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
Starting in February, 2017, these postings are being made by Tom Saunders or the evening’s leader.
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, February 16, 2021
Hi All, below is the recap for February 16, 2021, on behalf of Heather. Plus an added treat: Brenda Krenn was kind enough to share her lyrics and chords for COVID-19 blues, to be played to the melody of “Please Come Home for Christmas”.
It’s Friday I’m in love….although it was actually Tuesday Feb 16th, 2021 that we gathered separately-together via zoom to sing about love.
What is love without angst, jealousy, longing, and heartache? We sang songs about love that were sad, mad and bad, yearning and get-even, ghostly and obsessive. Throw in a murder or two, and a hanging—we ran the gamut. It was our night to explore love in all its’ wonderfully, complicated glory.
There were happy songs too! And our first song featured 6 year old Joni, who without a doubt was the highlight of the evening. She sang Someone to Lava (with a wee bit of help from mom Mel). The volcano explosion was particularly dramatic—what an adorable treat and lovely little singer!
But the course of true love never runs smoothly and we soldiered on—Carol reminded us it’s Always on our Mind, and Ron pointed out that Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime and everybody falls in love somehow….and yes, it often doesn’t go smoothly, but it certainly makes for fun songs to sing!!
Craig led kd lang’s haunting Trail of Broken Hearts and later Foreigner’s Cold as Ice, a bit chilling. And what is longing without Leonard Cohen or Adele? Rob led Famous Blue Raincoat, and Mel led Someone Like You. Carol’s To Love Somebody brought back happy and sad memories of the BeeGees. Jen added her wise contribution on the follies of love, that love and happiness hang in the balance… until…that is…you say Something Stupid. Frankie and Johnny put in an appearance, which didn’t end well.
Happily, we had Performance Time: Ed shared a clip from a previous (pre-Covid) VUC gathering and spoke so warmly, remembering loved ones who are no longer with us. He shared Simon & Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song (known also as Feelin’ Groovy)—Slow down you move too fast. Wise words in these times, wise words at any time.
Natasha, a first timer, sang an absolutely lovely version of Ingrid Michaelson’s The Way I Am, and Brenda, another first timer entertained us with her excellent new lyrics to a familiar blues tune, The Covid Blues. Boaz, a multi-timer, performed 4+20 by Steven Stills.
To love is to cherish those near and dear to us. We ended happily, because what is love but a happy ending? Carol led us with Bruno Mars’ Marry You. Love prevails!
Carol, Melody and I would like to thank everyone for coming to these zoom-gatherings, for singing and supporting us, that’s what makes these nights so fun. Thanks also to Craig and Tomi for the scrolling and muting duties. It was another fab team effort.
To sum up, Mel’s song Memories, by Maroon 5, captures it best:
…But everything’s going to be alright, go and raise a glass and say…
Toast to the ones here today, toast to the ones that we lost on the way,
‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
and the memories bring back memories, bring back you.
Next meeting: Tuesday March 16th, to be led by Craig, more info to follow.
Until next time,
The Trebles: Heather, Carol, Melody
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, January 19, 2021
Let’s reflect on this moment in history.
On Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, watched by a socially distant crowd of supporters, Ron Usher was inaugurated as a social influencer.
The previous night, at Tuesday’s Vanukes Zoom event, in preparation of an impending political change south of the border, Ron led two back-to-back songs: “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful.”
The following morning in Washington, DC, this happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s2DViOOElA
“I can’t help but note that J-Lo copied my medley,” Ron emailed me early Wednesday afternoon. “Next time I’ll ask the US Marine Band to come to Vanukes.”
Back in Vancouver the previous night, Vanukes opened 2021 with more than 20 songs from the 1910s to the 1990s. There was no official theme. They were just good old songs that were fun to play. Song subjects included shoes, tickets, mothers, babies, tin soldiers, trains, kisses, cats, a dog and a raccoon. The latter would bear arms, which sounds weird.
