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 or the evening’s leader.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting, February 18, 2020

Tom here. Well, we couldn’t have chosen a better day to get together – apparently it was the sunniest day in months… If I think back to exactly a year ago, on my way to Vanukes, I ended up sitting in the middle of a snowy freeway cloverleaf, waiting for a tow truck to pull me out! Yesterday was like the first unofficial day of Spring, and it brought out a very enthusiastic group of plunkers, ready to sing out and raise the roof at St James Hall – I wish I could have bottled your musical gusto!

I had help leading songs from Craig, Boaz and Ed, but I hogged the majority of the evening’s tunes – I’d been dealing with a flooded basement over the past while, and it was actually easier to lead most of the songs myself. Have you ever considered leading the group with a song? You just need to be able to sing something confidently from start to finish, so that everybody can sing and play along with you. I’d suggest something simple from the book to start off with. It’s not that scary when you have a roomful of fellow ukers backing you up! Send me an email if you’re interested.

And speaking of backing us up, we were missing Jerry’s presence on drums and percussion last night, and we are sending him our best thoughts and looking forward to his return. And while we’re at it, I have to send out my appreciation to our fearless bass-player Ron, who fought traffic delays on his long journey to support us. I don’t think most people realize what a big role the bass plays in keeping our uke rhythms on cue – it was very evident to me on the first two songs we did without him – thank you, Ron!

We had possibly the shortest Performance Time segment that I can remember – just four songs. Rob, Rosemary and Amanda started things off with some Canadian content – a Ron Sexsmith song called, “Late Bloomer,” which Rob dedicated to those starting out on an instrument, with plenty of life experience already behind them. They did a really sweet version with great vocals. It was evident that they had put some time into it, as they usually do. Ed was up next, with a positive, upbeat ode to those who may may have left us, but remain firmly in our hearts and minds. He performed Simon and Garfunkel’s joyous, “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” whose lyrics remind us, “Slow down – you move too fast – you got to make the morning last….” Indeed. Johnny was up next and gave us his personal take on the ballad, “And I Love Her” by the Beatles, from their 1964 album and film, “A Hard Day’s Night.” McCartney called “And I Love Her” “the first ballad that I impressed myself with.” Boaz and Craig finished off Performance Time with a dark and moody song called “Free Until They Cut Me Down” by the band Iron and Wine, where the narrator looks forward to the final moment of his execution. Not exactly “feelin’ groovy,” but Craig and Boaz executed the song with strong vocals and striking instrumental sections.

There was a good response to our Projector Songs, including “I Can See Clearly Now,” “Groovin,’” “What a Day For a Daydream,” “I’m Movin’ On,” “Wagon Wheel,” “Donna,” “Teenager in Love” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”  Our Two-Chord-Wonder-Song (using F and a modified Eb) was 1970’s “Draggin’ the Line” by Tommy James. Some may know its more recent commercial use as, “I want my baby back baby back ribs…”

And speaking of the 1970’s, next month (March 17) Boaz will be hosting an entire evening of 70s tunes for you! The songs will all be projected on the big screen, so there will be no need to bring your Vanukes songbook along. Keep an eye on your inbox in the coming days for Boaz to be sending you a song file with all the groovy tunes you’ll be playing. I wish I were there!

Before I go, I have to give big thanks to the Rogue Folk Club volunteers for hosting our evenings and providing food, beverages, and access to the wonderful St James Hall, and thanks to Susan and Marlene for showing up early to set up the tables and chairs. And as usual, thanks to all of you who show up each month to sing and play along, in this our 20th (yes, I said 20th!) year of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle.

Until next month, get outside, enjoy the sunshine, and when the sun goes down, learn that next song and next tricky chord!

Keep on plunkin’!!!


PS – Here’s a link to an NPR radio story and interview done last month at Vanukes, when Craig was hosting the Motown night.  (Click on “LISTEN”)   https://www.knkx.org/post/listen-vancouver-ukulele-circle-brings-people-together-all-walks-life

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – January 21, 2020

Watashi no tomodachi,

Motown. What a trove of heartbreaking songs. Josh pointed out that the music is happy but the lyrics are so sad—“both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords,” as J.R.R. Tolkien said in a different context.

Heather noted that it may have been the first time that it was actually raining as we went through a partly-memorized rendition of the traditional opener, Singin’ in the Rain. It has almost the exact same chords as the first Motown song, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg by The Temptations. Rob and Amanda came up to do backing vocals for Dancing in the Street, the signature 1964 hit from Martha and the Vandellas, which Rob said was a favourite song of his since he was 10 or 11.

EVERYONE knows the chorus for Stop! In the Name of the Love by the pre-eminent Motown combo, The Supremes. The verses? Another matter altogether, according to Melody, who led us through them. But it was so good, and we had time at the end, so I asked The Trio to do it again.

I got to be a back-up singer with Tomi on Please Mr. Postman while Carol and Melody led it. I was just hanging on to my part; I have no idea how it went over. I also backed up Joan on Tracks of My Tears, a slow and sorrowful song, my strongest association for which is a scene in the 1986 film about the Vietnam War, Platoon.

I did screw up I Heard It Through the Grapevine, my favourite Motown song of all time. So many things happening in that one, and that voice of Marvin Gaye which gives me goosebumps. Joan joined Rob and Amanda to do backing vocals—which are a bit haunting in that song.

A song I find heartbreaking for that happy-chords-but-sad-lyrics is Where Did Our Love Go, the first hit for The Supremes and one they didn’t even want to do. Nancy came on stage to lead for the first time and Joan and I backed her up (we sang “baby” plenty o’ times). Note that nothing happened to her: she survived. You would, too, if you wanted to help lead a song that you love.

I wasn’t sure about Superstition. Such a groovy song, but without that incredible clavinet riff, it almost feels not worth it. But the chords are fun and not too difficult. But Ain’t No Mountain High Enough? Nah uh. We all know the chorus, but tricky to sing and I wasn’t feeling great about the accuracy of my song sheet, so…NEXT!

The most difficult song of the night, I thought: Baby Love. Tricky chords, tricky key (I changed it to make it more uke-friendly), a modulation at the end. Melody—she has a lovely voice–helped out and again: we survived. Perhaps that’s a theme?

I thought if anyone was there under a certain age, they were not going to know that they knew the next song, Pastime Paradise by Stevie Wonder, the instrumentation and chorus of which was used for the biggest-selling single of 1995 (and one of the biggest-selling of all time), Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise (on the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film, Dangerous Minds).

I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) was a song that Corinne loved and wanted to help out on, with the intro and flourishes throughout. So fun!

Most people know Do You Love Me from its use in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing with Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze (you can find the scene on youtube). I sang the lead and EVERYONE THERE did the response. One person said it was their favourite song of the night.

After the break, The Trio led My Guy, a lovely song based on shifting between Gmaj7 and G6.

By the way, Tomi afterwards mentioned that there were no chord boxes on some of the projector songs and sure enough, I had forgotten to include them on a little less than half the songs (the later additions), assuming I had already done that. Le oops! I did have 30 copies of the print versions—appropriately adorned with chord boxes—which all went by break-time.

Geoff helped out with I Second That Emotion, a simple song, which I sang partly in falsetto. I love Nowhere to Run To by Martha and her Vandellas, which I definitely sang an octave below Martha. Tears of a Clown: another favourite. So driving and effective.

You Keep Me Hanging On: I didn’t know how great this song was until I started researching Motown songs. If Where Did Our Love go is a heartbreaking lament for lost love, this song is a cathartic demand for release from a spoiled love, released two years later.

Uptight (Everything’s Alright), by a 15-year old Stevie Wonder, is just two chords. I changed the key for uke-friendliness, but you could use any two chords, if the singing key doesn’t work for you. Jerry is diligent in giving us the beats per minute of the original song and so we did that, but then I wanted more intense energy, so I insisted we do it again much faster, which was fun.

Reach Out (I’ll Be There) is iconic Motown. That Edim chord is like a sip of lovely wine.

We had four performances. First up was Joan and Allan, who did a great harmonized rendition of You Really Got a Hold on Me by Smokey Robinson and covered by The Beatles. Rob and Amanda did another sweet harmony for their performance song, When the Night Feels My Song by Canadian band Bedouin Soundclash—it was confidently done and demonstrates what one year (Amanda) of uke-playing can do for you. Geoff gave us Unbelievers by Vampire Weekend, a lovely-sounding tune I’d never heard of. And finally, Boaz performed a family friendly version of this song, with “smurfs” as the key substitute word.

We had time for a few more tunes, which started with I Just Called to Say I Love You, a 1984 hit by Motown alum Stevie Wonder. Pretty hard to get out of your head. I changed the modulations at the end, which were impossible and then found myself totally unable to remember how to do that very distinctive ending. Next time.

I love singing You Can’t Hurry Love. But I wanted us to all go out singing What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, a song reflecting the turbulent times of 1970/1971. Especially sad is that line about his father, who later shot Marvin in the heart a day before his 45th birthday and was later discovered to have had a brain tumour.

Thanks to the Rogue Folk Club, Kathryn, Jerry, Ron, Wendy, Corinne, Nancy, Joan, The Trio (Heather, Carol & Melody), Rob & Amanda, Geoff, Boaz, Tomi, the performers, and the weather for getting rid of the snow. And I want to thank Daphne Roubini (Ruby’s Ukes) for performing a Diana Ross song at her album launch with her husband and inspiring me to work on Motown songs for the VUC. And thanks to all of you for coming out.

Tom’s back for next month, and March will be 70s Night.

A bientot mes amis,


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – December 17, 2019

Tom here. Well, December at the Vancouver Ukulele Circle turned out to be a very warm, joyful, holly, jolly uke fest. From my perspective, I saw a lot of smiles and heard a loud, heavenly choir of voices and nylon strings. Lots of festive sweaters and red hats with fuzzy white trim. The songs kept us on our toes, as the mostly simple chords flew by faster than a speeding reindeer. Even though the book didn’t have chord boxes, it helped that the tunes were very familiar to most of us, so we all kind of knew where we were going. Did I mention how good you all sounded?!

I had lots help from my song-leading elves – Craig, Boaz, Candy, Ed, Joan, Allan, and Jerry, who got us through around twenty holiday classics, with complete confidence and musical gusto. Once again, I would urge you try leading the group with a song yourself. All you need is to be able to play a song steadily from start to finish. You’ll have the band to back up your song, and a supportive group of ukers on the floor, who will be concentrating more on following along in the songbook than watching you. Make it your goal for 2020 – lead one song!

Performance Time was a wonderful feast of flavours for us to enjoy. Joan started off by playing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” that swung along gently, with a confident jazzy vocal from her. Edwin then sang sweetly and soloed on “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” whose lyrics were written in 1863 by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with the music written in the 1950’s by Johnny Marks, who wrote “Rudolph, Holly Jolly Christmas, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” etc.) Ed (not Edwin) then played a non-Christmas song, Irving Berlin’s 1914, “Play a Simple Melody.” I urged him to fib and say that it was actually called, “Play a Christmas Melody.” He did a very good job on it, and I guess I have to give him a few extra points for the fact that Irving Berlin also wrote “White Christmas.” Gayle then played a song tied for being the oldest song of the night (we’ll get to that later) – a traditional English carol for New Year’s Day, called “The Old Year Now Away Is Fled,” written in 1642. Up next, our house band percussionist, Jerry, traded his drums for a uke (though he kept a stomp-pad on the floor to maintain a bass drum sound) and sang a very sweet song, “Favourite Christmas Song” by Andrew Allen. Jerry was accompanied by Leone on uke, and by Gayle playing a xylophone app on her tablet. They had obviously put some time into practicing it and it showed in the final results.

