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, and subsequent leaders have continued the practice. The full set of previous years’ entries is available in the 
Blog Archives.

Starting in March, 2020, these postings are being made by the evening’s leader.

Cutie Circle Picnic to celebrate Ralph Shaw’s visit – August 13, 2023

Dear Friends of Vanukes,

Thanks so much for joining us to celebrate Ralph at his jam! What a joy to see our lovely Cuties and ukulele friends trekking out to a new (to us) park! We got to visit with Ralph and play some of our favourite songs from the Vancouver Ukulele Circle’s song book! It was so awesome that he spent his Sunday afternoon with us and we got to catch up with him. Ralph has clearly found the secret elixir to staying forever young!

Our Sunday jam set-up began with Ron, who had valiantly lugged supplies and ukes all the way from Vancouver Island and arrived early from the ferry terminal, making a brilliant discovery that the NaijaFest had converged on our favourite spot in the park.

Fortunately, his reconnaissance work soon paid off, resulting in a sweet shady alcove as designated by signpost.weeds.looses. What’s more, Wendy approved the emergency email announcement of the new spot in the nick of time! The heat warning was buffered nicely by the steady breeze in the park. Carol even brought a cool canopy and our jam mascot, Darcy!

Soon Ralph and his fans, young and old, started streaming in from all over the Lower Mainland and beyond, with at least one coming from as far as Nelson, BC!

We had a lovely afternoon with Ralph, who did not only lead us on some of the nostalgic VanUkes songs, like “Singin’ in the Rain,” he also taught us his brand new Yorkshire version of Jambalaya!

In addition to our Guest of Honour, Ralph, other song leaders included Carol, Harvey, Jen, Ron and Tara. To our delight, we were in the very rare and enviable position of having TWO (2) bass players in one place! Glen graciously backed up Ron on bass when Ron was up to lead.

Harvey, Jen, Ron and Tara brought a combination of kazoos, shakers and tambourines for extra embellishment. Harvey and Jen played some of their favourites from the Vanukes song book, such as “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight.”

Carol and Tara gave us energetic renditions like “Home for a Rest” and “I’m Yours.” They even had us singing “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” and “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” all at once with Ralph proposing to layer on “Fly Me to the Moon”, though he added, “It wouldn’t sound very good together.”

While we missed Tom, who had a Sunday family bbq, we did bring a piece of him by playing “It’s Intermission Time.” During the break, ukulele fans like Harvey and Maggie finally got closures by getting Ralph’s autographs!

Ron gave us the ukulele must-have tunes including “King of the Road”, “Take Me Home, Country Road”, among others. To keep up his VanUkes obituary tradition, Ron played “The Weight” to pay respect to the late Robbie Robertson!

When Ron finished “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, our youngest and most adorable audience member could be heard uttering an approving, “Yay!” Wendy was arguably our designated and most excellent sign person for “Y.M.C.A.!”. For old times’ sake, Ralph rounded the jam up with the encouraging “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

It was a jolly reunion! Many thanks go to everyone who came out to enjoy the sun and music, to the song leaders for playing, to Ron for cluing us in that Ralph’s in town, to Glen for backing Ron up on the bass, to Virginia for placing the first ad in the Georgia Straight for VanUkes, and to the non-uke-playing, Dennis, for volunteering!

Last but not least, thank you, Ralph, for making time in your busy schedule to share with your ukulele friends! We wish you all the best as you head home today and look forward to seeing you again before too long.

“His contributions to our uke community is huge. Seeing him again, reminds me that I still miss him among us but am happy he is now charming his many fans in his country and beyond.” — Yoshimi

With bows, curtsies, alohugs, blessings and gratitude,


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – May 16, 2023

Hi everyone,

A big thank you to everyone who came out to Tuesday’s May meeting of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle! It was one of the best turnouts we’ve had at the Post since we started strumming in-person again almost exactly one year ago. (Also, thank you to the generous folks who bought tickets but could not attend – we appreciate your support!)

The songs this month ranged from The Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (both the opening song and the reprise!) to Dua Lipa’s “Levitating”. We resurrected some old favourites from the VanUkes songbook, including “Lulu’s Back in Town” and “Stand By Me”, and celebrated two late great songwriters with Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” and Harry Belafonte’s “Turn the World Around” (kudos to Heather and Tara for volunteering for clave duty!)