Guest song leaders included Craig, Jen, Rob, Ed, Melody and Ron.
We had a surprise last-minute drop-in during Performance Time (TM), when Shae sang Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” It turned out the newcomer got some advice from Ed in the Zoom breakout room, and she took up the challenge to perform on her first visit. Shaw swung and hit it out of the park, or whatever sports metaphor works for you. I guess this little anecdote also makes Ed a social influencer.
It’s not unusual (no Tom Jones pun intended) that Edwin and Tom entertained us during Performance Time (TM). What is unusual is that Tom, finally joining us in this century, bought a laptop on Tuesday morning and had it set up just in time to join us on Zoom. With that technology at his fingertips (no more two cups tethered by a string, and we could actually see him!), Tom would channel Annie in “Tomorrow.”
Speaking of the future, it looks like we’ll continue with this format for a while. So be it.
Next month, Vanukes will be led by Carol, Heather and Melody. From the sounds of it, the theme will be something combining love and anguish, but I’m sure we’ll hear further details about that in the coming weeks.
Also, remember that our traditional in-person hosts, the Rogue Folk Club and their host, The St. James Community Square, are seeking donations to cope with the COVID-19 financial troubles. Visit http://www.roguefolk.bc.ca/
See you on Tuesday, Feb. 17!
My bad. I have two corrections:
1. The next event is Tuesday, Feb. 16. I incorrectly wrote the 17th.
2. Let’s not forget Tomi’s harmonies (with Craig) and her awesome scrolling skills.
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, December 15, 2020
No one had to risk catching the global pandemic that continues to ravage the globe while the first vaccine in British Columbia was administered today. Dr. Bonnie Henry felt a sparkle of hope of finally starting to put this thing behind us.
There was no such sparkle in our Christmas songs. Well, I jest. I led a fun song by the Kinks in which Father Christmas gets mugged by a gang of teenagers who have a few other requests (“…but give my father a job ‘cus he needs one…”); Edwin did a song written as a poem at the height of the U.S. Civil War when the writer heard Christmas bells in the middle of the slaughter.
What else? Christmas wasn’t even mentioned in a few of the songs. Winter Song and Give a Little Bit (the latter used in a 2011 GAP Christmas ad campaign), for example. Song for a Winter’s Night, led by Rob, is a lovely song with some great chords in the same vein. And River, by Joni Mitchell and led by Mel, mostly talks about getting away from it all by skating away on a river (which is the Assiniboine River, in my mind). And someone corrected me when I reported hearsay that White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes was about nothing much. Nope. Apparently you needed a red scarf to avoid decapitation during The Terror of the French Revolution. So. Less Christmas-y than I had thought. Tomi and I took a crack at harmonizing around all of you on a second run-through, which we hoped worked for you. And in my online search for non-traditional Christmas songs, an unmissable one was John Denver’s Please Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas. Not typical Christmas songs.
Back to tradition: Carol led the great rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings as done by the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan about 20 years ago. Jen led some classics: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Old Toy Trains and the French version of the latter: Petit Garcon, in wonderfully-pronounced French. Boaz led I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, for which Tomi suddenly burst out into song, sitting next to me as we were muted–“C’mon: I have kids!” Edwin did a lovely song covered by Michael Buble: Grown-Up Christmas List. Ron did an old southern spiritual covered by Bruce Cockburn which cried out for us all being at St. James Hall belting our lungs out: Mary Had a Baby. Allan led You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch with his distinctive baritone (baritone? Is that right?). And Ed carried us through Feliz Navidad, which is, to me, perhaps the most joyful Christmas song.
Tomi helped me deliver a chunk of songs, and she insisted on “sparkle” in her voice for the vaguely insipid Last Christmas by Wham! I did really appreciate her harmony for the Band Aid Christmas song–Do They Know It’s Christmas? She led Winter Song with my back-up. And she was clutch for Happy Xmas (War is Over), written (mostly) by John Lennon with his new wife Yoko 50 years ago.