Now – in spite of the goodwill of the season, I gave Boaz a good-natured ribbing for his choice of a holiday performance tune – that old Christmas classic, “Desperado” by the Eagles. Boaz claimed that it qualified by virtue of the line, “Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time...” I subsequently “helped him out” on one of the choruses by adding sleighbells… Ron, our house band’s bass player then played the OTHER oldest song of the night, also written in 1642, “Huron Carol,” Canada’s oldest Christmas carol. Ron trusted me to hit a bell every forty-five seconds or so, which showcased my multi-instrumentalist talents. Carol and Heather, with assistance from Melody, then played one of Performance Time’s most upbeat and rollicking numbers – the Barenaked Ladies’ medley of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings,” that had added backup from the audience, who played along with song sheets provided by the trio. After that, Melody then played a sweet, soulful version of “River,” Joni Mitchell’s 1971 ode to missing her cold, snowy Canadian winters. Up next, Marguie gave us possibly the newest (and one of the funnest) tunes of the night – a song written with Marion Stroet, called, “J’aime Noël”, which translates to “I Love Christmas.” It was sung in French and had images that faced the audience to help them sing along (though I couldn’t see them to figure out what exactly was going on!) Marguie told me afterwards that the song was about a child’s love of Christmas, family, friends, gifts, beautiful hats, turkey, and candy canes – doesn’t that about sum it all up? Craig finished things off with a haunting, operatic melody from Sting, called, “Cold Song” from his 2009 album, “If on a Winter’s Night.” Tomi accompanied Craig on violin, adding much dramatic musical effect. And so ended Performance Time – obviously, a lot of thought and preparation was put into the performances by all involved, and it was deservedly well-received by all of us in attendance.

So – we’ve reached the end of another year. Looking ahead, 2020 will give us the 20th anniversary next September of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle – started by our founding uker, Ralph Shaw back in…oh, I’ll let you do the math… It is quite an accomplishment for a little old uke circle – one of the longest-running and surviving uke circles in North America. I hope you will be with us in the new year to carry on the efforts set forth by our early plunking pioneers.

Before I go, we have to give thanks to the Rogue Folk Club members for hosting our evenings and providing food, beverages, sound, heating and and access to the wonderful St James Hall. Thanks to group organizers, Kathryn, Wendy, and those who set up and tear down the tables and chairs. A nod to all of our wonderful song leaders, and finally to our amazing house band – Ron, Jerry and Leone for filling out our sound for you to play along with.

Next month (January) Craig will be hosting the uke circle and is promising a unique, soulful evening of Motown tunes for you!

Until then, have a warm, happy, joyous time, hopefully surrounded by food, family, friends, loved ones – and maybe even a new ukulele (or two!!!)

Best of the Season to you all,


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – November 19, 2019

Hello Everyone, 

Heather & Carol here with the lowdown on the highlights of the Nov 19 Van-Uke-Circle:

We didn’t sing in the rain, but played some lovely simple melodies…

As a matter of fact, our first song was Irving Berlin’s Play a Simple Melody—only 105 years young, and still insanely catchy and a properly great way to start an evening of fun and merriment. We insisted that we were all going to be friends, and indeed, our second song was The White Stripes’ We’re Going to be Friends. Many songs followed. We managed 6 Mil-mos (Millennium moments), 2 Can-cons (Canadian content), several Classics, 2 new TAB-riffs, a couple of Blues, a two-chord wonder, and several A-O’s (assorted others).

Special thanks to those who helped lead: Melody on vocals, Katie on fiddle, Craig on occasional bass & whistle, Geoff on Budapest, Jen on ‘oogachuggahs’, Ed on personality, and of course our amazing rhythm duo of Ron & Jerry.

A few thoughts & trivia: If you are wondering why your kids know Hooked on a Feeling, it’s because it was featured on Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Strangest Dream is by Canadian Ed McCurdy. This song of peace grew out of the years after WW2 and has been covered countless times. Ron’s story of being in the US in the early 70s, and seeing the endless lines of young men being sent off to Vietnam was a reminder that aren’t we lucky to live where we do?

Another evening highlight—Come on Eileen, led by Craig, was insanely fun.
And what a treat it was to watch the audience doing the Y-M-C-A. Just like at the roller rink.

A big shout out to the world-famous Kitsaleles. Ok, maybe more ‘neighbourhood’-famous. But they are particularly popular at Blenheim Lodge for those lodgers who actually stay awake to hear us! The Kitsaleles have been meeting for 8 years, originally on D-tuned ukes, a remnant left from the tuning used in the Canadian school system of the 80s. Happily, we joined the C-tuned uke movement and the world is our toaster 🙂 They skillfully led a section of our 2-chord wonder, Play a Simple Melody, now played as a 3-part partner song with the crowd divided into groups. Boisterous singing, and we all ended at the correct time. Job well done.

Performance Time started with Rob and Amanda singing a lovely version of Nobody Knows Me at All by the Weepies. Boaz followed with Neil Diamond’s Love on the Rocks—complete with great Boaz skills—very excellent. Erica delighted us with Across the Great Divide, by Kate Wolf. BTW—Erica, a Kitsalele alumni, has progressed from absolute beginner to very competent solo- open-mic-singer—well done YOU, Erica! Ed entertained us with the Worried Life Blues and we worried no more. Geoff’s rendition of Yoshimi by the Flaming Lips was fab—I saw people lip- synching with enthusiasm all the way through! And Ron gave us another classic unknown, but unknown no longer—Let the Mystery Be, by Iris DeMent. I for one, will be adding this to my cache.

Grateful Dead’s Ripple, with harmonies and fiddle, was simple and moving. And isn’t it fun being able to say that you play the Grateful Dead on a uke? And finally, Home was our last song of the evening, because, well, we were going Home.

It’s an amazing experience to be part of such a fun team of people, and to be part of such a warm and inclusive environment. Huge thanks go out to Carol’s daughter Kai, who transcribed the songs into 16 font format for the screen, what a job that is. Thanks also to: backup team- extraordinaire Ron & Jerry for learning 20+ new songs—no mean feat, to Christian for sound expertise, Kathryn and Wendy, and the Rogue Folk club volunteers.

Tom—Back to you.

Strummingly yours, Heather & Carol

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – October 15, 2019

Hello Strummers:

Well, I think we had a howlingly good time during October’s Spookulele Night at the Vancouver Ukulele Circle! Lots of guys and ghouls, dressed in costumes from A to Zombie that brought an already fun night of ukulele playing up a further notch in uke enjoyment.  We got into the evening with the Halloween national anthem, “Monster Mash,” and I couldn’t have chosen a better trio of backup singers, with Joan, Chris and Craig hitting their marks like bats flying into a dirty window. They were a graveyard smash!

Following along on the haunted theme of the evening, we learned how to cycle through three chords (basically D, C & G) over and over again to ‘Awoooooo’ along to Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.”  Joan led Radiohead’s “Creep,” which may or may not have been about the seven-foot creepy monster playing next to her.  Edwin warned of the bad moon rising (good for werewolves – bad for the rest of us…)  Ed sang the haunting melody to “Lullaby of the Leaves,” which aren’t normally scary, unless they’re wet Vancouver leaves that you slip on.  And Craig possibly covered two October bases in one song, with a nod to both Thanksgiving and Halloween by playing “Zombie” by the Cranberries. (That’s a cranberry sauce joke – sorry…)

Performance Time started off with Joan and Allan playing Dobie Gray’s 1973 soul classic, “Drift Away,” and the audience was happily enlisted to sing and clap along with them.  Ed then played an appropriate-for-the-theme-of-the-night song – “People Are Strange” by the Doors. I will resist from saying that it was also appropriate that Ed was playing it!  Rob and Amanda then did a really lovely version of “Four Days of Rain” by the Flying Burrito Brothers from their self-titled 1971 country rock album.  Up next was Boaz, who sang Billy Joel’s 1977 love ballad, “She’s Always a Woman.”  Why would he choose such a tender song for Halloween?  He said it was because the lyrics included the lyrics, “cut, bleed, wound, and even kill.”  Boaz hears things the rest of us don’t, especially in such a pretty song!  Craig finished off  Performance Time with assistance from Tomi on bass, and Jerry on the drums.  They rocked out with a song by the White Stripes called, “Seven Nation Army,” which I’ve learned (thanks to Wikipedia) has become a huge sports anthem, and its title originated from writer Jack White’s mispronunciation of Salvation Army as a child. The things you learn here…

The night wouldn’t have gone anywhere near as well as it did without our usual cast of wonderful characters – the folks from the Rogue Folk Club for hosting and feeding us, Christian and Peter at the soundboard, Kathryn and Wendy behind the scenes, all of the various song leaders – Joan, Chris, Rob, Amanda, Craig, Boaz, Edwin, and Ed.  And the two guys that I forgot to mention last night: our indispensable band – Ron on bass (he of Trump and Klingon hair) and Jerry on percussion.  And of course to everyone else, out on the floor who came out play along and make every uke night a fun, special occasion! I salute you all!!!

Next month (November 19) Uke Night will be hosted by Carol and Heather, and I would imagine that they are already working on an evening of material to challenge and tickle your uke tastebuds.   I will be back for December’s Yulekelele night of seasonal favourites that I’ll tell you about next month.

Until then, stay warm & dry and keep on strummin’ and plunkin’!



Thanks to Boaz Joseph, Ed Dorosh and Wendy Cutler for these photos.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – September 17, 2019

Well, my ukumaniacs (this is a reference to Hulk Hogan, by the way), 80s’ Night was as gnarly as Jeff Spicoli’s hangover. I’m not sure what that means.

And the Vancouver Ukulele Circle has reached 19 years. It can finally drink (legally).

Many thanks to all of you who came and indulged the theme of 80s’ Night. I know that some regulars stayed away and some who came were unfamiliar with most of the songs but came anyway. I tried to choose the songs carefully, finding ones that just evoke a little something, are catchy, and have varying levels of difficulty. And, of course, I wasn’t alone up there. Carol, Heather and Melody (can they be called something? Can they come up with a band name?) led a few 80s’ nuggets which they were keen on: Nena’s “99 Red Balloons”—that German anthem of Cold War hysterics—and “This is the Day” by The The (recently included in the show Sex Education), a song I’d never heard and which Jerry really liked.

Candy was unable to make it at the last minute, so The Trio (placeholder) also sang “Material Girl” by Madonna. This is my favourite Madonna song and I eventually figured out that it was the bass line that hooked me, so I asked Tomi to lock it down.

What distinguishes 80s’ songs? The Yamaha DX7 was released in 1983—the first digital synthesizer. Wikipedia: “[its influence] swept through popular music” and “…its preset sounds became staples of 1980s pop music.” Music Television, or MTV, started broadcasting in the summer of 1981. Videos became the thing. In the Reagan era and the bull market, excess and decadence also became the thing. A little event called Live Aid on July 13, 1985, organized by Bob Geldof (who once wrote music reviews for the Georgia Straight) with the intent of raising money for a famine in Ethiopia, brought a certain amount of social conscience to the pop world. There followed a kind of back-to-basics, black and white aesthetic in the later 80s (for me, exemplified by U2’s Joshua Tree album, or Tracy Chapman’s song “Fast Car” ) before dance jams and grunge hit hard.

Carol and I led “Take On Me” by A-Ha, which is the reason I decided to try an 80s’ night. I saw this little clip online which explained how it was a mediocre pop tune from this Norwegian band no one had heard of, UNTIL a producer got a hold of it, made the song a little more funky and made a video using rotoscope animation. The video got picked up in North America and went into heavy rotation on MTV. Today, almost 35 years later, it is heading toward ONE BILLION hits on Youtube.

