Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday December 15, 2009

Ralph’s Blog Archives – 2009

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.

These Archives are the write-ups from previous years. Current year entries are on
Ralph’s Blog page.

Other years: see Blog Archives

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday December 15, 2009

Merry Ukeing Christmas Everybody!!

Our Town Café was packed once more. I hope I don’t bore you every week
with news of the great turnouts but that is definitely the major
difference between uke circle at the start of the year and how we’re
ending it. Close to 70 people there in Our Town Café all raising the
rafters with joyful refrains!

We sang songs from the Christmas songbook and Performance Time was all
winter-themed songs. Cynthia and Russell started things off with How’d
you Like to Spend Christmas on Christmas Island? (Probably not actually
– didn’t the Americans test a toxic weapon there or something? Look it
up and let me know). Yvonne and Jane were remarkable for their
innovation. Not only was this their first ever time performing but they
also played along with Iz. That hasn’t been done before. And…they
dressed up in Mumu’s, red leis and green head gear. The only downside is
that we don’t have a monitor speaker so it was quite hard for them to
hear what they were playing along with. Bear that in mind if you want to
try something similar.

Tom sang Holly Jolly Christmas. This was made famous by Burl Ives’ jolly
character of Sam the Snowman. Burl Ives was a favourite singer of mine.
I say ”was” because McCarthy era records have recently come to light
showing how Burl Ives named many of his showbiz colleagues as being
communists. Their careers ended while his flourished. Sam the

Jill was specifically told: NO ZOMBIE SONGS. So what does she do? She
goes and buys herself a book of Zombie Christmas Carols. She sang Rudolf
the Zombie Reindeer. It was…a …song. Thank you Jill!!!

Wendy – beautiful clawhammer instrumental of a tune called Cold Frosty
Morning. A very different style of playing and done in a mountain banjo
tuning. Neat. Rock then pushed his way in with his big black boots and
sang: Lucky Star. Not a Christmas song but he argued that having the
word “star” in the song was seasonal enough. But then again just because
a song has the word “ass” in it doesn’t make it a Christmas song either…

Peter did a song he wrote about wanting to be a cat. I think that’s a
pretty good ambition to have. In what other job do you get to sleep 18
hours a day?! It is said that cat’s are proof that not everything in
nature has to be useful.

I’m glad we ended with Tamara. She sang a Dar Williams song about the
inclusivity of the Christmas celebration. The song featured a Pagan
family celebrating Christmas with a family of devout Christians and all
enjoying the magic and the fellowship that is possible. Perfect. That
exact sentiment is why I began the Vancouver Ukulele Circle. Music and
fun and laughter. Everybody, everywhere knows these things and while
they are happening there is no room for the negative. So light your
candles and keep the fire in your hearts burning all year long.

Merry Christmas and to all a Good Night.

Ralph Shaw

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday November 17, 2009

Wow you guys are getting weirder and weirder. And I liiike it!!!

I’m not sure if it was hearing Jill and Mythical Man playing their
Zombie Love song duet (brilliant song btw.) on electric uke and
euphonium or whether it was Ken and Ty who did their cello/ukulele duet
of the Eurythmics Here Comes the Rain Again combined, chopped, diced,
mixed and mingled with Bach’s suite no 1 complete with changes in tempo
and weird time signatures…pure genius. Something was definitely in the
air tonight – either there or it had been put in the drinks.
[Note from Wendy: you can see Ken and Ty’s performance on YouTube.]

Amazing show. Thanks to all. Over 60 people and 9 there for the first
time. Ron “the Bass” Usher was in funky town heaven tonight playing on
Wendy’s ukulele bass. A cool little instrument with strings as fat as
those fat noodles you get in some asian restaurants. Such a low voice
for such a cute little instrument. The effect is what you’d get if a 9
year old girl sang like Leonard Cohen.

I’ve told you about the avant-garde stuff but all the performers were
great tonight and they were: Peter1 who sang Dream a Little Dream, Wendy
and Gary did the Molokai Slide a song that details all the great food
available at a Luau on the beach of Molokai – I could see the
vegetarians wincing at this one. One line: where he sings, “we’ll cook a
little pig” made me wonder. How do you hold the pig still while you just
cook part of it? I bet Julia Child could do it. Maybe I’m not fully
understanding the lyric. Special thanks to Gary helping lead a whole
bunch of songs tonight.

Rock sang North to Alaska, Peter2 sang the Sesame Street song: I Don’t
want to live on the Moon, Steve plugged in his electric uke and did Jack
Johnson’s I Can’t Always Be Waiting for You. I think that’s the title.
It should be he sure sang it enough times!

Daphne and Guido led 2 groups of newbies from the first ever classes of
the Ruby’s Ukes ukulele school. The Intermediate’s did a Blues Riffin’
song and were followed by Guido’s amazing beginners (surely they weren’t
all beginners, far too good) who did the infectiously samba-biotic Latin
Theme. Miriam and Chris came next and sang Elephant Gun. Hey! Chris said
a nice thing. When he walked in and saw us all singing tonight he
couldn’t believe his eyes and after that he couldn’t stop smiling, He
said “This is what heaven must be like”.