We had a fantastic open mic session featuring:

  • Mike’s fantastic instrumental version of Toto’s “Africa”, accompanied by Allan on percussion;
  • Lynn and John, past VanUkers, now visiting from the Ukulele Club of Winnipeg, who borrowed a second uke in order to play “Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues and then lead us in “Willie and the Hand Jive” by Bo Diddley. They also invited anyone visiting Winnipeg to drop by the club for a visit – you can check out their Facebook page here.
  • Jeff’s rendition of Joel Plaskett’s “Campfire Song”;
  • Tara’s first-time-in-person VanUkes performance, “leading lite” and teaching us Harry Belafonte’s 2-chord classic “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”;
  • Allegra’s VanUkes debut with her snarky blues-and-kazoo song “And Then He Done Her Wrong”;
  • and Boaz’s reprise of the instrumental from the Barenaked Ladies’ “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings”, which he also led earlier in the evening.

As always, a big thank you to Kath and Boaz who put so much work into organizing this month, to our volunteer bass player Shane and percussionist Allan. We missed Wendy (keeper of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle mailing list) and Rob (co-organizer with Kath and Boaz), but we hope you both enjoy your respective vacations!

VanUkes will be taking a break over the summer, so our next meeting will be in September, date and location TBD.

Many of you have offered suggestions for making VanUkes affordable and sustainable in the long-term – thank you! We will be sending out a survey link later this month to collect all your advice and feedback in one place.

Again, thank you to everyone who has come out to a VanUkes meet up this year! Have a wonderful summer, and keep on strumming!


Amanda (on behalf of Boaz, Kath and Rob)

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – April 17, 2023

Hey folks,

A brief summary of Monday evening:

Apart from our usual house band ukulele shenanigan tomfoolery, the two main highlights were Jeff N. leading his first-ever song in front of a non-Zoom audience (he’s still simmering in the rosy afterglow), and Mike performing such a nice instrumental rendition of Let It Be (written by a former Quarryman) that Mother Mary herself might have whispered some words of wisdom about it.

We’ll see you next month, on a Tuesday(!), on May 16 at The Post downtown.


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – March 20, 2023

Hey folks,

We were like a marching band, only we just stood there playing music about moving.

On Monday, the Vancouver Ukulele Circle’s theme of transportation and travel featured songs about trains, planes and fast cars from song leaders including Kath, Amanda, Geoff, Joan, Allan, Ben and myself. We walked after midnight, waltzed through a river on logs, left on a jet plane and protested Boston’s subway system fare increase, circa 1949. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.T.A._(song)

An unwell household and two lines on a rapid antigen test kept Rob away, but he’ll return in April.

In our Open Mic, Ben performed Gillian Welch’s Look at Miss Ohio and Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side by The Magnetic Fields.

Mike, in his second performance at Vanukes, showed us his pulse-pounding fingerpicking skills with Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain.

And Emily, who’ll no doubt perform again (please!), got a standing ovation for Take Me Home, Country Roads.

I finished the Open Mic section with a solo version of an original song called Tacoma. The group version, recorded with you-might-know-’em Craig and Tomi shortly before the pandemic, can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkX8brLNJMg

We finished the night off with the most appropriate travel-theme song of that moment: Just a Song Before I Go, which according to legend, was written by Graham Nash in about 20 minutes on a bet as he was about to head to the airport.

Vanukes will return on Monday, April 17 at The Post at 750.

If anybody wants to lead or perform, send me an email.


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – February 27, 2023

Hi everyone

The snow held off long enough for a small, hardy band of VanUkers to gather for our February Lovin’ Ukeful evening at The Post at 750 Hamilton in downtown Vancouver.

As is traditional we sang songs of love or lack thereof – mostly pop and country with a splash of folk, spanning the decades.