I was glad to see Joan take a crack at leading. She got us expertly through Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” (which BARELY meets the criteria of an 80s song, by the way) with that pre-eminently catchy chorus, and U2’s hymn-like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Allan wanted to take on “In the Air Tonight,” a song Phil Collins’ wrote about his divorce. His love of the tune was palpable and with that great drum break by Jerry, it was a highlight of the night for me.

Geoff, who continues to run a uke night called Viva la Ukelucion, came up and joined me on a few songs, including “Red Red Wine,” “I Melt With You” (thanks for that suggestion, Adrienne) and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” adding touches that I either didn’t know or couldn’t do while singing.

Performance Time consisted of only three: Geoff did a sweet and local 80s’ song: “Day By Day” by Doug and the Slugs; Johnny did an early Rolling Stones song called “Out of Time”; and finally Boaz gave us something on what he calls “Plucky” (a banjo-like uke): an amalgam of made-up bits and pieces, which was a musical meditation and even somewhat antidotal to the strident longings of all those 80s’ pop tunes. He called it: “In the Still of the Moonshine.”

I regret we didn’t get to two of the 80s’ songs. Somewhere down the crazy river we’ll see them again.

Before you go, there are two other events to take note of:

1. Jen of the Cutie Circle invited us all to an event in Coquitlam:

“The City of Coquitlam will be hosting a free outdoor ukulele concert, open jam, hula dance, and public ukulele lessons with complimentary picnic lunch and refreshments on Saturday, September 21, to celebrate the grand re-opening of Brookmere Park at 565 Austin Avenue in Coquitlam. That’s right! There will be free food, music and lots of ukulele players! We are still pinching ourselves!

To RSVP for the free lunch and refreshments, please go to this link:

We will be performing on stage (including fellow ukulele players from all Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley)!”

2. My friend Ron Den Daas is organizing an event called World River’s Day aimed at:

…protecting salmon habitat in the urban interface by combining salmon-focused habitat restoration and an education-based community art project aimed at encouraging the protection of vital wildlife corridors that are critical to future generations of all salmon—critical for environmental sustainability going forward.

It is an unveiling of a community art project and newly restored salmon habitat on Lynn Creek in North Vancouver.

There was a song created for this project. It was composed by Delores Parker for ukulele and goes to the tune of the Beatles ”Octopus’s Garden.” I was wondering if your ukulele circle members would be interested in attending this event and playing this specially-created song? This event is aiming to get press and it would be great to have a big group playing the salmon song to celebrate this exciting community project aimed at protecting salmon.

The time and date is Sunday, September 29th, at 12:30. The site is accessed via Inter River Park on the west side of Lillooet Road that runs toward Capilano University off of the Trans Canada Highway by the Second Narrows Bridge.

Ron’s email is ecosystem@shaw.ca.

This uke circle has been going since September, 2000, when founder Ralph Shaw and his friend Virginia Ise collected eight people in the Common Room of his co-op and had them go through songs. He said no one wanted to perform in those early days. It is a testament to his long work, and that of people like Kathryn at the door, Wendy behind the scenes, leader Tom, bassist Ron, and drummer Jerry, and the Rogue Folk club and everyone who has been involved over the years in one way or another that this little unpretentious instrument has found its people for these past 19 years.

Spookulele is up next, on the third Tuesday of the month as usual, which will be October 15th. Tom Saunders will be your host. He is terrifying when in costume.

A bientot mes amis!


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – August 20, 2019

Though it was August at the Vancouver Ukulele Circle, it didn’t feel as scorching hot as I recall August uke sessions of the past being, which was a good thing, because a good crowd showed up to generate enough strumming power on their own. And they brought their full-power singing voices, which always sound so good ringing out in St James Hall.

I had a lot of help from the group members leading songs. I always encourage you to consider getting up and leading a song from the book. As long as you can sing and play something relatively smoothly from start to finish (I’d suggest something simple to start off with) you will be supported, and carried along by a roomful of fellow strummers, and our wonderful rhythm section of Ron and Jerry on bass and drums. Just send me an email and I will get your selection in our week-before group email, so people can practice them ahead of time. If I’m not hosting the following month, I will pass along your request to whoever is. This month we had a number of leaders, including Boaz, Ed, Jerry, Candy, Craig, Rob, Rosemary, and Amanda. But – we could also use YOU to get the room singing and strumming along!

Performance Time started off with the ‘Burstin’ with Broadway’ group of seven, shaking things up with Queen’s 1980 rocker, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” They then brought a bit of warm Hawaii to the room with the ballad, “Beautiful Kauai.” Johnny returned after a few months away, singing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s, 1969 forlorn tale of “Lodi,” which was the b-side to “Bad Moon Rising,” don’t you know… Our favourite drummer Jerry abandoned his drum kit for a ukulele, and with a little help from his friends, Leone, Sylvia, and Gayle (playing a wind-powered melodica) played a beautiful song called “Blues on the Ukulele,” by ukulele master Jim Beloff. You could tell that they put time into this as a group to make it sound as smooth as it did. Next up, Ed played a sentimental song for our recently departed member, Tom Hoskins, with his bluesy version of “Sentimental Journey.” Candy then sang a sweet version of Bruno Mars’ 2010, pop song, “Just the Way You Are.” Our bass-player, Ron paid tribute to Peter Fonda’s passing by playing a cheeky tune from the soundtrack of Fonda’s movie, Easy Rider, “Don’t Bogart Me.” (Humphrey Bogart was known for his dramatic, cigarette-smoking, which didn’t include him passing it along to his friends…) Up next, Sylvia led a familiar group of Jerry, Leone and Gayle with a powerful version of Swedish pop duo, Roxette’s 1991 song, “Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave.)” Once again, you could hear the time, care and attention that they put into it. Boaz then brought his banjo uke to play a very old and short song from the 1800’s called “Hangman,” which he said that he found in the archives of the Smothers Brothers. Led Zepellin also did a version of it, (though it didn’t come to as abrupt a finish as Boaz’s version did!) He also sang Linda Ronstadt’s 1975 version of Paul Anka’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” – originally a hit by Buddy Holly. Up next was not Stephanie – it was Joan, but we got to the bottom of how I came to mistake her name as Stephanie! Steph–sorry, Joan did a very sweet, lilting version of “Falling Slowly,” originally composed and performed by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová on the soundtrack of the 2007 Irish musical romance film “Once,” Rob, Rosemary and Amanda then did a nice job of playing a very fun little summer tune from Loudon Wainwright III, called “The Swimming Song.” I sang Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” and Carol and Heather finished things off with Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet’s ode to happy hour, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” That song came embarrassingly close to me completely forgetting to have it played, which would have been a shame after Carol and Heather so thoughtfully prepared song sheets for the whole room!

I have to apologise for packing the second half of the night with so many more Performance Time numbers than the eight we have been used to doing. Don’t get me wrong – the performances were great as usual, but having thirteen or fourteen Performance Time songs left no time for playing more book songs, which I know many of you come there to do – so, mea culpa!

Our Two-Chord-Wonder-Song-of-the-Month was a song that I blamed for the downfall of modern Country music – Billy Ray Cyrus’ 1992 ubiquitous, “Achy Breaky Heart,” but the crowd were good sports and we played it with gusto. Having earlier guessed what song I was going to do, I wrangled Boaz into harmonizing on its Icky (sic) Breaky chorus. We played it using Bb and F, should you choose to revisit it for whatever reason!

Our usual thanks goes out to the Rouge Folk Club for hosting the evening, and to Christian and Peter for handling the soundboard. I saw Kathryn singlehandedly manhandling all the tables and chairs ahead of time, before sitting down to greet everyone at the front door. And as always, our house-band, Ron and Jerry. And finally, to everyone (including you…) who shows up to make magic happen with four little nylon strings! I will be back in October, but next month, Craig will be hosting the September meeting of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle, for our NINETEENTH ANNIVERSARY – can you believe that?!

So until next month – happy plunking!!!



Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – July 16, 2019

Dear Strummers,

It was a warm summer night outside and through St. James Hall, from up on the stage to the porch, where I waited in vain for a breeze. I missed you, Tom, with your desk fan.

Despite the languid temperature — and a respite from these pesky July-uary showers — you and your ukes showed up in great numbers. All the tables filled, and people were still finding spots as we played our opening numbers.

Six hands went up when I asked if anyone was there for the first time, including surprise guests Marion and Monika, two “ukulele-playing ladies from Berlin,” visiting from Germany.

Thanks to everyone who made it happen: Steve Edge and the volunteers of the Rogue Folk Club, sound techs Christian and Peter, Jerry on drums and Ron on bass, and Kathryn and Wendy for their coordination and steady piloting. To the performers and song leaders, in varying degrees of sweet nervousness and jocular bravado: Boaz, Candy, Chris, Craig, Ed, Edwin, Jerry, Tomi, MoMaS Berlin, and Burstin’ with Broadway. And to Erin B, who looked at me seriously and said: “I’m here to rock and scroll.”

We may have tossed tradition a bit, in a good way. I’d like to think we planted seeds for new opening and closing songs. Boaz, Chris, and Tomi joined me with two new openers: the theme to Sesame Street, by Joe Raposo and the traditional “Keep on the Sunny Side”. Through the night we mixed book songs and projector songs. We worked on Eb to Ab. We did some country, blues, a few jazz standards, the obligatory Beatles, and we got into a serious 80s space with Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend,” “Safety Dance” by Men without Hats, and “We Built This City,” by Starship. For all the times I’ve been advised to steer clear of the 80s, I heard a lot of confident, nostalgic singing along. Just saying.

Performance time was choreographic! Burstin’ with Broadway played and danced their way through “Greased Lightnin'”, from the Grease Soundtrack, and there were 8 of them on stage. Ed, Chris, William, Graeme, Vivien, Linda and Claudette got the spoken lines, the solos, the high responses, and layered harmony. It was a raucous treat, and followed their 2-chord epic earlier in the night. BWB’s enthusiasm and commitment are contagious.

Then Candy came up and showed us what she’s learning now, fingerpicking the lines through the traditional “Oh Susanna”. She even sang us a few lines of it in Chinese, which was delightful. She promises more of that next month. Ed the Bluesman played “Don’t Throw it Away” by Keb Mo. He has this gift for lifting us with sad songs. Ron played “The Last Farewell,” by Ronald Webster and Roger Whittaker. He heard it at a farmers market, riveted by lyrics the crowd picked up. It didn’t take long, and the Van Ukes audience was singing along too: “For you are beautiful, and I have loved you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell.”

Craig did the Gary Jules cover of “Mad World” by Tears for Fears. Lovely and bleak, disappearing into the lyrics. In a neat piece of serendipity, Marion and Monika (MoMaS Berlin) had two songs for our 2 available performance spots. First they did a folk tune that is beloved in Germany, and then the “Lion Sleeps Tonight,” by the Tokens. We sang the wim-o-wey choruses with them, adding harmony. They were adept, warm, and charmed us. Last, Boaz played something that looked like a ukulele, but which several of you pointed out, had 6 strings. He played “Big Love,” Lindsay Buckingham’s 90s version, which he says is connected to being twice kicked out of Fleetwood Mac.

To end the night, you played and sang and kazooed and rattled with us to “Summer Nights,” also from the Grease Soundtrack. Our finale was a resounding “Tell me more, tell me more, tell me moooooooore!”

July at Van Ukes was a sweaty summer in the city: teenaged and heartfelt and expansive. Can August top that? Stay tuned.

Thank you to everyone who came out. Until we meet again: fall in love with more songs and take good care of each other.