I agree. I’m thinking that angels probably play ukuleles and not harps
after all. Maybe the translation got mixed up from the original Latin,
Greek or Hebrew or whatever it is that God speaks.

Bert did a nice rendition of Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. Here’s
what I liked. He kept it short and didn’t go on and on doing every
single verse. Also he changed a verse to include: ‘Momma take my uke
offa me’. And also ‘Our Town’s gotta close’. A vast improvement over Bob
Dylan’s slap happy and slip shod lyrical efforts. I finished off
performance time with Elvis’ Suspicious Minds ably aided by some
amazing chorus singing.

Way to go everyone. Those who didn’t perform brought along some great
energy tonight and we thank you all!!!


PS. Let me remind you about my weekly newsletter “The Ukulele
Entertainer”. Receive a free chord chart when you subscribe at my
website: or you can follow
it here: it’s full of tips on
playing ukulele and performing. Very eclectic, helpful and fun!

Bye Bye until next time.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday October  20, 2009

Hey Everyone – Happy Uketober to one and all!!!

It was great to be home in the midst of my ‘North America tour’. I just
finished performing at festivals in the Napa Valley, Santa Cruz and
Eugene and this weekend I’m off to Nova Scotia for the wonderful Ukulele
Ceilidh. Its neat to be amongst all your familiar faces and to see some
old friends who haven’t been with us for a while – especially Stan

First off – someone left a white scarf at Our Town Café. They have it
there if you want to claim it.

Steve is performing in a production that has been written, produced and
performed by members of the Yoof (youth) community. I can’t say any more
than that because there’s no ukulele involved (yet). But it’s near the
end of Nov (27th/28th) and if you want to see it I’m sure Steve will be
happy to tell you how.

Awesome vibe at uke circle tonight. Many fine voices and some cool
playing including Tom, who came off the street with his melodica (a
piano keyboard that you blow into – sounds weird but it’s really cool)
and Veronica who played the musical saw to White Sandy Beach of Hawaii.
Amazingly the song begins with, I SAW YOU in my dreams…ha – it’s a song
we could really get our teeth into. I think you’ll be hearing quite a
bit of buzz about that performance. I thought she wouldn’t be able to
hack it but she cut through all the nonsense and gave a very sharp
performance. OK I’d better stop with the saw puns before I make myself
look like a complete tool.

Gary sang Harry Nilsson’s The Puppy Song, Steve did It’s What You do to
Me, Rock sang The Marvellous Toy. Unfortunately in his preamble he
stated that he was sure to not forget the words to this particular song
because he had learned it as a small child. I don’t think I need to
embarrass him further by telling you what happened next…all good
entertainment though – thanks Rock!

Ken and Jimmy were up next with an instrumental written by Ken (a
gardener) about his cucumber. Hey – stop it. A particular variety of
cucumber known as El Pepino Crece. It started slow and then got fast
with fabulous fingerpicking by Ken and most ably backed up by Jim. Good
stuff. I venture to add that it might sound even better on a uke that
costs more than 20 bucks! Hey can someone lend Ken a better uke than his
Mahalo just to see how he likes it?!!

Daphne and her partner Andy (on guitar) sang Hank Williams’ Your Cold
Cold Heart. Daphne is organizing a ukefest right here in downtown
Vancouver. So mark Sunday November 22nd in your calendar and keep that
day free for some ukulele workshops and lots of musical fun. More info
to follow…

Paul attempted Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes however the heat was
turned up too high and they got stuck to the pan so he quickly baled and
instead sang I’m Yours. After him came Tom who sang Stevie Wonder’s I
Never Dreamed You’d leave me in Summer. Jimmy and Ken returned for
Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone – this time with Jim on
resophonic uke and Ken on baritone, Myriam made her uke circle debut
with a French song she had written. Pardon moi but I forgot to ask the
title. I didn’t understand a word of it but it sounded really awesome
and the sing-along bit was easy. It went da da la da da la da…

I finished things off with my German Cowboy song, Meine Kleine Munchkin
aus Munchen. A good ole yodelling song – hey who doesn’t enjoy a good

See you next time folks – Nov 17 to be exact.

Your uke playing mate,


PS. To Ron, usually on bass, who wasn’t with us tonight– Get well soon

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Special Meeting – Tuesday September 29, 2009

Well that was fun. Hee hee.

It actually happened. A camera crew from Japan’s national broadcaster
NHK (their equivalent of the BBC) came to film our ukulele circle. As we
sang the camera roved around filming members as they strummed and sang.

I noticed that Guy Costanzo got special attention. He owns 2 of Yusuke’s
ukuleles and he seemed very calm as he chatted with our guests as a huge
camera and big long hairy microphone were pushed towards his handsome

Performance time was all Kids songs. Ralph started things off with the
finger snapping Frog Song from his album Table For Two, this song was
written by local songwriter Geoff Gibbons who also produced all 3 of
Ralph’s CDs. Yusuke was next. He has a really good voice – for a ukulele
maker anyway! He was accompanied by Josh and Suzy and a well known
Japanese musician Sekiguchi-san. They sang a song in English and
Japanese: Hitoshinoelli (sp.) it was once covered by Ray Charles.