Boaz started us off with a nice rendition of Jim Croce’s haunting song Time in a Bottle. Geoff helped Boaz, Kath, Amanda and me out by leading four songs (Thanks Geoff) and had to win the award for highest falsetto in Neil Young’s Only Love Can Break You Heart. He also gets the award for the most recent song – Harry Styles’ As It Was – nicely accompanied by Kath picking out the synth riff. Kath gets the award for the most chords (interesting ones) in one song with Lovefool from The Cardigans, and also gets my award for ear worm of the night with Shania Twain’s Still The One. Amanda has to get the Shrek soundtrack appreciation award for singing I’m a Believer (Neil Diamond/Monkees) and Accidentally in Love (Counting Crows) in the same program. Amanda and I also received Kath’s award for her least favorite song by the Cure: Friday I’m in Love. Boaz gets the variety award for singing pop, folk and country. Sappy songs…. well we had a few – just my opinion mind you.

Amanda and I started off the open mic segment with one of my favourites – Fool if You Think it’s Over from Chris Rea. Kath followed up with Ordinary Love by Selina Martin then Boaz sang National Brotherhood Week, a satirical take on the predecessor to Black History Month in the US.

At the end of the evening, Ben, a lapsed VanUker from way back, jumped up and did a great job singing Love is like a Bottle of Gin from The Magnetic Fields, and finally Mike, a first timer, got up to sing April Come She Will from Simon and Garfunkle doing some nice fingerpicking. From a small group, this was a pleasant surprise and we hope to see you both perform again. Thank you!

Thank you to Shane (Kath’s Valentine) on bass, and Allan on Cajon.

Next month’s VanUkes comes up in 3 weeks!! – Monday 20th March and we’ll be back at the Post at 750. The theme for the month is Travel and Transportation.

We’ll send out the songsheets and a link to Eventbrite for tickets the week before as usual

Cheers and keep on Strumming


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – January 24, 2023

Happy New Year!

For our first 2023 edition of VanUkes we met on the second day of the Lunar New Year at Renegade Arts in Marpole on a dark January Monday evening with a sliver of new moon visible. It was great to see a good number of first timers along with some of our regular VanUkers.

We did not have a theme but managed to span quite a variety of songs: Folk, rock, pop, flower power, glam rock, soul, country rock and quirky (from Boaz… no surprise). Some well known and some less so. We did not have any reggae though. We’ll have to try harder next time…

We started off with a nod to our cancelled Christmas evening with the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLaughlin arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and We Three Kings, then followed up through the evening with the irreverent Chocolate Jesus (Tom Waits) and Thank You God (Tim Minchin) and the controversial Dear God (XTC).

We spanned the seasons with Gordon Lightfoot by singing Summer Side of Life and Song For a Winter’s Night (we had a good amount of Cancon). We got Closer to Free (Bo Deans) and Closer to Fine (Indigo Girls). Kudos to Kath who did a great job singing the lead on Closer to Fine, learning the song from scratch in one day to substitute for my daughter and singing partner Amanda, who was sick! We had some tight and some not so tight finishes and a couple of long fade outs.

While Boaz, Kath and I shared in leading most of the program, Geoff helped us out and injected some soul by leading River (Leon Bridges), Day By Day (Doug and the Slugs), I’m Getting Ready (Michael Kiwanuka) and Turn, Turn, Turn (Pete Seeger as performed by the Byrds, not the Yardbirds) Thankyou Geoff.

My favourite songs for singing harmony this evening were Summer Side of Life and Turn, Turn, Turn. I had not previously appreciated that David Crosby who died last week was the arranger of harmonies for the Byrds. The rocker of the evening had to be Kath’s rendition of U2’s Vertigo (¿Dónde está?). The learning moment was Ladybugs Picnic (Sesame Street) 12!

A big Thankyou to Shane on bass ukulele and to Allan on cajón for rounding out our sound nicely and to Bonita for scrolling as well as strumming

For those who came, I hope you enjoyed the evening as much as I did. Apologies to anyone whose religious sensibilities were offended by our eclectic song choices.

Stay tuned for details of our February VanUkes session.
Cheers Rob

Wendy is the long time VUC member who looks after our mailing list. Here is a message from her:

Each month, the note with the song attachments has gone out one week before the next meeting. If you have not received that note 6 days before what you think is the next meeting date, there is no need to be deprived of the attachment file.
You can email Wendy at [email protected], who will make sure you’re still on the list and will email you the note that went out with the location and the attachment.
You can go to the googlegroups website, which is either https://groups.google.com/my-groups or maybe just https://groups.google.com/, log in if you’re not already logged in, look for vanukes google group in your list of groups, and look at Conversations. Note that at the bottom of every email sent to the group is a link to unsubscribe and a link to view the note on the googlegroups website. If you follow the website link, you can easily get to all the Conversations from there. If you do not already have a google groups logon on, you probably will need to set that up. Surely google will lead you through that.

