was the wonderful variety of different song leaders we had guiding us through the evening’s song list, including Candy, Carol, Heather, Jennifer, Sylvia, Craig and Boaz. The “more the merrier” seems to work well with us and I’d still like to see even MORE people get up and try leading the group from our songbook. And the time to start thinking about leading is right now! If you have a song that you’d feel comfortable leading, send me an email at calabash@shaw.ca and we can get it into the set list that gets sent out to everybody a week before each month’s meeting. I’ve had a number of people ask me on the night to lead a song that they saw in the “week-before email”, and I’ve felt bad having to decline their offer. My main reason is usually that someone else has already requested it, and I would hate to ask to take a song back from the original person who requested it (and who has possibly been working on it for the night.) So find something that is in a good key for you to sing that you can play all the way through from start to finish, That’s all you’ve got to do… And as always, remember that your song will be backed up by our house band, and assisted by a large room full of your favourite uke friends, singing and looking at their books and not at you!

I know that not everyone will want to lead songs, but I still want to make an appeal to anyone who has ever thought, “I could do that”, but has held back until now. As I said in the beginning, I think a larger group of people leading songs leads to a better collective experience for all of us!

IT’S ABOUT TIME… For many years, the Vancouver Ukulele Circle has run from 7:30 to 10pm. I did a hands-up poll of the room, asking if they would prefer to move the night ahead by a half hour, so that playing would run from 7 to 9:30pm. There was an overwhelming approval for that motion, so you should know by the time the “April week-before email” comes to you. It will depend on availability by the Rogue support crew. If that works out, we’ll be starting earlier.

I also asked for opinions on the recent format of putting Performance Time at the very end of the evening, instead of right after the break. Again, the majority seemed in favour of playing together as much as possible with the group, and then having the option of staying for Performance Time, or leaving if they wished or needed to. And when there’s enough time to squeeze one more group song in at the end, we’ve been singing that oldie but goody, “Goodnight Sweetheart..”

Very few people chose to leave early and stayed for a nice collection of Performance Time treats. Wendy and Anne started things off by singing “Easter Parade,” which turned out to be a promo for the upcoming Cherry Blossom Walk/Easter Parade on April 1st (the details of the event are at the bottom of this message.) Ming was up next with a song that I hadn’t heard in a while – 1970’s “Yellow River” by the British band, Christie, for which he received a standing ovation by the Vanukes crowd (a tradition for first-time Vanukes performers.) Next up, Johnny hoped that Frank Sinatra wouldn’t seek revenge for him covering Old Blue Eyes’ version of “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die” – he played it confidently enough that I don’t think he would! Bogdan played a strong, heartfelt version of John Lennon’s 1971 peace anthem, “Imagine.” After that, Candy (with assistance from Jennifer) presented a Cantonese/English version of Franki Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Craig then performed a fiftieth anniversary tribute to the Rolling Stones’ song of turbulent times, “Street Fighting Man,” and then Carol and Heather finished things up with a relatively recent song (for us!) 2010’s “The Cave” by London’s Mumford and Sons. They also provided song sheets for those not previously familiar with the song, and were rewarded with a roomful of backing strummers!

This month’s Two-Chord Wonder Song had many people surprised at the ease of using only a pair of relatively easy chords (Em and C) to play the Beatles’ groundbreaking, “Eleanor Rigby.” After recruiting an unsuspecting team of strummers (that knew how to play an Em chord) we broke new ground with an onstage team that felt confident to lead the room after only seven seconds of instruction. “Ahhhhh – look at all the ukey people!”