Growing up Catholic (I was an altar assistant) and now being atheist, I still find some “God tunes” to be lovely to sing–for example Gabriel’s Message, which Sting covered in 1985.
Boaz performed a lovely antidote to the Christmas treacle by doing Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song. And Ed did a blues version of All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.
Tomi and I capped off the night with the number one Christmas song of the UK, Fairytale of NY by the Pogues, with a little bit of dark rum in our bellies. Tomi will have the fiddle part next time, she says.
The song I found most emotionally resonant, though, is the one Boaz led: White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin: Christmas is, if nothing else, spending time with your people: which is almost impossible in this unforgettable and difficult year.
And so let’s thank our lucky stars for what we have and help those who are not so fortunate. I wish you all the best as we end this year and head into the Has to Be Better 2021.
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, November 17, 2020
Hello Out There! We were on Zoom-air! And it definitely wasn’t Hockey Night last Tuesday night—
Heather, Carol & Melody are here with November 17th’s VUC recap:
It was an Oh! So great! CanCon night!—chock full of Canadian classics we love, and newer artists we were introduced to. One thing was mighty clear—there is a lot of incredible musical talent out there from coast to coast to coast.
Our fellow leaders—Craig, Tomi, Rob, Amanda, Boaz, Tom, Jen, and Ron (with fab multi-dexterous skills on tin whistle!), guided us through a cornucopia of Canadiana music—Who knew there was such an endless list of extraordinary talent: Joni, Buffy, Shania, kd, Rita, Raffi, Alanis, Sarah, Stompin’ Tom and Justin(!)…and more…Anne Murray, Wade Hemsworth, Allister MacGillivray…and Arcade Fire, Tragically Hip, Spirit of the West, and Barenaked Ladies (Echoes!) (Loud & clear!) (J)!
Thanks to the excellent performers who shared their songs—Rob with Stan Rogers’ Free in the Harbour and Tom who led Bruce Cockburn’s Wondering Where the Lions Are. Boaz also sang Beware of Darkness. In the future we look forward to a ‘Canada 2’ night, with those artists we just couldn’t fit in—Gordon, Leonard, Celine, Neil…the list goes on and on….
And although it wasn’t a hockey game, it was another huge team effort. A big thank you to everyone for turning up and tuning in, for sharing and singing with us, for Mel for fixing mic gremlins, Craig for scrolling, and Carol for generally everything. We hope it was a fun and positive excursion into your Canadian musical landscape.
Next month: Tuesday December 15 for Christmas with Craig!
The Trebles—Heather, Carol & Melody
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, October 20, 2020
Previously on “As the Ukulele Strums”:
A mysterious stranger named Mandolin courted Sheila (Jeff’s “Angel from White Rock,”) as Jeff led is first first Vanukes song, John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery.”
Rob and Amanda began a relationship with a new microphone, which they used to perform “Gold Rush” by Death Cab For Cutie.
Friendly-neighbourhood Jen, wearing the only non-Zoom-5.3-provided mask of the night, spun a retro web with her rendition of the Spider-Man cartoon theme.
After Tom recovered from his I-don’t-know-how-many-ukuleles-I-own amnesia, he brought back from the dead the love child of Leonard Cohen and Lamb Chop. Named “The Song That Doesn’t End,” the allegedly interminable aria ended up in county court, sued for false advertising. Tom had cut it off after about two minutes. The defendant had his reasons. “Even though this song was written 50 years ago, it really sums up 2020 for me,” Tom said, without mentioning that lamb chop goes well with Dijon mustard and fresh rosemary.
Walk On By, led by Tomi (with backup from Craig): Wow. (Wow from multiple reviewers.)
Yours truly conjured up about 50 nascent BB Kings/Claptons during an experimental blues lesson on how to improvise soloing using five notes. Easy, right?