The December, 2022 meeting was cancelled because of the snowy road conditions.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – November 21, 2022

The rain held off for us to meet on a dark Monday evening at Renegade Arts Co in Marpole and while we sang and strummed songs which mentioned the weather, the mood inside was warm and upbeat. We had great singing and harmonies.

For no particular reason I decided to do some analysis of the song lyrics to see what terms came up most frequently. This is of course totally arbitrary and unscientific because of our collective choice of songs and the list of weather terms I came up with!

We sang 23 songs including Boaz’s warm-up song and 4 performance songs.

Rain narrowly beat out Sun/Sunshine 65% vs 61%. The average number of weather terms mentioned in each song was 2.4 (repeat mentions did not count) and Willin’ (Little Feat) beat out Desperado (The Eagles) by 6 to 5 for the most weather terms mentioned and as a shorter song, was definately the most weather concentrated!

Boaz’s vocal warm up song was Dust in the Wind (Kansas) and he, Kathryn, Amanda and I led the songs in published program with help from Geoff who led Here Comes the Rain Again (Eurythmics), I’ll follow the Sun (The Beatles) No Rain (Blind Melon) and No Sunlight (Death Cab for Cutie) and Joan who led Four Strong Winds (Ian Tyson, Neil Young version) with her friend Lori and Rain (Beatles) – with nice harmonies from Boaz. In fact we sang 4 songs from the Beatles.

Joan and Lori were first up at performance time with a nice rendition of My Girl (The Miracles), Amanda and I played one of our favourites: Four Days of Rain (The Flying Burrito Brothers), Kath did a nice job singing and finger-picking April come She Will (Simon and Garfunkle) and Boaz finished off with a commendable rendition, for a cat person, of Man and Dog (Loudon Wainwright III) a very witty song.

Kath led us in our final song, the very up Walking on Sunshine (Katrina and the Waves).

Ear worm of the night in my opinion was Rainbow Connection (Kermit the Frog) lead by Boaz.

Thank you to both Geoff and Joan for helping lead, and to Shane on bass.

Thanks to to all those who came out to join us. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Next month we are back at Renegade Arts Co. on Tuesday December 20th (the third Tuesday of the month – yeah!) “What’s the theme?” you ask? Well it is December, so it is the Festive Season – Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or whatever you choose to celebrate. Do come and join us.

Keep on strumming and stay dry!

Cheers Rob

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – October 20, 2022

For our Halloween themed October Vancouver Ukulele Circle we convened at a new venue, The Renegade Arts Theatre in Marpole, and on a different evening, Thursday 20th, because the Tuesday evening was not available. The studio we had used at The Post was booked up for the whole month of October so that was not an option. In spite of all the changes an enthusiastic group of 30 odd VanUkers turned out, including a surprising number of first-timers. 

We had a traditional mix of songs: spooky, monsters, super heroes, fun, weird and just plain strange. Boaz took the prizes for the last two categories in my opinion (Rob) for two of his contributions “I hold your hand” and “Where evil grows” (great harmonies by Kath btw) which was apparently a hit for the Vancouver based Poppy Family in both Canada and the US in 1971. 

Geoff led a number of songs including Psycho Killer and Spirits, Allan led Monster Mash with backup from Joan and Roya and Joan led Strange Brew and The Cat Came Back. Thank you all for helping out.

Boaz performed an original instrumental piece, and Joan and Roya performed Creep which was a first for Roya. We concluded with Werewolves of London.

We were all very happy to have Shane (Kath’s other half) on ukulele bass and Allan on cajón (percussion) rounding out the sound of our ukulele combo (Boaz, Kath, Amanda and Rob) . Thank you to both. Please let’s keep it up.

And thank you to both Kath and Boaz for doing all the organizing this month.

For our November VanUkes we’ll be back at the Renegade, the evening to be confirmed. Tuesday is not available, but Thursday does not work for some of our most loyal VanUkers. Stay tuned.

The theme for November is the weather. We all know we have to pay for that long dry spell and we do generally get a lot of weather in November!