Thanks to all who help make the evening a fun, enjoyable event – The Rogue Folk Club for all they do, our fabulous house band, and all of the various song leaders and performers – and finally to the rest of you who come out every month to strum and sing and add the largest amount of links in the chain of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle. See you next month (with a possible earlier starting time…)



>>>Wendy Cutler has asked me to include this item:

“The April 1st Cherry Blossom Walk/Easter Parade has not yet really taken on the flavour of the la-di-da outing Wendy has imagined, but usually there is quite a crowd, some sporting Easter bonnets, and it always begins with the singing of Easter Parade, accompanied by ukuleles. Here is a relevant cartoon: http://www.gocomics.com/heartofthecity/2017/04/12. It’s really just a cherry walk that takes place on Easter Sunday, which is April 1 this year, and this year will start at Burrard Skytrain Station at 1:30, with the singing and strumming at 1:25. Wendy writes: “I’m not much of a singer, so I’m looking for willing singers, and also willing ukulele strummers. I have words and chords that I can send it anyone who will join me. No-one can really hear how you’re singing or playing – it’s the jolly appearance that matters.. Let me know if you’re willing to play. I’ll hand out words anyway for everyone to join in singing”. You can contact her via our Vanukes webpage at http://vanukes.ca/

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – February 20, 2018

We had a bit more of a smaller, intimate crowd last night, with some of my blame going to a Vancouver concert at the same time by that no-talent uke strummer, Jake Shimabukuro (just kidding – he can play “Singin’ in the Rain” with ALL the chords – even the F#dim…) We were also missing our regular percussion whiz, Jerry, but we were fortunate to have Wayne fill in for him behind the drums – until the tow truck showed up! In my week-before emails to you, I mention all of the free parking in the neighbourhood, but I think Wayne unfortunately parked a little too close to the corner and got nabbed. It just showed the good heart of our group that one of our members, Wendy, passed a hat around, and we were able to cover his ticket costs. Bravo, Vanukers!

As per my ongoing requests to you, we had a new song leader, Candy, step up to the mic to rock us along with “Brown Eyed Girl”, and a relatively new song leader, Carol, also help us out by leading the first uke song she ever learned to play, “White Sandy Beach” – always good to have new faces leading the book songs, in addition to Boaz, Jennifer and Craig confidently leading and backing performances.

Performance Time had a nice mix of interesting songs. Ron played a tribute to recently-deceased crooner Vic Damone, with “The Glory of Love.” And Ron was correct when he said that Vic turned down the wedding singer role in The Godfather – the role eventually went to Al Martino. Boaz and I sang “Oh Yoko”, in honour of Ms L’s 85th birthday. Ed sang and played a very beautiful ballad from the 80’s (the 1880’s, that is…) based on a poem by William Butler Yeats, called “Down by the Salley Gardens” – nice one, Ed! Both Johnny and Uncle Bob had “Ain’t” songs for us – Johnny sang Leonard Cohen’s “Ain’t No Cure for Love” and Uncle Bob swung Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” That still leaves “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Ain’t That a Shame” for next month! Carol and Heather performed a very fun Hawaiian tune that I was previously unfamiliar with, called “Toad Song”, by Keali’i Reichel. Its lyrics rolled along very quickly and had the room yelling out “Oom mama, oom mama, oom mama….” in the choruses. Yes, very fun! And finally, Candy finished off Performance Time with a sweet, bouncy number by Bruno Mars, called “Count on Me.” Overall, quite a nice, varied mix of tunes for a cold Vancouver evening!

Special thanks to Estha, who filled the role of scrolling down the Projector Songs for the benefit of the rest of us to play along. And a thank you to the Rogue Folk Club volunteers, who set up the hall and provide us with food and drink every month – Marnie, Steve, Morris and Terry – not to mention our great sound crew of Rich and Peter. Hats off to the whole Rogue’s gallery! Thanks to our Island boy, Ron, for trekking to the mainland with his uke bass, and a repeated thanks to Wayne for filling in on drums and percussion. His cheerful, last-minute participation towed our hearts away!