A lengthy tangent about the closing song of the night: We forget that ukuleles can do a lot, including making one E chord fill in for three pianos and a harmonium (organ). That was the end of “A Day in the Life.” Wikipedia trivia: Byrd (that is, of The Byrds) David Crosby, one of the first to hear the finished recording at the studio, “recalled his reaction to the song: ‘Man, I was a dish-rag. I was floored. It took me several minutes to be able to talk after that.’ Due to the multiple takes required to perfect the orchestral cacophony and the final chord, the total time spent recording “A Day in the Life” was 34 hours. Also: This one paragraph has four colons.
One final thing to recall in our soap opera narrative: The ghost of Nickelback came to haunt our Zoom meeting by muting Edwin as he started to perform “Up Here, In Canada.” Edwin carried on like a trooper, though. Here’s the link to the original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37nGeXn2K9c
Speaking of Canada, tune in to our next episode in November, where Carol, Heather and Melody will focus on Canadian content. Same Zoom time, same Zoom channel.
Thanks for coming out in October, and see you on Nov. 17!
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, September 15, 2020
Oh boy I’m still glowing after spending the night with you. Let’s do it again sometime!
No-one was more surprised than I at what an impact the night’s 2.30 am to 5:00 am Zoom meeting had on me. The odds were against it because I’m pretty vocal about my dislike of screen-time (and social media) plus I’m not usually functioning at those hours of the night. I had no idea then that I would walk away from my laptop feeling like I had just had a really good night at the St James Hall.
The big factor was YOU. During the half hour of setting up before the official start I was watching people come online one by one. One dear friend after another. Some of you I haven’t seen for a decade or so and there you were in a little box waiting to watch me talk and sing from my studio at the bottom of my parent’s garden in Yorkshire. I felt so close to you all. As if I’d never been away. And some of you were taking it in turns to recall memories of how we’d met way back when. I was not prepared for that at all and felt extremely touched.
I sent an email to a few folks to make sure they’d tune in and most of them did. Unfortunately not Virginia Ise (she who got me to start this whole thing) because she just checked her emails today. But she’s still in Toronto and is looking forward to seeing the recording. And here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mNvThIid-Q
I have only had about 3 gigs since early March so I wanted this to work. I prepared like it was a proper gig. By the time I finished I was on a high and could not get myself to sleep for quite a while. And I wasn’t performing in a total void thanks to those of you who did little moments of naughty ‘un-muting’ to praise me or applaud. It absolutely provided the feeling that I was being listened to.
When I started the Uke Circle. I did everything myself and kept it all very low maintenance. But bit by bit complexities set in and you stepped in one by one, starting with Wendy, to share the load of what needed to be done. And that Zoom session involved at least half a dozen people (Craig, Carol, Ron, Boaz, Tom, Kathryn, & Wendy) to make sure we had the materials and tech to make it work. I could not have done that alone. I’ve come a long way and ended up in England but I’ve come to realize that actually most of my dearest friends are still there in Canada. Thanks for just showing up.
Anyway, the upshot is that I truly hope you got something out of what we did last night because I got bucketloads of joy and I’d definitely do it again!
Love you all so much,
Ralph (Sleepless in South Yorkshire) Shaw
…And I, Craig, will add that we had a nice, if less celebratory, Part II on the general theme of Songs for the Apocalypse. Carol led us through the intense and somehow joyful It’s the End of the World As We Know It by R.E.M: seems like a good party trick to memorize that flow of words. Ron led Blame it On the Ukulele, based on the 1963 hit, Blame it On the Bossa Nova. I don’t think ukuleles get blamed enough. Heather led Leonard Cohen’s Anthem with Carol’s harmony assisting. It was a lovely and melancholic finger-picking song that stood out from everything else. Melancholy also pervaded Tom’s performance song–“September Song” by Kurt Weill–which he sang into his phone (which required 20 minutes of charging before it could handle such exertions). Boaz performed an original space tune in space about Space Aliens in Outer Space. Just because, okay? And he also led us through the apocalyptic Five Years by David Bowie.