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – June 18, 2019

Hey Ukers:

Well, I thought we had a lot of fun last night – I know I did. Everyone seemed to be singing with more “gusto” and uke-tastic enthusiasm than usual. Maybe it was because of a somewhat larger crowd, but I could hear you all quite well from the stage, which isn’t always easy, with monitor speakers aimed at me. Never be afraid to sing out – it could be the one time every month when your voice makes a large group of people sound even better! You never watch the national anthem being sung in a stadium, and say to yourself, “I think that guy in Section 87, Row 14, Seat 8 is a little flat…” The more the better!

Lots of great help on song-leading, including Boaz, Craig, Chris, Geoff, Heather and Rob. There was also a wonderfully joyous group of singers, led into battle by Louise, who chose the uke circle to celebrate her milestone birthday, and lead the room with full-throttle sha-la-la-la’s on “Brown Eyed Girl.” As always, I encourage those who haven’t done it to consider leading the group with a song. All you need to do is to confidently sing and play a song from the book from start to finish – I’d suggest starting off with something simple and easy for you to sing & play. If you’d feel better singing with a friend or two, (or eight, if you’re Louise) that’s fine, too. And don’t forget that you will have the band to confidently help you through it. You will find it exciting and empowering. At least think about it, and send me a request via email at least two weeks before the next circle, so we can put your selection in the week-before email that goes out to everyone. Then people can practice your song, and you’ll sound even MORE wonderful leading it!

Performance Time started off with Rob, Rosemary and Amanda singing “I’m Alright” by Kim Richey. I wasn’t familiar with this one, but its easy chorus had the rest of the room joining in to affirm that they were indeed alright. Next up, Chris delivered a great, confident version of Dolly Parton’s bittersweet plea to Jolene not to take her man. Edwin then played the only bilingual song of the night – “Quizas Quizas Quizas,” also known as “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” – AND he played a solo that got the attention and applause of the audience. Craig then gave an intriguing performance, playing solo, in a syncopated style on a bass ukulele – which could be a first. He played a song written by Tom Waits, called, “Way Down in the Hole,” which was used as the theme song for HBO’s “The Wire.” Boaz was up next, playing Neil Young’s floor-sweeper, “Harvest Moon,” which he did in tribute to the recent full moon. Ron, Ed and I performed a song by the Kingston Trio, called “Greenback Dollar,” which was fun to play as the verses and choruses went back and forth from a hush to a holler. Ron played a Kingston Trio 4-string tenor guitar for authenticity! Allan and Stephanie then finished off Performance Time with a wonderful version of David Bowie’s classic, “Space Oddity,” which was released July 11, 1969 – five days before Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 lifted off for the moon. All in all, it was another very enjoyable and varied Performance Time by all of the performers. Is it perhaps time to start working on your next performance tune? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

This month’s Two-Chord-Wonder Song was “Dreams” – written by Stevie Nicks, and performed by Fleetwood Mac. We played it using Bb and C. I said I’d show you the original key, but in my rush to keep the show moving, I didn’t… The original version is F and G. Remember that these tunes are all easily moved to whatever key makes you (and your voice and uke) happy!

Big thanks to our band – Ron on bass, and Jerry on drums and percussion. They provide a very solid and energizing backup for all of us to strum along with. And to all the Rogue Folk Club volunteers who help us make it through the night. And finally, a salute to Susan and Marlene, who show up early every month and put out the chairs and tables, so that the rest of us may plunk in comfort!

Jennifer will be leading you all for the July uke circle, so until next month – happy plunking!!!




St. James Hall has a big event coming up on Tuesday, July 9th at 8pm. Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer will be doing a show for the Rogue Folk Club and the Pacific Bluegrass & Old Time Music Society. Cathy & Marcy are two-time Grammy winners, and lauded world-wide as about as talented and entertaining a pair as you could find on a stage. They are ukulele players, and incorporate quite a lot of numbers with the instrument into their show. Their superb harmonies are backed by instrumental virtuosity on the guitar, five-string-banjo, ukulele, mandolin, cello-banjo, and many other instruments. Their versatility defies a brief description, but perhaps “well-rounded Americana” does it best. Tickets are a very reasonable $24 ($20 for Rogue members) and available online at www.roguefolk.bc.ca, or at Highlife or Tapestry Music, or call the Rogue Ticket Hotline at (604) 736-3022.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – May 21, 2019


First off, thanks to Tomi and Jennifer and you all for serenading me with a Happy Birthday to mark an event which unfortunately seems to be bludgeoning me with increasing frequency these days.

One thing I wanted to get everyone doing last night was that offbeat strum for I Shot the Sheriff, The Tide is High and the chorus of Those Were the Days (“…hit your uke and dampen the strings, then pull your index finger upward across the strings while making the chord….hit-chord, hit-chord…”). It’s a different way to play chords and it works for reggae, as well as the Russian roots of Those Were the Days.

I hope the waltz beat for Chim Chim Cheree worked out for you: I always liked that song. I think I enjoyed Heart of Glass most of all last night. Let’s not talk about (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman.

Thanks to Jen of the Cutie Circle for sharing her enthusiasm for Bizarre Love Triangle—as well as congratulations for being able to provide free tickets for the We Heart Ukulele Festival on Sunday, June 9 at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam (near the LaFarge Lake/Douglas Skytrain station). The event will include the likes of Manitoba Hal, Jim D’Ville, our friend Eduardo Garcia, and the wonderful Guido Heistek. Sounds like a good time.

Candy has been teaching kids and so chose a song last night that she’s been doing with them that reminded me fondly of Mrs. Spice, my grade one teacher: Down By the Bay, which I can’t remember ever doing at Vanukes. Her other choice, Stand By Me, was already on my list, so we decided to do it in both keys which are in the book: C and G: two keys to suit two ranges. Kudos to Boaz for having a crack at the bass line and Jerry, as ever, for adding that key percussion detail.

Ed led us through a medley of Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue and Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone. It takes someone like Ed to conscientiously take us through something in the book I don’t know, would never touch, and make it come to life. And he also led us through Folsom Prison Blues.

There were fewer than the normal number of song leaders, but let me tell you: the more the merrier. Only so many people are completely comfortable doing it—and that certainly isn’t me every time—and so with more people coming on stage to take a crack at leading, it takes some pressure off the people who are up there. I ain’t to proud to beg.

Performance time included a John Cage-like exploration of silence and technical noises with brief musical interludes before we finally got round to playing White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane—Jennifer singing the lead, Boaz adding lead uke colour, Jerry adding a military tattoo and me bassing. It was an epic in two minutes.

Boaz wrote his first song. He hasn’t been playing ukulele for that long, really, but he tends to write instrumentals if he writes anything at all. His new song, “Tacoma,” is a wistful composition about a Vancouverite desperate to move to some Gulf Island to escape this craziness. Surely he could write again? He had help in performance from Tomi on fiddle, Jerry on percussion, and me on bass and vox. Here is a “studio” version, without the percussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkX8brLNJMg

Ed performed the lovely 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Paul Simon and Candy performed the 1988 Bobby McFerrin hit Don’t Worry, Be Happy and had us all singing the (in)famous melody. Am I happier? Did that work?

Edwin did a slightly haunting version of Besame Mucho (“Kiss Me Much”), a song written by Consuelo Velazquez in 1940, which the Beatles recorded in early 1962 for a audition demo reel. The Beatles were rejected by Decca, who told them that guitar groups were on the way out. The house band helped Edwin out. I love it when Edwin does a song—such grace and evocation.

Jim and Paul did Jambalaya—a two chord song which, I imagine, we all didn’t know that we know SO WELL: “Well goodbye Joe, we gotta go…” This had us all grooving. Can I still say grooving? That word is probably just a few years older than I am.

A nice May night and some fun tunes! Next month Tom will be back so let him know if you’d like to lead anything (please!) or perform something.

Keep playing your songs. That can be a metaphor.


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – April 16, 2019

Well, it was nice to be back at St James Hall and see all the bright, happy ukers once again.  After much back-and-forth discussion between myself and the much more informed participants out on the floor, we learned that there are now three new washrooms located on the next floor down. They used to be spread out in different locations across the various floors. That long discussion was all we had time for, so everyone put their ukes away and shuffled off into the evening drizzle.

Actually, come to think of it, there was more stuff happening. We had large assortment of song-leaders, including Craig, Candy, Ed, Allan, Gayle, Carol, Heather, Jennifer, Melody and Edwin. I always try to encourage those who haven’t done it to consider leading the group with a song. All you need to do is to confidently sing and play a song from the book from start to finish – I’d suggest starting off with something simple and easy for you to sing & play. If you’d feel better singing with a friend or two, that’s fine, too. And don’t forget that you will have the band to confidently help you through it. You will find it exciting and empowering. At least think about it…

Performance Time started off with Rosemary’s debut performance, assisted by father and daughter duo, Rob and Amanda, playing one of my favourite John Prine songs, “Angel From Montgomery,” and they did a very nice job of it, too. I predict more great things from this group! Wendy was up next, wearing what was instantly recognizable as an Easter bonnet. So, of course she performed Irving Berlin’s “Easter Bonnet,” (with song sheets for the crowd) as a joyful promotion for the upcoming Easter Parade – (all of the info that you’ll need about it is included down at the bottom of this page.)  Next up, Corinne played some very tasty lead-uke parts on Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia” on a drizzly night in Kitsilano. Candy played her little red uke that she uses to teach kids with (hence the various “stickers of honour” on it…) as she gave a nice rendition of Vance Joy’s “Riptide.” Following that, our illustrious bass-player Ron got up, and after I finished flailing and adjusting his mic and music stands, (and gluing down his flyaway hairs,) he actually gave the most heart-tugging performance of the evening, with a beautiful tribute to the Notre Dame blaze, singing, “I Love Paris.”  Dave then led the group with a song from the book – the 1923 Bessie Smith blues standard, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” Up next, Boaz celebrated and commemorated the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (yes, you read that correctly…) by singing Tom Lehrer’s mouthful of a song, titled, “The Elements.” Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev would have been very proud or baffled by it.  Boaz then switched to bass and led a melodica-playing Gayle and I in a version of the Paul Simon-penned, “Red Rubber Ball” from 1966, (which, by the way, was written 97 years after the establishment of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.) Gayle, with a little help from her friends, Leone and Jerry, finished things up with an appropriately sweet song called “Sweet Pea” by Amos Lee.  All in all, it was a very enjoyable Performance Time!

This month’s Two-Chord-Wonder Song was “Ooh La La” by the Faces (an early Brit-rock band, featuring Rod Stewart and Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood.) We played it using Bb and Cm7, though the original version is D and Em. Remember that these tunes are all easily moved to whatever key makes you (and your voice and uke) happy!

Big thanks to our band – Ron on bass, Jerry on drums and percussion, and Leone on uke. They provide a very solid and energizing backup for all of us to strum along with. And to Craig for scrolling the Projector Songs, and to all the Rogue Folk Club volunteers who help us make it through the night. And finally, a salute to Susan and Marlene, who show up early every month and put out the chairs and tables, so that the rest of us may plunk in comfort!

Craig will be leading you all for the May uke circle, so until next month – happy plunking!!!




Tree Talks and Walks Easter Parade, in Oakridge/South Cambie

  • April 21, 2019, Sunday, 1:30 pm to 3:30 – This is Easter Sunday
  • Meet on the west side of Cambie at 45th, at the street just outside the Oakridge Shopping Centre, where the ‘Ukon’ cherries should still be in bloom.
  • Presented by Wendy Cutler, Cherry Scout Co-ordinator. Wendy has been scouting and documenting the tree locations in these neighbourhoods since the festival began, and she has led several sakura tours.

This walk begins with the singing of Easter Parade, accompanied by ukuleles and you! You may wear your Easter Bonnet for the occasion, and you may play your ukulele. The singing begins at 1:25 sharp (but in tune). This is usually a long walk, but it stays near 41st Avenue and you may leave at any time.



Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – March 19, 2019

Hello Everyone, Carol and Heather have mostly recovered and are here with the lowdown:

We were definitely not singing in the rain last Tuesday night—What a balmy day-before-the-first-day-of-Spring evening to have so many people join together for an evening of joyous music making! There was a veritable cornucopia of musical fun—a bit of Canadian, a couple of Hawaiian, a few Celtic songs, and a smattering of everything else, ain’t the ukulele great?

There were a lot of songs to plow through but we made it (mostly!). We were ably led through the book songs by outstanding singers who shared their talents with us: Jennifer, Ed, Melody, and Craig, and were backed by Ron (bass) & Jerry(perc), and fiddlers Katie and Tomi. We covered the old favourites Hey Good Lookin’, Blue Moon, Save the Last Dance for Me, Bad Moon Rising, Walking After Midnight, and Sunny Afternoon. Melody also lead a new-ish song: You and I.

Our two-chord song, Pay Me My $ Down would have made Bruce Springsteen proud (google his version, in Ireland, so you can relive ours). For the Canadian set, we went off-mic, and the room filled with Four Strong Winds—lovely! Then Carol’s daughter Kai and her friend Charlotte lead us in a raucous version of their school (?) song: Home For a Rest and it was fab! That is some school.

Carol & Jen breezed through Hukilau and Little Grass Shack, and we almost felt like we were in Hawaii—the room and the vibes were very warm. ABBA’s Mamma Mia, featuring Craig on vocal synth (?) was a blast! Our Millennium Moment was Bruno Mars’s I think I Want to Marry You. Isn’t he fun! But a big highlight of the evening was Jennifer’s Eye of the Tiger—backed by Jerry and Ron—which was particularly WILD!

Performance time was a treat as usual:
Edwin’s groovin’ to Sway had us groovin’ too. Rob James and friends including his talented daughter, wowed us with a harmonic rendering of City of New Orleans. Joan’s lovely vocals on Radiohead’s Fake Plastick Trees certainly didn’t wear us out—we only wanted more! Ron sang Let’s Sing Together which we were doing a LOT of, along with arm swaying. Ed did a rockin’ version of Green Door, and Ming’s poignant version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was very nicely done. Then Boaz closed with Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Alone Again Naturally—although not alone, as there happened to be 100+ uke friends in the room at the time.

It was still March, so we sang a few Celtic-ish tunes. U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, with Jennifer leading, worked just great on the little uke, with an impromptu choir singing back-up. Dirty Old Town was very pleasant, but another huge highlight of the night was Craig leading Mull of Kintyre with Tomi and Katie on fiddles. It was simply stunning. Finally, the rousing stomps of The Wild Rover ended the night on an energetic note, and truly captured an evening of merriment .

I think I may have used the word “fun” too many times above, but what can I say—it was a very fun night!! It certainly gave Carol and me a huge appreciation for the amount of behind-the-scenes-work and the collaborative efforts of SO many people. Thank you especially to Jerry (perc), and Ron (bass), and our two fiddle players Katie and Tomi who kept things motoring along. Thank you also to all who helped us, including Christian the sound guy, Kathryn and Wendy, the Rogue folk volunteers (and also Tom!)—they who keep this event happening each month.

We are really really happy to hand the reins back to Tom next month, Tuesday April 16, Yay!

And by the way, for those who asked, check out:
–the documentary of Doc Pomus, the brilliant song writer who wrote Save the Last Dance for Me and many more. It is called AKA Doc Pomus.
–Hugh Laurie’s piano blues, especially You Don’t Know My Mind and St James Infirmary.

Keep on uke-ing and see you next month!
Heather and Carol

Thanks to Boaz Joseph for these photos.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – February 19, 2019

(This post was written by Jennifer Conroy)

It was a quarter to five this afternoon — two hours before showtime — when Boaz emailed with the news. Tom had been on his way in from White Rock, driving in the snow, when he narrowly avoided a crash with two other cars. He collided with a “roundabout/barrier/grassy thing” and while not injured (thankfully), was not going to make it in to lead the uke circle.

I was at home with wet hair, marking papers, and then suddenly flying into action, printing out the setlist and projector songs, racing to St. James to help lead. But I knew I wasn’t going to be alone: lots of us came together to deliver Tom’s program, and lots of you showed up with your energy and music to fill the room, despite this relentless weather.

Ahead of everything, I have to thank Boaz, Jerry, Sylvia, Gayle, Ed, Leone, Heather and Carol, Erin, and Christian the sound guy, along with Wendy and Kathryn, for making it happen tonight. We all pitched in, we learned songs at the last minute, and we backed each other up in new and impromptu ways.

About 6 hands went up when I asked if anyone was there for the first time, including a UBC student from Uganda. I didn’t get your name, student, but please come back! Someone else had given him a ukulele, and he was thoroughly pleased to be in a room full of people making music together.

We played songs about rain and snow, about love and fire, and a kind of hush all over the world. We did covers of Joni Mitchell, Dusty Springfield, Johnny Cash, and one of my Canadian music crushes: Joel Plaskett, thanks to Carol and Heather, who also came up with a two-Chord wonder on the spot. Corinne came up to play a solo on Rainy Night in Georgia, and we did With a Little Help From my Friends, which was kind of perfect, considering.

We had a first time performer, who bravely started our solo section. His name is Rob, and he played a song called Willin,’ by Little Feat, which was covered by Linda Ronstadt on her 1974 album Heart Like a Wheel. Rob did a great job, and got a standing ovation. Ed came up with the blues number Walk On. What is it about blues songs being so satisfying? Next we had two numbers from our super-group. Tomi, Sylvia, Leone, and Gayle joined Jerry, and the group did a sweet and mesmerizing version of Friday, I’m in Love, by the Cure. Then Sylvia, Leone and Jerry re-assembled to back up Gayle on an original song called Moonlight at Boundary Bay. Lovely and haunting, inspired by the ocean view, the light of the moon, and not being able to sleep. Last, the prodigiously talented and always-practicing Boaz played a favourite: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, by Richard Thompson. Which I would just like to cheekily point out, is about a red-haired girl.

Finally, we sang Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight, to serenade everyone home to bed, on snowless streets. But the table of people at stage left wanted more. They sang our old closer Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, and then Hallelujah, with Sylvia joining them with harmonies. Like a proper jam, when nobody wants the music to end.

So thank you everyone for coming out and playing, and lending us your voices and uke playing tonight. Please come back in March; it’ll be Tuesday the 19th again. Heather and Carol will be leading and plans are underway for another fun night of ukulele merriment.

See you again soon,


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – January 15, 2019

(This post was written by Craig Stewart)

Dear Strummers,

In these crispy days of January, in the absence of the holiday madness, we tend to—don’t we?—plan some new things, look at some new beginnings and settle in to new schedules. A little bit of appraisal and adjustment. It feels hopeful. And summer is closer.

I did insist we do two summer songs at our January uke circle: “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams and “Summertime.” It must be said that Bryan Adams was nine years old in the summer of 1969, standing on his girlfriend’s mama’s porch, playing in a band, and working down at the drive-in. Was there ever a drive-in theatre in North Vancouver? Did he have to get driven to the one in Langley? [Terry and Erica emailed me to say that there was indeed a drive-in theatre in North Vancouver: the Lions Drive-In, near Pemberton, south of Marine Drive, which operated from 1958 to 1973. Bryan could probably walk from his other job washing dishes at the Tomahawk restaurant.]

Apparently there are 25,000 recordings of “Summertime” by George Gershwin, this jazz standard written 85 years ago for Porgy and Bess. I have a version in which it is played very slowly. It feels so sweltering: too hot and humid to move, waiting for the coolness of evening, sitting outside under the oak trees. We played it like that. And, actually, YOU played it like that—on the second run-through I did nothing at all.

Candy took us through Sea of Love (also pretty summer-y), written by Philip Baptiste, a bellboy in Lake Charles, Louisiana, who had help from record producer George Khoury. Wikipedia tells me that Baptiste only ever got $6,800 in proceeds from this song, his only hit. Candy also took us through “Hotel California,” The Eagles’ biggest hit, about “a journey from innocence to experience,” according to one of the songwriters, Don Henley.

Rob sold me on “Mr. Bojangles” with the way he led it. The songwriter, Jerry Jeff Walker, found himself in a New Orleans Jail in 1965 after being drunk in public, and met a homeless man who called himself Mr. Bojangles. They chatted, and after the man told a story about his dog that brought everyone down, the man did a tap dance to cheer everyone back up.

As for projector songs, my classic rock roots show. “Instant Karma” was a hit for John Lennon when he was still officially a Beatle, and I confess that I love it and its message. After doing his “Happy Xmas” song, he realized he had to sweeten his message with a little honey—his next effort in this realm was “Imagine.” That man. His “old estranged fiancé,” as John referred to Paul McCartney once, wrote an unlikely hit single in 1977 with bagpipes, which broke the UK sales record set by “She Loves You” called “Mull of Kintyre.” Tomi came on stage to play the bagpipe part on her fiddle, which was great.

Our two Millennial Moment songs (written in the past 20 or so years—hey, by the way, did you know that our sound person, Christian, was born in 1994?) were chosen and led by Carol and Heather. They were “Come Fly Away” by Jeremy Fisher, which is actually played on a ukulele, and “1234” by Canadian Leslie Feist. The latter song used only finger snaps at one point. Both songs were eminently catchy, to my mind.

Ed took us through “Yellow Bird” and “Eight Days a Week.” Ron had suggested doing “Hello Dolly,” written by Jerry Herman and made famous by Louis Armstrong and covered by Carol Channing, who had passed away that morning at age 97. So Ed stepped up and he and Ron led us all through that, doing both a Carole Channing take as well as a Louis Armstrong “mouth trumpet” take.

As for Performance Time, we were delighted to see two first-timers. Zara was first up on stage and played her own song, called “No Turning Back,” a lovely and wistful rumination sung with her evocative and unique voice. Leslie was up next, doing a song by Regina Spektor (who deserves looking up) with a great catchy beat—“Folding Chair.” Both of them gave first-timers a great name; I heard a number of positive comments afterwards.

Ron, as everyone knows, performs a service. He will often do songs by those we should remember. Last night, Ron memorialized a man by the name of Paul Colwell, who led a touring group in the 1960s called “Up With People.” Ron played sax in the band between July, 1967 (Sgt. Pepper had just been released, and the Detroit riot was happening) and August, 1968 (Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. had both recently been assassinated), along with Glenn Close, throughout the United States. The song he played, from that time, was called “What Color is God’s Skin?”

Bonita introduced the song that she and Boaz wrote and performed, “Oil on the Bay,” about the oil spill in English Bay back in the spring of 2015. Bonita was then in a wooden boat-building club (Oarlock & Sail) next to the Maritime Museum. Two guys in the club saw the spill and reported it, and then:

“It took four and a half hours after recreational sailors called in the precise location of the spill for the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, which is responsible for cleaning up spills, to arrive to deploy booms around the Marathassa. By the time the booms were secured the next morning, much of the 2,800 litres of bunker fuel had escaped” (Globe and Mail, October 7, 2018).

The Harper Government had de-commissioned the nearby Canadian Coast Guard station prior to the spill. Bonita said the two guys were all over the news, “especially because of the frustration they felt as they waited hours for a response and just watched helplessly as the oil slick spread.”

I then sang a song about a more innocent boat: “Sloop John B,” a Bahamian folk song from Nassau that is at least 100 years old, famously covered by the Kingston Trio and then The Beach Boys.

There’s nothing like singing in a group.

A bientot, mes amis! Till next time!