We are still open to suggestions for alternative lower cost venues. We don’t have the numbers yet to consider venues such as St. James once again.

Keep on strumming. See you next time.


Thanks to Boaz Joseph for the October photos.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – September 20, 2022

On September 20, a committed group of VanUkers got together to sing and strum our way through songs from every decade from the 1920s to the 2020s. There was a bit of everything, from gospel to dance pop, from Vera Lynn to Lizzo, and from Charlie Chaplin to Lil Nas X.

We were without Boaz, who stayed away to spare us all from Covid. Rob, Amanda and Kathy soldiered on through the songs Boaz had intended to lead — but we really missed him on “Here Comes the Sun”. 😢

Special thanks to Carol, Heather and Melody who led us through “Still the Same” and “Hey Soul Sister,” and to Joan who took us down memory lane with “The Banana Boat Song” and “Smile”.

For the open mic session, Wendy played “Kani O Ke Kai”, a simple song in the Hawaiian slack key style, taught by Jeff Peterson at an online workshop, which Wendy said impressed her very much, because it’s a style of music she likes but thought she would not be able to play. The workshop is available on YouTube at: Livestream Workshop – Kani O Ke Kai – Guest Instructor Jeff Peterson – YouTube. Edwin performed the ballad “MacArthur Park”, and Geoff performed “The Greatest Gift” by Sufjan Stevens. Thank you to all who performed.

We finished up with “It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow”, something we can all hope for.

Thank you to everyone who turned out to join us.

For this month, we plan to meet October 18. We are still trying to secure a suitable location, however, so if you have an “in” anywhere or know of a great spot we could look into, please let us know ASAP.

The theme for October 18 is Halloween. This is a very “loose” theme: songs about Halloween are great, but so are songs about typical Halloween costumes (“Send In the Clowns”?), or scary/spooky stuff (“Freak-A-Zoid”?), or even songs that just sound eerie. If you’d like to lead a song, send your name, song name, and artist who recorded the song, using our Contact Form.

Use this same link to sign up for open mic.

Stay tuned for more details on where we’ll meet.

Your VanUkes Crew,

Rob, Amanda, Boaz, and Kathy

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, June 21, 2022

So we made it! On Tuesday June 21, we held our first in-person VanUkes in 27 months — albeit with a reduced capacity crowd and in a different, lower-cost location. It was a success.

It was nice to see some familiar faces from St. James Hall and Zoom, as well as a surprising number of first-timers. Clearly, there is pent-up demand out there for live ukulele and singing. We were very close to the venue capacity. 

For our loyal Zoom VanUkers who were not able to join us in person, we missed you and are sorry you had to miss out. We were not in a position to broadcast online. In fact we had to ditch the microphones in order to be able to project the songsheets on the screen. (We couldn’t get the A/V system to handle separate audio and video inputs.) As a result, the session had a more intimate sing-along feel, which a number of people commented on favourably.

We had the usual varied program of oldies and more recent songs from a diversity of artists including: Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Lorde, Madonna, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Band, and Chumbawamba.

For Open Mic time, Boaz treated us to a rousing rendition of Bamboleo.

The ensemble up front was Boaz, Craig, Kathryn, Rob, Amanda and Tomi, and we all enjoyed singing and harmonizing together. Thank you to Geoff for coming up to lead a song and to Tomi’s companion for helping with scrolling the songsheets.

Vanukes at The Post on June 21, 2022.

Thank you to all who came out to join us. It was great to be singing and strumming together again!Stay tuned for future developments. We’ll be taking a break for the summer, with the intention of reconvening in September, location to be determined.

If anyone has a suggestion for an in-person venue that could become our regular home, please let us know. Ideally, we’d like to find a place that’s: (1) cheap; (2) centrally located; (3) cheap; (4) able to accommodate more than 40 people; (5) equipped to handle sound amplification and projection of songs; and (6) cheap. 

Also this was Craig’s last VanUke’s. He’s off to take on new challenges and we wish him well. He really was the, like, the best. He’s so tall and dreamy, and we are rocked to sleep by his dulcet intonations of totally way more than just Beatles songs. We are so indebted to him and he’s just such a ^&*damn PEACH.

Keep on strumming everyone!