Tomi assisted with harmonies and riffs on When Doves Cry by Prince (the Formerly Unnamed would have LOVED it), Who’s That Girl by the Eurythmics, Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles and Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat. And I led a punk song (I Wanna Be Sedated), a song by a former punk (Dancing With Myself), a Beatles song in which Paul McCartney wanted to outscream other bands (Helter Skelter)…and Piano Man by Billy Joel to finish things off on a slightly less bleak tone.
Thanks for making the virtual time to make this a fun night! Boaz is up next on Tuesday, October 20th. I encourage costume-wearing!
Hellooooooo ukemaniacs! from Kathryn.
Last night we celebrated 20 years of strumming the little ukulele in a group setting known as the Vancouver Ukulele Circle. We invited our fearless leader and founder Ralph Shaw to once again lead a portion of the evening. Ralph was his usual charismatic self at 3 am (his time)! It was lovely to hear stories from the early years and the music that Ralph chose then. Thank you Ralph for spending time with us and inspiring us in so many ways again!
We were also pleased to see some of our early members – Anne Fleming and Cyntha Nugent; and original members Guy Costanzo and Paul Hoosen. Ron Usher and Wendy Cutler were also there representing the early members.
Here are two links that were posted in the Chat:
Ron Usher sent this, recorded at the ukulele games night at Our Town, Feb 16, 2010.
Tom Saunders sent Short People sung by Ralph and Tom at Our Town in 2017
Ron. Thank you and your employer for the Zoom meeting and your song “Blame it on the Ukulele” Nice backdrop – where is that place again, it’s been too long?! Thanks to Boaz for leading “Five Years” by David Bowie and performing an original song he calls “Space Aliens from Outer Space,” Carol for leading “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” and for monitoring the chat and generally keeping an eye on things, Heather and Carol for leading us through “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen, Tom for performing “September” which helped us wind down…Let me take this opportunity to thank you Tom for holding the Uke Circle together these last 3+ years – Bravo! And a big thank you to Craig who has also played a major role in leading the Circle and organizing this wonderful 20th anniversary celebration! Thank you to all the other leaders and performers.
Thank you to Ed, Wendy Jerry, Ron, Susan, Marlene, Rogue Folk volunteers for your back up support.
Thank you all for attending. Be kind. Be calm. Be safe. Keep Strumming!
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, August 18, 2020
Hello all Van-Uke-thusiasts!
Our August 18th, 2020 Van Uke Circle evening was dedicated to summer, warmth, friendship and fun. Many thanks go to those who contributed to a bright and happy evening, especially guest leaders Alan, Jen, Craig, Tomi, Rob & Amanda—who shared with us some amazingly wonderful songs. We couldn’t do it without you!
We sang lots of classics on the road to memory lane—Eddie Cochrane, the McGarrigle Sisters, Mungo Jerry (and have you checked out the truly pandemic sideburns of Mungo Jerry?), Lovin’ Spoonful (ditto the sideburns of John Sebastian?), Gershwin and The Drifters. Also, a bit of picking fun was had with—-WIPEOUT! Heh heh heh!
We sang lots of new(er) songs too—Adam Sandler, Wheezer, Rico Blanco, Bedouin Soundclash, Sheryl Crow, and Noah & the Whale. Also making appearances were ABBA and Donna Summer (get it? summer?) and assorted other favourite Island-type songs.
Performance time: Boaz sang America’s Ventura Highway (the word ‘sunshine’ appears twice!), and Edwin did While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
The big surprise of the night, lo and behold, from the great cell-phone-beyond was….Tom! He beamed in from his little black box and sang a ‘Name that Tune’ number for us—”We’re Here for a Good Time!” (great Canadian band Trooper’s classic) and we certainly were. Such a delight to hear this familiar voice. We are looking forward to more from Tom in the future—hear that Tom?