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – December 19, 2018

Well, all in all, I’d say that was a pretty fun, festive night of stretching our usual format with a ton of fairly recognizable holiday favourites that gave our brains and fingers a good workout. I’m sure it was a bit of a challenge for many to play from a book without chord boxes, and even if you did know the chords, they flew by very fast. I give you all high marks for trying your best to hit them all! And I don’t know if it was the larger than usual crowd, but the volume of the singing was quite impressive from my perspective. You dun us proud!!!

We had great musical backup on stage, with Jerry’s full array of percussion instruments (boy, did the sleighbells get a workout!) and the addition of Leone, adding tasteful uke parts to all of the songs. And who knew that Boaz would spend the night on the bass, after Ron sliced his finger while juggling knives (I don’t actually know exactly how he cut it, but let’s go with that…) Like Santa’s elves, our song leaders delivered the festive goods, being led by (in order of appearance) Jerry, Gayle, Candy, Ed, Allan, Stephanie and Craig.

Performance Time was a really great, varied assortment of brightly-coloured presents. Erica and Oleh started things off with a song whose cumulative structure was much like “A Partridge in a Pear Tree,” playing a traditional African-American spiritual song called “Children Go Where I Send Thee.” Ron was up next – he didn’t juggle knives, but he did play a bell every thirty seconds, like a persistent hotel guest at a vacant front desk. He played “Huron Carol,” Canada’s oldest Christmas carol, written in 1642. Jerry was then assisted by Gayle on melodica (a breath-controlled keyboard) and Leone on percussion, as Jerry sang a very sweet version of “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” which was made popular by that lovable Muppet from Sesame Street, Ernie (from Bert and Ernie fame.) Candy then performed Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” which has been on the music charts every year since its release in 1994, and is considered the best-selling modern day Christmas song, according to Wikipedia. Carol, Heather and Melody (the best Christmas-themed trio name of the night) handed out song sheets to everybody and led a large chorus of singers on John and Yoko’s 1971 anthem, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”. Then they tore the room up with Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Gayle then gave us a wonderful version of a tune based on an old 1700’s song of the winter solstice, called “Yule is Come.” Boaz then played a Tim Minchin song with a very pleasant tune, called, “Not Perfect”, that came close. Bonita was up next, and gave us Roger Miller’s gentle tale of childhood Christmas, “Old Toy Trains.” Edwin did a nice job singing a relatively recent Christmas song entitled, “Mary, Did You Know?” And last but not least, Craig led the room in a rousing singalong of the the 1984 charity classic, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, with its noble chorus of “Feed the world…” All together, a very nice, warm collection of tunes for a cool, winter’s eve (well – almost winter…)

Something else noteworthy to mention is that we had a visit from Rick Georg from Co-op Radio (100.5 on your FM dial.) Rick co-hosts a show on there called, “It Takes a Village”, and he brought his microphone to record a story on the Vancouver Ukulele Circle – that’s right – little old us! If all goes as scheduled, it should be on the air this Thursday (Dec 20th) sometime between 4:30 and 5pm. He also said that if you can’t catch it live, he should be able to send us a link to the piece. If so, I will send out another email soon (though you know I don’t generally like to bother you with more emails than necessary…) [Edited: Here it is]

Our usual thanks to our song leaders, to our wonderful house band, to the Rogue Folk Club volunteers for providing edible & drinkable goodies, Kathryn for manning the front desk, and our sound crew, Christian and Peter. An extra special nod to our longtime bass-player, Ron, for bringing his gear over from the Island, even after spending the morning in the Emergency Ward! And finally, to every one of YOU who keep coming back for more every month to fill St James Hall with a beautiful, joyful noise. Like the name of the radio program that we will be appearing on, indeed – “it takes a village.”

I’m taking next month off, but Craig will be leading the group in January, and I’ll be back for February’s frivolity. Until then, I wish you the Best of the Season and a joyful, strum-filled 2019.

Three cheers to all my four-stringed friends,


Ron Usher, out of commission for bass playing, was able to take some videos, which he has posted on YouTube:



Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – November 20, 2018

November at the Vancouver Ukulele Circle brought in a good crowd of happy ukers, who seemed to be enjoying themselves, (or at least they said they were!) and singing quite enthusiastically. I’m guessing they were getting their voices ready for next month’s festive Yulekelele Circle. I will soon be sending you a separate email with a link to the Holiday songbook to look over.

Last night we had a stellar lineup of song leaders, including (in alphabetical order) Boaz, Candy, Carol, Chris, Craig, Ed, Erica and Heather. We missed having our usual master-of-percussion, Jerry, who was home nursing a bad cold. I would encourage anyone feeling sick to take a pass on coming for that particular month, as the only thing we should be passing along on uke night are happy strums. In the absence of Jerry, we turned our bass-player Ron’s amp up to eleven, and he was able to keep everyone on the beat and in the groove!

Performance Time started off with Allan and Stephanie singing something stupid. Sorry – they were singing “Somethin’ Stupid,” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and they did a fine job of it! Geoff then performed a peppy rock song by The Shins, called “Young Pilgrims.” Joan was up next doing a great job of Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee,” which got her a standing O from the crowd. Carol and Heather and a roomful of supporting players (which C & H provided songsheets for) performed the wistful, “Hey There Delilah,” by the Plain White T’s. Boaz was up next with a wonderfully unique version of Joe Walsh’s riotous tale of rockstar decadence, “Life’s Been Good” – played on a banjo! Changing gears, Ed then played a very happy blues(?!) by Aaron Keim called “Henry’s Boogie.” Candy then did a nice job playing Richard Marx’s 1989 rock ballad, “Right Here Waiting” Craig finished off Performance Time with a smashing version of Irving Berlin’s “Cheek To Cheek” – the only thing missing was a Fred Astaire tap solo!

Our Two-Chord-Wonder Song of the month was They Might Be Giant’s “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” whose quick chord changes (Dm & A7) and quirky song structure kept everyone on their toes (or fingers…) Very fun, if nothing else…

My usual thank you’s for the Rogue Folk Club members for providing the wonderful venue of St James Hall for us, Christian and Peter for running the sound board, all those who help with the table & chairs set-ups, Craig for scrolling the Projector Songs, Ron for bringing equipment and himself over from Parksville every month – Ron invites you to drop into their Island uke nights (http://www.gzalounge.com/gzal-ukulele-club.html Thanks to all the song leaders and performers, and finally, to all of you who fill up the floor of St James Hall with your strumming and good cheer!

As I said at the beginning, keep your eyes peeled for next month’s songbook, arriving via email very soon.

Until next month – happy plunking!!!


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – October 16, 2018

Craig Stewart wrote this month’s blog.


Tom handed Jennifer and me the reins for our annual Spooktacular because he was off to see They Might Be Giants on that very same night. Ron, meanwhile, was in Singapore for a conference, and Ed was ill. Ralph Shaw? I think he may be somewhere in the Andes or the Alps or the Alpacas. We should send out a search party.

(This post-event summary was a bit later than usual because I was working the election advanced polls yesterday. GO VOTE! Saturday, October 20th!)

It was a warmer October night, an early Spookulele in drifts of autumn leaves, but we had a good number of people in costumed force. Long wigs, long gloves, medical mayhem—by the time we’d howled our way through the terrifying list of songs, there were enough feathers on the floor to suggest, shall we say, foul play. The list of songs included Superstition, Season of the Witch, Ghostbusters, and the book favourite Monster Mash to start us off.

To prepare, Jennifer and I looked at various lists of Halloween songs on the ol’ World Wide Web. The song Thriller seemed to be at the top of every one. The album Thriller, released in 1982, is still one of the best-selling albums of all time. The 14-minute long video for Thriller was added to the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress—the first music video ever selected. We changed the key ever so slightly to make it easier to play on the uke. Along with Thriller, many Halloween songs were basically two chords, often with a 7 and some variation in the chorus—like Superstition and Season of the Witch. On top of the spooky song choices Jennifer and I sang some a capella morsels to transition in and out of our official program of songs.

I have never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I know. Something about going to the theatre with toast and yelling lines. Carol and Heather brought us expertly through the raucous Time Warp from the film. This song grew on me as I got to know it in preparation for playing bass in Ron’s absence. OH! And there were some folks who knew the dance. Bonita and the striking Dicso Cat came onstage to show us how it’s done. It’s not all ukes, all the time, folks. Sometimes it’s dancing.

Heather and Carol, in cowgirl hats and with grim faces, set an unsettling mood with their garb and ambient intro to “Ghost Riders in the Sky”—an epic of cloudy skies, eerie apparitions, and warnings of doom. We were into it. Yippi aye ay, fellow riders.

Erica came up to help us with “I Put a Spell on You,” in which were mixed the influences of not only the original composer, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, but also Creedence Clearwater Revival’s driving beat and Nina Simone’s soulful lament (“I love you, I love you…” ). Erica also helped close out the night by leading us through Bad Moon Rising and Folsom Prison Blues.

Also leading us from the stage were Carol, Stephanie and Allan—with his gorgeous, custom made tenor uke made in Nashville. They gracefully carried us through Superman’s Song (“because so many people dress up as Superman for Halloween!”)—a song imagining what it’s really like to be a character invented to entertain us. I wonder if Wolfman, for example, takes his vacations on, say, a remote island where he won’t feel guilty for eating humans because there are none. Or if Dracula has a fitness regime.

The was a record drop in the number of individual performances this month, and we’re really not sure why. Zombie apocalypse in one of the suburbs? Candy performed My Neighbour Totoro, composed by Joe Hisaishi from the beloved 1988 Hayao Miyaziki film of the same name. It was not at all spooky or scary. It was sweet and it made me want to watch Japanese anime films about simpler things than the logical problem of being afraid of things that are DEAD…but STILL ALIVE.

Boaz did a performance of George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun, after, well, a creepy intro of—ah—beat poetry (?) with his signature deadpan flair. Jennifer said: “It was lovely, off-kilter, and unpredictable: the notes lurching and lilting artfully in and out of tune.”

Later on in the evening, Jerry propelled Jennifer and me through Red Right Hand—a song by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds covered by the Arctic Monkeys. I had not heard of it until we saw it on these lists online of Halloween songs, and Jennifer asked me to learn the actual bass line. It was this song, by the by, that a producer at CBC was excited to have us perform in studio for the Early Edition with Stephen Quinn—apparently Mr. Quinn loves that song. If you look at the archives for the show on the CBC website, the October 16th show has us being introduced to talk about Spookulele at around 58:14.

Ghostbusters: If you listen to the actual song—I’ve met my lifetime quota already—they really are unrealistically cheerful and enthusiastic in singing the word “Ghostbusters.” Heads Will Roll, in contrast, is quite a dark song, percussive and apocalyptic. Check out the video and its glam, along with stylish dancing from a beast. It was so quick when we did it, we had to do it again. I hope you all practice the Halloween theme and creep out trick-or-treaters. We heard its eerie notes drifting up throughout the night like a haunted oboe. Superstition is so fun.

As for the costume contest, our friend Tom of the White Hair won it for his costume of Guest Speaker—for which he donned the shell of a massive amplifier, stating: “I can sing a song in any language!” Runner up was the incomparable Betty Boop, and third place, according to Marnie of the Rogue Folk Club and one of our gracious hosts, went to Iced Teal—featuring a last minute but altogether striking ensemble. Imagine the main character from Frozen joining the cast of Little Mermaid. Boaz got some great photos of costumes and the fun.

We had enough time for call-out requests. We got in about six bonus songs, like Zombie, and a past-traditional closer, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”—a song sung from crucifixes at the end of a comedy film which was banned in Norway.

The highlight of my night may have been Jerry coming with that drum splash in the middle of “In the Air Tonight.” And I loved that lackadaisical bass line that Jennifer played for “Season of the Witch.”

In our excitement for all things Halloween, Jennifer and I chose, learned, and wrangled to the ground a full 15 songs—a new seasonal mini-songbook! This made some of our teeth go black, though.