Boaz, Kathryn and Rob

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, May 17, 2022

Today I tried to soak up the sun–or what I could get of it–while rain seemed perpetually on the horizon as I was waiting for the bus. Can it ever come on time? In my dreams. But I guess we’re talking about a long and winding road it has to travel. 

Anyway, I was searching my soul for all those superstitions I have about dancing in the dark. I think of angels watching over me but really, I don’t want to walk and talk about Jesus, I just want to see his face.

Down here on earth, sweet, sweet Jane is my personal queen of hearts. Ruby Tuesday’s a little too fickle–though I expect she’d be up for a dance in the moonlight. Though I suppose that’ll be the day that I die. As for you, Renée, you can just walk away (although nothing compares to you). 
As I waited for the bus, I held a letter from an occupant of the fortified part of the city. She was telling me about her sourdough starter, which was apparently tops
That’s my entertainment, I guess. 


PS: Thanks to Rhona, Boaz, Rob, Amanda, Tomi, Gage and Camilia for gettin’ involved. 

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, April 19, 2022

I want to mix my aerosols with strangers—is that weird?

Nature, in the form of this current virus, pushes back, denying us yet again the hope of being in person for the Vancouver Ukulele Circle in April.

Not only that, I had a plan afoot to collaborate with a few people for a bunch of songs and then there was a Covid exposure amongst our little group. AND SO.

Rob and Amanda led four songs over the misnamed software called “Zoom” (what about it matches a childhood onomatopoeia? The swiftness with which one becomes tired of having to use it?): “Walking on Sunshine” (Katrina and the Waves), “Swimming Song” (Loudon Wainright), “Hard Sun” (Eddie Vedder) and “Wagon Wheel” (attributed in part to Bob Dylan and which became a big hit ten years ago), made famous by the Old Crow Medicine Show and covered by, among others, Darius Rucker.

I note: “The song [Wagon Wheel] has been performed so often live at venues and events that some actually discourage its performance….[John] Cranford [with music label Swampfire Records] states: ‘We banned it. (We) literally put signs up that said “Absolutely No Wagon Wheel.”’…’It has become our generation’s “Freebird.”’”

Boaz did “Cheer Down” by George Harrison—from the soundtrack of Lethal Weapon 2, the 55th most successful R-rated film at the US box office. Some lovely minor chord progressions.

The rest was up to me given the on-again, off-again nature of this beast these days. I did a bunch of songs but I was perhaps most excited about learning to play “Goodnight Saigon,” Billy Joel’s lament for those sent to fight the Vietnam War for the United States. On theme as well was “Universal Soldier” by Buffy Sainte-Marie. And we then whistled through “The Letter,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”—all dead easy to play.

We did the first rock and roll song to reach number one on the U.S. charts: “Rock Around the Clock” performed by Bill Hailey & His Comets, and more than any song, says Wikipedia, it brought rock and roll music into mainstream culture around the world. I followed this up by “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel, avowing its centrality in culture despite whatever inroads punk and disco and new wave were making by that time.

“Another Day” by Paul McCartney was slightly more complicated but “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” from the “O! Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack, was decidedly not—a song of hobo fantasy in three chords.

I did a song about drugs—“Running to Stand Still” by U2. And a dramatic song of love by INXS called “Never Tear Us Apart.” We did a local band’s key song, “The Littlest Birds” by the Be Good Tanyas, “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys and I am tired even writing this out. And also “The Suburbs” by Canadian phenom Arcade Fire, “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay, the incomparable “Ziggy Stardust” by Bowie and finally the lovely “Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John.

As we continue to watch from afar an unprovoked war, Ron led us through an instrumental version of the State Anthem of Ukraine. This was the event Ron was inspired by: https://liveukulele.com/ukraine/.

Boaz performed a song by Tom Lehrer: “We Will All Go Together When We Go” from 1959, a comedic song about nuclear holocaust.

Do we go back in person on Thursday, May 19th? We’re not sure. Keep your radio tuned to this station. 

Stay well folks.


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, March 15, 2022

Hey folks,

Well, we did it. We got through two years of a once-per-century pandemic, having relied on the good coders of Zoom to keep our musical community alive.

On Tuesday, as a herd, we heard the unheard, more than 20 songs that were never before sung at Vanukes.

I’d like to thank song leaders including Jen, Jeff, Kathy, Craig, at the increasingly awesome duo Rob and Amanda for taking visitors through a ’70s-heavy program. Not all ’70s, but sufficient.