We hope a good time was had by everyone although, uh, it’s hard to tell because it is the weirdest experience ever to be singing and sharing music when we can’t hear anyone else at all. Thanks to Ron for valuable input re repositioning the mic, to Tomi for scrolling, Carol for managing endless details, Craig for feedback…and thank you to all of you who tuned in. It is truly a group, a team effort, we couldn’t do this without everyone.
Although we are carefully plodding through these days of uncertainty and doing our very best to maintain some sense of normalcy, our love of music and especially sharing it, motivates us to continue. Our Uke Circle diligently carries on! Afterall—It’s 5:00 somewhere! Or at least, it’s 7:30 on the third Tuesday of every month, somewhere from your zoom screen.
Tune in next month, Sept 15th 2020—Craig leading, yay! We will party on and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Vancouver Uke Circle.
Keep sun-shining and uke-playing,
The Trebles–Heather, Carol, and Melody
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, July 21, 2020
Our fourth online event, this time mid-summer, featured a solid mix of familiar tunes, starting with the first quarter of the 1967 Sgt. Pepper album. Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) has a lot of ‘splaining to do after she pulled away Charlie Brown’s football, right? Indeed. That’s what John Lennon sang about.
We played songs that stood the test of time (and The Blitz), from the recently departed Vera Lynn to Carole King to The Who (twice!) to David Bowie (just one day after Neil Armstrong Day (TM), July 20).
No Vanukes happens without teamwork. We had 11 guest song leaders, including Jen, Bonita, Melody, Rob, Amanda, Heather, Edwin, Ron, Carol, Tomi and Craig – listed here in order by vibe.
For Performance Time, Rob and Amanda sang “She The Ocean” by The Barra MacNeils, and I asked them (and will plead again) that they play it live, in person, in front of us. Live. In person. When they can. When we can.
Behind the scenes, Carol, Tomi and Craig took care of the Zoom content (respectively hosting, scrolling and muting). Yup, Craig was the mutation guy.
Thanks everybody for making it a fun event! In August, look for august ukuleadership in Carol, Heather and Melody, aka The Trebles. (Tribbles are something different.) The theme will be summertime
Last note: It would be nice if we could help out our normal-world hosts, The Rogue Folk Club, who run the treasure known as St. James Hall, with donations during this ongoing, challenging period: http://www.roguefolk.bc.ca/tix/donations
See you next month!
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, June 16, 2020
When Jennifer and I were collaborating on hosting Vancouver Ukulele Circle nights (when Tom wanted a break), we discussed at length how we should approach it. We both had an academic approach: curious, exploratory, and looking to experiment a little bit. It seemed to me that the most important thing, the most precious thing, about the Vancouver Ukulele Circle was this: a group of mostly strangers singing their hearts out to some (often sentimental) song. The feeling to be got from emotional resonance with those around you through music is really the best thing that this group produces.
And, unfortunately, that is precisely the one thing that has been missing since February, our last in-person VUC before the global pandemic reached us.
And, so, now we are left with alternatives—a situation that will not be changing anytime soon. Carol’s ability and enthusiasm for the ways technology can help is so important right now, showing us that Zoom is better than nothing and that we can continue to improve the experience. Boaz’ immense facility with sound and video equipment has helped bring Tom’s easy natural talent, good humour and expert instruction to all of us in a different way. We adapt. We try new things, not forgetting what joy music brings to all of us.
We all share that same love of finding a way to play those songs that we have always been listening and singing along to. Boaz will be leading the next VUC on July 21; Carol and her Trebles are planning something summery for August, and I recently realized that my next hosting is the actual 20th Anniversary of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle: September, 2020.
As for Tuesday, I am glad that Tomi could help augment the Movie Songs theme night with the melodica. When we had tried singing together with social distancing in a park, I found it hard to hear everyone’s voices. But the melodica cuts through everything—it’s pretty satisfying. And how else would we get that flute sound on My Heart Will Go On, which is so essential? Tomi, you may have noticed, is a little nervous leading/performing. When we were leading the last song, Shallow, she said afterwards that she sort of went a bit blind and couldn’t see the words on the screen. But she had it memorized anyway.