Happy Halloween!

Thanks to Jerry Santacruz for the photo of Craig with co-leader Jennifer Conroy.

Craig & Jennifer

Thank you to Boaz Joseph for these photos.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – September 18, 2018

September’s meeting marked the end of summer and the 18th Anniversary of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle. If my math is correct (and it usually isn’t) that is 216 monthly meetings of ukulele enthusiasts, getting together for no good reason but to have fun, sing and make music in the wonderful company of others. And if that’s not something to celebrate, then send your complaints to Ralph Shaw – he started this foolishness!

A good number of people (and we can always use more) got up to lead songs for the group, including Boaz, Candy, Carol, Chris, Craig, Ed, Edwin, Heather, Jennifer and Jerry. If you’ve ever thought it might be fun to gather up your courage and get up there by yourself, (or with a friend) please consider finding a song that would be easy enough to lead confidently and send me an email at calabash@shaw.ca and you will discover the fun of leading a roomful of fellow supportive plunkers through an old favourite song – you know you’d like to! Think about it…

Performance Time started off with Carol and Heather performing a White Stripes’ tune, “We’re Going to be Friends,” bringing out the simplicity and nostalgia of the start of a new childhood school year. They also did something that they’ve done several times before – they brought printed copies for everyone else to play along with them. It’s a very effective way to get backup on a song that might not be familiar to a lot of people, though they probably had to spend the cost of a cup of coffee on the printing! The song’s simple structure paid off with lots of group participation. Following that, Boaz performed Tom Lehrer’s satirical 1960 song, “Pollution” which made its jabs to a happy calypso beat. Candy was up next, and played the seasonally appropriate, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” from Green Day’s 2004 album, “American Idiot.” Next up was Ed, who sang what he considered a happy blues song, called “When I Lost My Baby.” Try as he might, he made us feel more happy than blue! We had a last-minute entry from Jim and Paul, (just in town from England) who gave us a raucous version of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya”, that had the room a-clappin’ and a-hollerin’ along. Craig and Jennifer played a rousing version of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” for the second time that night – the first being a Craig-only version. And finally, Jennifer, backed by Boaz and Tomi, performed a beautifully moody piece of rustic Americana, with a tune called “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.”

Our Two-Chord-Wonder Song (which no one knew until after the first ten notes of the acappella intro) was Merle Haggard’s 1969 call for civic order, “Okie From Muskogee.” We used F and C7 to two-step our way through it.

Big thanks to Craig for filling in on the bass for the evening with little notice (or sleep!), and it was good to see Jerry back behind the drums and his ton-and-half of other rhythm instruments. A special nod goes out to Gayle for backing me up with her melodica (a handheld keyboard) on which she played the note-perfect organ parts of the 1963 pop hit, “Sugar Shack.” Fun stuff! And of course a tip of the hat to our sponsors, the Rogue Folk Club (Steve and Marnie and all the other Rogue volunteers) and to our sound crew, Christian and Peter.

Next month’s uke circle (October 16th) will of course be our annual “Spookulele” night. I regret to say that I won’t be there for it, due to prior commitments, but Craig and Jennifer will be leading a howling good time of Halloween frivolity. Come in costume and join in the fun. I can almost guarantee that you’ll do the mash (you know which one…)

A final thank you to everyone who brings their little four-stringed friends along to play and make the Vancouver Ukulele Circle a highlight of their month for 18 years and counting. Thanks for coming out, and keep on strumming…



Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – August 21, 2018

In the warm haze of the BC fire season, it was a good night to gather inside St James Hall for an evening of exhaling song lyrics and fanning our four-strings – Hot Fun in the Strummertime!

We had lots of people leading songs from the book, including Candy, Carol, Craig, Jennifer, Johnny and Sylvia. Boaz led a very stirring version of My Way, out-Franking Frank, and five members of the “Burstin’ With Broadway” group performed a unique, polychordal version of Hank Snow’s, “I’m Movin’ On”. Would YOU like to lead the group with a song from our book? If so, drop me a line at calabash@shaw.ca and we’ll get you in the line-up. Right now is the time to do that, so I can get your choice in the set list that I’ll send out in the next few weeks. That way everyone will have a chance to rehearse your song choice and you will have a very confident group of strummers backing you up.

Performance Time had the least number of performers (seven) that we’ve had in recent months, but I didn’t think it seemed too noticeably short – it gave us time for some bonus book songs at the very end of the night. Most of the performance songs were fairly short in length, which I think is a good thing. If you choose to perform a great Leonard Cohen song that has twelve verses and twenty-four repeated choruses, consider editing that down to three of each. I could send you a list of over fifty very well-known Beatles songs UNDER three minutes each…

Jennifer started Performance Time off with a short, (ha!) but mellow interpretation of Cyndi Lauper’s signature song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” followed by Johnny’s version of Green Day’s 2004, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” Chris was up next with her first appearance on our stage, giving a very solid version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” which brought the house down and rewarded her with a much-deserved, standing-O! Candy played a very nice ballad, by Australian band, Savage Garden, called “Truly Madly Deeply,” which I would have thought was from the soundtrack of the film, “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” but it’s not… Boaz then treated us with an instrumental song played with a glass slide that he called, “Before the Pocket Calculator.” It had great rural charm, and he described it as being crafted for playing on virtually any old porch around the house. Craig was up next, fingerpicking a tender ballad by Bellingham, WA band, Death Cab For Cutie, called “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” And closing things off were members of the “Burstin’ With Broadway” group, playing the Hawaiian standard, “Aloha ‘Oe,” before sailing off into the sunset.

Our Two-Chord-Wonder song this month was “A Horse With No Name” by America, which I was assisted vocally by Jennifer and Boaz, and a boisterous crowd. The chords were Dm and C6, the latter of which I simplified down to a simple “get-your-grubby-fingers-off-the-fretboard!” chord.

Special thanks to Wayne, who filled in on the drums for us (in Jerry’s absence,) and to our bass player emeritus, Ron, for filling in the low notes. Big thanks as usual to the Rogue Folk Club crew for keeping us fed, hydrated, and sounding good, including our sound techs, Christian and Peter. Thank you…

Please start sending me your Song Leading requests from our book, and we will see you next month, starting at 7:00pm, on Tuesday, September 18th.

Until then, thanks for coming out, and keep on strumming…



Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – July 17, 2018

July at the Vancouver Ukulele Circle left us all feeling warm and fuzzy – maybe not so much fuzzy, but certainly warm as we strummed our way through another sunny third Tuesday at St James Hall. I would guess that much of the heat was generated by the endless movement of people making their way up to the stage and back. I think it was definitely the largest collection of people we’ve ever had getting up to lead songs, (or to back up others with their songs.) Of special note, I know that our primo percussionist, Jerry, put in much work ahead of time to learn specific arrangements for many of the performers’ songs. He makes it look (and sound) effortless, but… We were also treated to many tasteful single-string lead uke lines played by Leone – another element that helped pull things together musically.

The various song leaders, (in alphabetical order, cuz the list is getting that long…) included Boaz, the “Burstin’ With Broadway” choir group from North Van, Candy, Corinne, Craig, Ed, Erica, Gayle, Jennifer, Jerry and Sylvia. I firmly believe that this is the direction that our group is headed, with many members contributing to leading the songs we play. And of those many members, why shouldn’t it be YOU (or you and your singin’ buddies…) leading the rest of the group through a song you already know? All that’s required is to make your way from start to finish with a steady rhythm, simple enough for even beginners to follow along with you. Please send in your song choice to me at calabash@shaw.ca and get your request in the set list that I send out to everyone a week before the next uke circle.

Performance Time… I’ll admit that we had a few complaints, not about the performances themselves, but the amount of spent on Performance Time. That blame will fall on me, as I allowed three more performances than we normally have. I have tried (not always successfully) to limit the number of performances to eight. Last night we had eleven… All of the performers had their merits, but it did cut into the group-playing time, which is what many come out to Vanukes for. I suppose the fair thing would be to try to stick to a limit of eight performances. Unfortunately, that might mean that some people who are up there every month as performance-regulars, might have to occasionally take a break for a month to allow other less-frequent visitors the opportunity to perform. On the upside of that, I know that many of our regulars would be completely fine and gracious with making way for others to come up and shine.

Performance Time last night started off with Karen, who sang and played a very nice version of Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide,” which she hoped would cool people down with its lyrics alluding to seeing her reflection in the ‘the snow covered hills…” Gayle was up next with a beautiful, but not too sad song, called “Sad and Beautiful World” by Danny Michel, which she pointed out as being so very relevant to our current uncertain times. Johnny then sang “Golden Brown” a 1981 song by the Stranglers, one of the longest-surviving bands from the UK punk scene. Our drummer Jerry traded his sticks for a uke to play a lovely rendition of “Hold on Forever” by Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas, on which he was backed up by Leone, Sylvia and Gayle on its bouncing reggae rhythm. You never quite know what you’re going to get from Ed, and so it was with his bouncy version of “The Crawdad Song” – an ode to talking his sweetheart into joining him to catch crawdads – freshwater crustaceans that resemble small lobsters. For some reason the song veered off into “When the Saints Go Marching In”, but I forget to ask Ed exactly why – maybe the saints have an appetite for crawdads, too…

Up next we had more than a few jaws drop, as a pair of ukers from Brazil, named Vinicius and Leandro, played some incredibly intricate picking on an a sweet instrumental tune called “Donna Lee”, and made a huge impression on the crowd. Candy then performed one of Coldplay’s most popular tunes, “Yellow”, a 2000 song which has a Canadian connection – it was originally inspired by Neil Young! Craig then played another song from 2000, an electronic and dance inspired tune, “Idioteque” by Radiohead, whose lyrics were literally created from cutting up phrases and drawing them from a hat! Our friend Eduardo then wished to show his gratitude to all of his friends at Vanukes by giving us an amazingly well-played version of Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” Jennifer was up next with U2’s wistful “Love Rescue Me”, a song that U2 recorded at Memphis’ tiny Sun Studios, where Elvis cut his first records. And finally (I said it was a long list of performers…) Boaz and Bonita performed a very nice harmony version of the early Bee Gees’ “New York Mining Disaster 1941.” The song recounts the story of a miner trapped in a cave-in, which Boaz said brought to mind the recent triumphant rescue of the young soccer team in Thailand.

I will also mention a special attraction for the evening, whom I alluded to earlier, the “Burstin’ With Broadway” choir group from North Vancover. They are a group of seven hearty singers and plunkers, who added hot Cajun fuel to the Two-Chord-Wonder song of the month, Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya.” They also helped us get primal with the rollicking, “I Wan’na Be Like You (the Monkey Song)” from the soundtrack of Disney’s the “Jungle Book.” They have vowed to return next month with even more shenanigans…

Big thanks as usual to the Rogue Folk Club crew for keeping us fed, hydrated, and sounding good, including our new soundman, Christian, who will be working opposite months with our regular soundman, Rich. Thanks to Jennifer for filling the roll of projector scroller for the benefit of the rest of us! And finally, a big nod to our longstanding (long-sitting?) bass player Ron, for filling in the bass-notes and his other various group contributions. I’m sure I’m leaving somebody else out, but keep in mind that if you are attending the Vancouver Ukulele Circle, and doing anything to keep the tunes rolling along (from any seat in the house) you are deserving of my gratitude. Thank you…

So please start sending me your Song Leading requests from our book, and we will see you next month, starting at 7:00pm, on Tuesday, August 21st.