Let’s not forget Tracey for her performance song, Carole King’s “It’s Too Late,” and Rhona for an encore-inducing version of Tennessee Whiskey. Also a nod to visitor Eleanor, who beamed in from the future (Wednesday) in Perth, Western Australia, home of the deity Tim Minchin.

As for next month, we’ll keep you posted.

There are hopes that Tuesday might have been our last formal Zoom program. The only way we’d come back to Zoom is if we can’t find suitable accommodations in time for April, or if we learn of RNA cabals gleefully rubbing their strands together.

Rest assured, we’re working like SPCA-approved animals behind the scenes trying to get back to in-person music. Sounds good?


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, February 15, 2022

Hi everyone!
Rob and Amanda here, wanting to say thank you so much again to everyone who joined us on Tuesday for the February edition of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle!

Since we gathered the day after Valentines Day, we aimed to link each song to love (however distantly). While not all our songs were explicitly love songs, virtually all of them did contain the word.

We kicked off with a couple of oldies from the 70s and 60s respectively: Take It Easy and I’m a Believer. Jen did a nice rendition of Falling Slowly from the soundtrack of Once (and featured in the VUC songbook). Craig and Tomi followed with some great harmonies on Walking to You and a spirited You Can’t Hurry Love. We sang Ten Degrees and Getting Colder, one of Gordon Lightfoots ballads from the early 70s. Then Kathy did a great job with Kate McGarrigle’s NaCl, a clever song about the chemistry of love as embodied by salt. We ended the first half with three songs from the the 2000’s: Accidentally In Love, Hello My Old Heart and Ship to Wreck, and finally another oldie from the early 70s: Doctor My Eyes.

After the break, we started the second half with Friday I’m in Love, Ron followed with More, from the soundtrack of Mondo Cane and winner of a Grammy in 1962. Baby I Love Your Way was next up, a song Rob had intended to sing for Boaz’s cancelled-by-Covid 70s night 2 full years ago. Boaz then sang One More Kiss, by Paul McCartney and Wings. We played the only reggae-ish song of the night: Break My Stride, a one hit wonder from the 80s, followed by Jen leading Don’t Cry Joni, a country love song from the 70s with a twist at the end. We carried on with Such Great Heights from the late 90s and Fool If You Think It’s Over from the 70s.

Fonny started the open mic segment with Asal ale mau nanti (If you would like to wait for me), a love song from Indonesia. Edwin followed up with La Vie en Rose, currently being used as the hopeful theme of an opposition candidate in the Phillipines Presidential election. Boaz played a nice version of another McCartney song: Baby’s Choice (anyone else see a pattern here?). Margery, a brave first timer, got the traditional VanUkes standing ovation with Dream by the Everly Brothers. And finally Ed sang All You Need is Love, a sentiment we can surely all agree with.

We finished the evening with Save Tonight. 

We can all agree too that a lot of good music was produced in the 70s, but there are a lot of good songs from the other decades too.

Thanks again to Craig for scrolling the songsheets for us, to Carol for the Zoom link and the breakout rooms, and to all our song leaders and performers who helped us out.

Stay tuned for more information about next month’s VanUkes, which will be run by Boaz!

Thanks again!

Rob and Amanda

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Virtual Meeting, January 18, 2022


This is how it went down. We don’t want to be doing music on Zoom, but I picture the Covid-19 virus and its variant forms like Hans Gruber and his fellow terrorists in “Die Hard”: “Have no illusions. We. Are. In. Charge.” So as the Omicrotechahedronron variant got warmed up in December, someone at the last Vancouver Ukulele Circle suggested we wear pajamas for the next VUC. As if to say: “Can we just do away with the pretense that we’re wearing grown-up clothes for this thing?” Yes. One less stressor: pants not required for Zoom.

And then we discussed what songs went with that? Comfort songs.

At first I was thinking about songs that you wear like a favourite t-shirt. But then I found myself looking at songs where comfort is intended by the singer’s lyrics.

We started with “Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops and one of the biggest songs of 1966 and of Motown. Apparently, it was written so that the singer would be at the top of his vocal range and really be wailing. Boaz led a Who song, “Squeeze Box”–their only international number one hit. Carol led “The Story” (recorded live, in studio, right here in Vancouver) by phenom Brandi Carlile–who recently performed all of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” at Carnegie Hall. Carol mentioned that it was her first song sheet and it dates back to 2010. Talk about comfort.