Next month, March’s uke night again falls on the 20th (three days after St Patrick’s Day.) Feel free to wear some green, but be prepared for a very low percentage of Irish songs – though I may try to find us something high-spirited and easy that we can shout the choruses of! Until then, thanks for coming out, and keep on strumming…



Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – January 16, 2018

Tuesday night saw the Vancouver Ukulele Circle back in place at St James Hall, hopefully forever and ever, after last year’s needed renovations. The latest improvement is a brand new, sprung-floor which allows us to tap our toes in time to the music with much greater accuracy. And we did.
For song leading, we got by with a little help from our Ed, as he Ringo-ed his way through the call-and-responses of that old chestnut. Craig and Jennifer did a very solid, fun version of the 80’s-Canadian pop hit, “Echo Beach,” and several other toe-tappers (good thing we’ve got the new floor.) Corrine came up to add Carlos Santana’s instrumental licks to “Black Magic Woman”, and Boaz led the Band’s/Joan Baez’s hearty singalong of, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Carol joined Jennifer for the singing of “Zombie”, as a tribute to recently-passed Dolores O’Riordan of the popular Irish group, the Cranberries. And we had a new song-leading recruit with Allison coming up to lead the group with “On Top of Spaghetti”, which leads us into the next section:

As you know, I encourage YOU to consider getting up to lead a song at an upcoming uke circle. If you’d like to, my main request from you is that you email me your song choice at least a “week-and-a-bit” before the next uke circle. The reason for me wanting that amount of notice (the “and a bit” part) is that I will then be able to add your request into the setlist of the email that I send out the week before the next meeting. Then, the people that like to rehearse the songs ahead of time can do so – and from the show of hands last night, a fair number of you do. Another reason is that if you don’t pass along your request to lead until the actual night, it might mean we’d have to cut out a song that people have already rehearsed. So please consider coming up, and getting your requests in early. Our band, Ron and Jerry, and I also know songs, and we won’t let you down!

Last night’s Performance-Time songs all seemed to me to fall on the sweet-and-mellow side, and that turned out to be a very good thing. Allison started things off nicely with Patsy Cline’s country music classic, “I Fall to Pieces.” Ed was next up to play something untypically Ed-like, as he masterfully picked his way through the beautiful instrumental, “Another Waltz” by Aaron Keim. Jerry (our house percussionist) got his uke on and sang a very sweet love song, written by Ed Sheeran, called “Little Things,” to which I added a melodica (it’s like a harmonica played with a tiny keyboard.) Johnny played a song in tribute to David Bowie – his wistful, 1999 tune, “Seven.” Boaz played the deceptively mellow, “If You Really Loved Me” by Tim Minchin, and finally, Candy finished off the set with a very sweet and lovely tune, “The Moon Song”, by Karen O, from the movie, “Her.” The song speaks of the bliss of being alone with her sweetheart on the moon, a million miles away. I had to restrain myself from breaking the mood and informing everyone that the moon is, in fact, only 384,402 km (238,856 miles) away.. There – I’ve said it…

For the Two-Chord-Wonder Song of the month, I tricked, cajoled and coerced at least a half-dozen people out of the crowd to come up and become the Plastic Ono Uke Band, as we used only C and G7th chords to belt out the anti-war anthem, “Give Peace a Chance.” As they filed off the stage, I noticed that they all had the same giddy smiles that people have when they finally get off the roller coaster. I hope they enjoyed their time up there and felt secure within the “safety in numbers.” PS – Getting back to leading songs and also Performance-Time, you might want to consider getting up there with a friend or two!

As always, thanks to the Rogue Folk Club – Steve and all the crew – Marnie for arranging the always delicious snicky-snacks & bevvies, and to Rich and Peter for running the sound system. And a final thank you to our uke volunteer (whose name woefully escapes me) who carried out a very important task for us, scrolling down the Projector Songs on the laptop, for the benefit of our playing. Thanks to everyone – it takes a uke village to keep this thing rolling!

Please feel free to contact me at calabash@shaw.ca if you have any questions, comments, song-leading requests, Performance-Time sign-up requests, etc.

I’ve moved Performance-Time to the last portion of the night recently. It used to be right after the break, and then we finished off with “book” songs.. My thought for doing that was that some people who still wanted to play from the book after the break, didn’t wish to sit through Performance-Time, and were leaving at the break. So I swapped the two sections. Do you have any strong preferences, one way or the other? Think about it…

Next month, uke night falls on February 20th – a week after Valentine’s Day, so I’m guessing love songs could be a safe bet to expect. Until then, thanks for coming out, and keep on strumming!