Until then, thanks for coming out, and keep on strumming…



Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – June 19, 2018

It was a warm and sunny early introduction to Summer at St James Hall, and I’m told that many people were enjoying themselves, even while I was throwing the evening’s schedule out the window and making up the setlist as we went along! Ron, our bass player, was held up with delays due to ferry rescues and unforeseeable traffic woes, so our first set was all “book songs”, and then Performance Time right after the break (like the good old days…). We finished off with a few Projector Songs, before we headed out warmly into the night. Thanks to Craig for filling in on bass, and for Ron for not saying “to heck with it” and turning around at any point. We are very fortunate to have such devoted members always ready to help out when call of duty rings out!

Some of those devoted members included our “song leaders”, featuring Carol & Heather, Ed, Candy, Jennifer, Erica, Craig and Boaz. The majority of our group seems to enjoy having a variety of song leaders, so I would really like to encourage YOU to consider getting up to lead a song from “the book.” And just so that the rest of the group gets a chance to review the songs ahead of time (in our week-before email) I would like to encourage YOU to send in your requests to me at calabash@shaw.ca. I know it seems like a lot of advanced warning being asked, but I would really like to start getting your requests in soon. It gives me time to arrange the evening’s set order, and it also gives you time to get confident with your song selection. Being comfortably prepared makes your playing time much more enjoyable. And two-and-a-half weeks away isn’t a huuuuuge amount of time when planning the next uke circle’s two dozen songs. So, “Send me a postcard, drop me a line…”

Carol & Heather opened up Performance Time with “Riptide” by Vance Joy – a real toe-tapper that was joined in enthusiastically by much of the crowd playing along, thanks to printouts of the song provided by C & H. Candy then sang a wistful ballad by Pink – an oldie from 2017 called “What About Us.” Next, I had been telling about how I had bungled things up last month and left Edwin off the performance list by mistake. Well, he came back and did a wonderful version of “Fly Me to the Moon”, for which he received thunderous applause! Up next, Johnny was joined by Judy to make a duet of Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” and did a very nice job of it. Our resident bluesman, Ed then sang a rollicking version of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” which had the audience joining in on the call-and-response “Ya Ya” sections. Up next was Elizabeth, who sang a very beautiful ballad, and did a really nice job of singing it. I can’t tell you what it’s called because she wrote it, and even she doesn’t know the title of it yet! Jennifer then led a rockin’ version of Modest Mouse’s “The Good Times are Killing Me”, joined by Tomi on bass. Boaz played an instrumental version of George Harrison’s Beatles classic, “Something” with Craig on bass. And to finish off Performance Time, Craig led a group effort with a lesser-known, but still fun Beatles’ rocker called, “Hey Bulldog.”

Our Two-Chord-Wonder song this month (Bb & F) was Lee Dorsey’s 1966 New Orleans R&B classic, “Working in the Coal Mine.” The song was also covered in 1981 by the quirky rock band Devo, and I learned that our drummer Jerry and myself had both attended Devo concerts in our younger days! Jennifer joined me on harmonies and to give the pickaxe, rock-breaking sound effect, she used a pair of gardening hand tools to provide the familiar ‘tink’ sound on the “2-beats.”

Big thanks as usual to the Rogue Folk Club crew for keeping us fed, hydrated, and sounding good. And to Jerry on drums and percussion – and to Craig and Ron for filling in the bass-notes for the evening.

So please start sending me your Song Leading requests, (and your Performance Time requests, too…) and we will see you next month, starting at 7:00pm, on Tuesday, July 17th.

Until then, thanks for coming out, and keep on strumming…



Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – May 15, 2018

May’s uke circle marked our first session with a new, earlier start time of 7:00pm, (which was decided in March with a group hands-up poll.) Our first “early circle” had a smaller (umm, more intimate) crowd, but it’s hard to determine whether that was because some people weren’t able to arrive earlier, or if the no-shows were just groggy from the heat… I would be interested to know how many people find the half-hour-earlier time a deterrent to coming – nothing is set in stone, so we could always change back to a later start, if a further majority find it too much of a challenge to arrive for a 7:00pm start. But the indication last night was that people were enjoying the earlier start time.

On a different topic, one thing I reconfirmed from asking the crowd was that a majority of attendees DO like to review the songs on the set list that I send out a week before each uke circle. Therefore, I will continue to ask people who would like to get up and lead songs from our book to start sending me your leading requests in, starting NOW, and up until ten days before the next circle. That way, people can see your request in my week-before-email, and YOU will have a well-rehearsed roomful of strummers backing you up. Send your requests to me at calabash@shaw.ca

Performance Time had a really nice, wide variety of performances. First up was a uke octet (that’s eight of ’em) led by Kathy, that did a very nice, full-sounding version of a Madeleine Peyroux tune, called “Don’t Wait Too Long.” Next up were Shannon and Ted, who performed an original song titled, “Graham’s Song” – Graham is a friend of theirs who suffered a major brain injury. He had forgotten much of his previous life, but found that learning the ukulele had helped him to express himself. Graham wrote a couple of the verses, and Ted and Shannon added a couple to the song’s poignant lyrics.

Next up, our group’s percussionist-extraordinaire, Jerry, performed Cat Stevens’ heartfelt, “Father and Son”, and was joined by Leone, who provided tasteful instrumental backing. Johnny then gave his unique take on Joni Mitchell’s “This Flight Tonight”, from her classic 1971 album, “Blue.” Candy took John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” from our songbook, and raised the key to suit her range – something you may want to keep in mind for your own future Performance Time choice. Our dear friend Ed, who recently lost his wife, dedicated a song to her that gave her great pleasure – Simon and Garfunkel’s, “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”, and he did a wonderful job honouring her with the song’s joyfully optimistic tone. Craig and Jennifer (with Jerry back on the drums) gave a rousing and raucous version of Peter Gabriel’s 1986 hit, “Big Time”, before Boaz finished the set off with a pleasingly mellow tone, on a song he dedicated to Ed – a version of a 1983 Ringo Starr tuned, titled, “Hopeless.”

All in all, it was a very nice assortment of tunes by a talented cast of players. My one big regret (that I didn’t discover until today) was that in the confusion of putting the Performance Time set together during the break, I had completely skipped over Edwin’s request, so I hope he will return next month to show us what we missed!

Our Two-Chord-Wonder Song was actually two songs, demonstrating a couple of feels for “rocking” an A and a Bm7 chord, using two very long-titled song’s – Doug and the Slugs’ “Who Knows How to Make Love Stay?” and Jackie Wilson’s, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” We’ll have to see how many of you remember: 1-2-3 – 1-2 Bananarama… (FYI – it’s also the timing of the sax solo in “Rock Around the Clock”…)

Big thanks to our Song Leaders – Ed, Candy, Jennifer, Carol, Craig and Boaz, and to the Rogue Folk crew for keeping us fed and sounding good. And to Jerry on drums and percussion – and also to Craig for filling in on the bass for the evening.

So please start sending me your Song Leading requests, (and your Performance Time requests, too…) and we will see you next month, at our “Here Comes the Summer” circle – starting at 7:00pm, June 19th.

Until then, thanks for coming out, and keep on strumming…



Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – April 17, 2018

Dear April Strummers,

What a lovely night! Was it the sun, the warmth of the day? St. James was *full* last night, and there were still more people coming through the doors at 7:25 pm. It was a pleasure to be part of such a mass of singing and playing.

We met new people — from as near as Coquitlam and as far as Australia — and we now know what a ‘combie’ is! We had our youngest song requester — Lennon — who got the room to play Yellow Submarine at the end of the night. Craig invited him on stage with a look, but he politely shook his head.

Marvelously, it felt like we found new songs in the book. We were joined by Carol, Heather, Boaz, Corinne, Candy, and Erica; their enthusiasm helped lead the evening in new directions. We made it all the way through American Pie, which everyone seemed to know intimately. Boaz and Corinne led us through a virtuoso rendition of Nights in White Satin. These two both have advanced and intricate playing styles, and Corinne looked pretty cool, flourishing a white satin scarf and fringed jacket.

Up on the projector, Carol and Heather got us through Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes and Mamma Mia — I will have that little riff in my head for the next week. Boaz and Craig led Down Under (of the ‘fried out combie’), which, if you’re Australian, you’ll know is a VW van. Erica led us through Build Me Up, Buttercup. If there’s a song you like — especially if it isn’t done often, consider leading. You’ll be supported and it truly makes the night more interesting.

Craig and I started off performance time with Fever, written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell, and famously performed by Peggy Lee. Candy did a sweet and confident version of The Show, which has just about the best closing lines I’ve heard in a while. Next time you’re having a tricky day, you can go back and forth between “I want my money back!” and “just enjoy the show.” Next, Boaz helped Brenda on We Don’t Want Your Pipeline, written by Robin Williams and Bob Bossin, with an extra verse written by Brenda. Brava to Brenda for speaking up for water and Indigenous land rights.

Ming reminded us of the song that did so much to re-establish the uke: Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World. A lilting, insistent tune. Carol and Heather performed convincingly on House of Gold by 21 Pilots, which they jokingly referred to as their millennial moment. Carol demonstrated the muted strum — an impressive but easy way to keep the beat. Their rhythm was strong, harmonies were solid, and Ron and Jerry joined in, helping build it throughout. Sold.

Ron’s song Gasoline — a parody of Abeline by Bob Gibson, Albert Stanton, Lester Brown and John D. Loudermilk, performed by George Hamilton IV — could be a protest song, but from a driver’s perspective. Written in 2008 in the height of the soaring U.S. gas prices, it laments the high cost of fuelling up, and feeling stranded and at a loss. Abbotsford Ken and his friend Glenn performed “Rock Out,” a song about love. “It got so complicated” — yep, been there. Glenn accompanied Ken with effortless style on fretless bass.

Eduardo not only survived his first Canadian winter, but has been teaching at Ruby’s Ukes. We’ve missed his deft and complex jazz renderings, and he did not disappoint, on James Hill’s arrangement of L.O.V.E., a Nat King Cole song from 1965 written by Bert Kaempfert, with lyrics by Milt Gabler. Boaz, we’ve decided, has missed his calling as a Broadway musical actor/performer. Never mind the complicated melody plus chords or the feats of memorization, he also disappears into character, this time as Tevye in “If I Were a Rich Man.” Always entertaining and effective. In all, a full night of performances, each one distinct and taking us somewhere.

Thanks go out to the people who came up to lead — Carol, Heather, Boaz, Corinne, Candy, and Erica — to ever-stalwart Ron on bass and Jerry on drums and train whistle, and to Rich and Peter for their expert handling of levels for, like, 500 different people. Do you want to come up and lead? Please do. Get in touch with Tom and he’ll set you up: calabash@shaw.ca. Here he is with some business for next month:

Hello: Tom here. Just a few bits of info to pass along to you. First, if you were at the April meeting, you’ve already heard that starting next month (May) we will begin playing at 7:00pm, and end at 9:30. It’s only a half an hour earlier, but many people voted last month to turn back time, and so we will. I will remind you again as we get closer to the May meeting. And, if you’d like to lead a song from the book next month, I would like to remind you to send in your requests early to me calabash@shaw.ca That will give me time to arrange a set list and include your book-song request in the week-before email next month. And finally, here’s a new element of Vanukes we’re introducing — at the end of the “week-before email” we will be including a section called “ETC, ETC, ETC…” It will be like a classified section for you to post uke-related items, such as “Uke for sale” or “Uke flash mob at English Bay on Thursdayafternoon” or “Uke lessons by Chris” or any number of other uke-related issues. Please don’t use it if you want to sell your car, even if you plan on using some of the money to buy a new uke. Send your submissions to me at calabash@shaw.ca well in advance, so I can include it in the “week-before email.” Thanks for supporting the Vancouver Ukulele Circle – see you next month. Tom.

And thank you, faithful strummers for filling the hall with your songs and merriment and warm welcome for new people. Always a good time.

Until next time,

Jennifer & Craig

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 https://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!