Ron led “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” a song by Bobby McFerrin, and the first a capella song to reach number one. Wikipedia tells me it’s not without its detractors, but that tune is undeniably catchy. Rob finds “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffet comforting in all the ways, harkening back to palm trees and beaches and meeting the mother of his singing partner and daughter Amanda. My mom had Chris de Burgh’s album “Spanish Train,” which I grew to love as a kid, including the song “This Song for You,” about a doomed World War I soldier enclosing a melody in a letter to his sweetie back home.

Jen led “There’s a Kind of Hush,” which has been covered by a few people including the Carpenters and was originally written as British music hall number in 1966. Ron took us through “Ukulele Song” by Arthur Godfrey, who was a famous U.S. broadcaster and “influencer” whose fame peaked in the 1950s. He was known for being a bit spontaneous on the air with his uke.

I offered to maybe put together a comfort song song sheet if anyone requested. James noted the recent passing of Betty White and asked for “Thank You for Being a Friend” by Michael Gold–written in about an hour, a cover of which was theme for Betty White’s show “Golden Girls”. Boaz took us through Graham Nash’s little domestic bliss song–“Our House”–about being at home with Joni Mitchell and her two cats. But it has been used as a commercial jingle for things like Eckrich sausage in the 1980s, and Sears Kenmore appliances. It seems I watched a lot of television as a kid.

“Show Me the Way to Go Home,” goes back ages. I know it from the film “Jaws,” but plenty of people know it from when their dad or grandma sang it to them as kids. Amanda, who led it with Rob, noted how her mom TOTALLY KNEW the song when she brought it home from summer camp.

We all know “Let it Be,” don’t we? Written by Paul McCartney after his long-deceased mother visited him in a dream and offered this advice as his world-famous band began to break up. I added some Ooohs over the chorus. “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls has got to be a comfort song for plenty of people. It is already 25 years old, by the way, though that may be discomfiting. It became the best-selling single of any “girl group” and, according to one study in 2014, was found to be ”the most easily recognisable pop song of the last 60 years.” But if you want to LEAVE your lover, sing Paul Simon’s song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Comfort is being offered in the lyrics.

On a bigger scale, you might be comforted by the story of Moses in the Bible. “O Mary Don’t You Weep,” covered by Bruce Springsteen and countless others through the years, originated among enslaved people in the United States and was again popular during the Civil Rights Era. Renditions of this song inspired “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon and the book “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” was written by Rogers and Hammerstein and covered by Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1963, becoming an international soccer stadium anthem beginning with the Liverpool Football Club. At the end of one Queen concert, the fans spontaneously burst into this song, which inspired the band to write “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You.” And it has lately become an anthem in support of healthcare workers fighting what is now the fifth-worst pandemic in human history.

Alexis–in her My Little Pony onesie–had requested “Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones (did I say Thomas Dolby?). I thought I didn’t know this song but I TOTALLY KNEW IT. Jones: “…I think pop music, one of the things it should be is like a cheerleading song that helps you get through a bad time and pick you up a bit when you’re feeling a bit exhausted and glub.” Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” was the best-selling single of 2014 and it is hella catchy–perhaps another demonstration of what Jones meant.

John Lennon was comforting his son Sean in “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” which I find a little heartbreaking. We can’t find comfort without acknowledging sadness sometimes.

Boaz agrees. His performance song, “I’m So Afraid” by Fleetwood Mac, includes the lyrics: “Days when the rain and the sun are gone / Black as night/  Agony’s torn at my heart too long / So afraid  /Slip and I fall and I die.” Boaz is comforted by irony. Rob and Amanda are comforted by the Barra MacNeils’ song “She the Ocean,” which they performed for us with lovely harmonies. Edwin covered ABBA’s “Happy New Year,” which is at least optimistic. And Jen noted the recent passing of Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes and slipped in her song sheet for “Be My Baby” so folks could play along. Considered one of the best songs of all time, it exemplified Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” approach to recording.

And we finished with “Your Song” by Elton John. For you and all of us, for sharing and singing and playing. Thanks to all the song leaders. Till next time.