I loved hearing the rendition of City of Stars by Melody and her partner Tom, and Allan has such a great crooner voice. Jen took The Rose through its gentle and insistent phrasing with great confidence. Carol’s exuberant enthusiasm for Lonely Goatherd almost made me like the song. And oh yes: this was the first time (I believe) that not just one, but two, rap songs were included in a line-up of leading songs in the 20-year history of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle: given the recent social conflagrations south of the border, I felt compelled to include them.
Things seemed to go a bit smoother for this last one, and we have tried to take your feedback to heart. Thanks to Rob and Amanda, Ed, and Boaz for offering performances of solace: Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls, a song called Blessed is the Spot with words by the founder of the Baha’i faith, and a brief instrumental version of Michelle by the Beatles, respectively. Thanks to all of you for continuing to maintain this community.
Here is VUC founder and pre-eminent VUC host Ralph’s video of movie songs–so great to see him in action again: https://youtu.be/8LSKBlSR5kc
I look forward to seeing Boaz hosting for the first time next month. His deep musical focus is always something to behold.
A bientôt tout le monde,
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, May 19, 2020
All I have to do is Drea-ea-ea-eam that this pandemic will be over someday soon, but since it is not—and it looks like it could last perhaps a long while yet—we met virtually again this past Tuesday night May 19, 2020, mostly separate in our own homes, but singing together in a weird but wonderful sort of way. It was really lovely and heartening to “zee” so many faces, familiar and otherwise, from around the world—even Puerto Vallarta and Qatar—and Parksville, and Richmond and White Rock too! Songs ranged from George Ezra, Bruno Mars, Meghan Trainor, Norah Jones, to Eddie Fisher and Tom Jones, with Canadians Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Jeff Healey in the mix too.
Performance Time included newcomers Joyce, who did a really beautiful version of Ingrid Michaelson’s The Way I Am, and Louis who did an absolutely splendid mash up of Lateeya’s Lullaby, Xxxtentatcion’s s.a.d! and Tori Kelly’s Paper Hearts. Also performing was Edwin with In the Beginning by Victor Wood, Ed singing Crawdad Song & The Saints, and Boaz with Dire Straits’ Water of Love.
Grateful thanks go to those who helped lead songs, without whose support and enthusiasm we really aren’t sure what on earth would be happening to our group: Jen, Craig, Ed, Rob, Allan, Joan, Boaz, first timer Tom (yay!), and Ron—who also incidentally did a great job of ‘echo-ing’ from afar with stellar visual aids. I must say, people do get creative in these times!
Carol ended the evening with a real treat—U2’s ‘With or Without You’ complete with technical wizardry, wherein we were actually able to sing along with her while lyrics moved, and it seemed we strummed with no lag. Who knows: technology (and a vaccine) may eventually catch up with us someday, the sooner the better.
I really enjoyed meeting other uke-enthusiasts in the Speed Dating section—uh—the Break Out rooms. It is nice to put a face and a smile to a name.
Huge thanks go to Carol, our Head Operations Manager for emceeing, scrolling, working the controls, jack of all trades, and major problem solver, also Ed for manning the ‘mutiny-ing’, Tomi on controls for Chat and Performance Time, and Craig for backup everything.
Thank you to everyone who came and for your very kind feedback. It ain’t perfect, but there ain’t no alternative, and so, with ukes, we will be back!
Next month: Tuesday June 16 with Craig.
The Trebles: Heather, Melody & Carol
Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, April 21, 2020
Well my fine uke friends,
That was something (intonation really changes the meaning of that phrase). We successfully had a Virtual Vancouver Ukulele Circle—and by successful I mean that it wasn’t disastrous. There weren’t rolling blackouts, no one was injured, and no one was exposed to the dreaded virus. Success!
There was no March, 2020 meeting.
The venue was closed and large meetings were not permitted, in accordance with COVID-19 regulations.
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,