Wendy did the Big Rock Candy Mountains using some of her new-found
clawhammer skills. Joe did the Stepdad song. Ells had her first time
tonight and she sang ‘Silly Lullaby’ from the book Snoozers. Callum (now
5 years old) and his dad did the Shel Silverstein poem Me Stew. Actually
Dad recited it while Callum strummed a sort of avant-garde jazz ukulele
counterpoint. Maybe that’s too fancy a way of saying what he did but
dang – it made for great TV!!

Tom sang All Together Now and Cynthia did the lovely lullaby: All the
Pretty Little Horses. Ron sang a swinging song he used to sing to his
kids at the park called: Swing Me Higher Obediah. He found the song at
the website of the National Library of Australia it’s a great resource
for a whole lot of public domain songs. Peter sang Rubber Ducky. Ander
did the Crawdad Song. And Ken finished things off with a ripping ukulele
fret tearing rendition of She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain!!

I want to thank everyone for coming out tonight and for participating in
the Suki Yaki song. It went really well.

I dunno exactly when we’ll be on Japanese TV but I’ll try and let you
know so that you can buy your plane tickets and go watch yourself.

I’m mostly on tour for the next month but I will be back for a brief pit
stop in time for the October meeting so I’ll See you then eh!!

Keep Strumming


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday September 15, 2009

Our 9th Anniversary. Wow – how time passes eh! Thanks to all of you that came. A beautiful September evening. Before I get on with the blog I just want to let you know a couple of things.

1) For those of you who seek to play better there is a new class starting up. Ruby’s Ukes is presenting a weekly ukulele class starting Wednesday Sept 23 and running for 8 weeks through to Nov 11th. Beginner class is at 6pm to 7:30 and Intermediate is at 8 to 9:30 pm. Classes are taught by Guido Heistek and cost $120 for the whole session. For info contact Daphne at: 604-408-2290 or:

2) Next meeting is on Tues Sept 29th . The theme for performance time is going to be Children’s songs. There will be filming for Japanese TV. I’m told its just 1 camera and 1 mic. There won’t be lots of lights and gear – we’re going to do it just like a normal meeting.

As for tonight…Jim ‘Boswell’ Jackman kicked things off by spending what seemed like 45 minutes getting his own gear set up. Then he was having a hard time getting enough treble. Treble Trouble we called it. He then sang the introduction to Up a Lazy River and then forgot the rest of the song and then blamed this on me. Just for being there!!! I had to leave the room so he’d be less nervous. Good grief. He then sang a song called Shiver Me Timbers that was really slow and seemed to go on forever by which time I was almost incapacitated with lethargy.

Fortunately after I dragged myself out of this state to continue with the show there was still time (just) for a few other acts. We had 4 first timers tonight! Daphne did Trouble In Mind, Peter sang I’m so Ronery (ie. ‘Lonely’. Its about a guy who can’t pronounce the letter ‘L’ – quite a funny song actually). Todd did the Sesame Street Theme tune with some pretty cool licks and Braden did a surprising medley of Radiohead’s Creep and Bowie’s China Girl. Guido did a really fun Chalmers Doane piece where we all got to pick different parts and he played over the top – called Latin Time. Rock sang the 1960’s easy guitar learning piece called Today. He even remembered all the words!! Hooray for Rock. Paul did Men At Work’s Land Down Under. Stan sang the lovely Mary Popkin song Temma Harbour. Peter did the happiest version of Singing the Blues that I’ve ever heard.

That’s it folks. We didn’t even have a birthday cake this year. Hmm we’ll have to make up for that next year. Any ideas what we should to for the 10th anniversary??? Till next time – Keep Strumming and Singing!! Ralph Shaw

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday August 18, 2009

Hippy anniversary to all you ukers who remember Woodstock. It’s Wendy here, who won hippiest dress this evening, since nobody else bothered to heed the dress code: 4th Avenue, August, 1969. The new people who hadn’t got the dress code email said they just thought I was in a timewarp and always dressed that way. What’s really pathetic is that I just wore a dress and headband from my closet.

It was a great group tonight – about 35 people, with at least nine new people: Holly, Daegan, Todd, Maureen and Herman (who told me a nickname I’ve forgotten), Kyra, Veronica, Rob, and Patti (and maybe some I missed and where were some of you new people who said you were coming?). I neglected to get the name of our second-time visitor from Ontario. Tom, bless his heart, thought he was too busy to come but took pity on us with Ralph and so many potential leaders being away, and he and Ron did a splendid job.

Also doing a splendid job were the performers who mostly did choose selections from the list of songs performed at Woodstock. Ron started things going with some f’ing cheer done at Woodstock, which we made into a uke cheer, and then led a sing-along of Fixin’ to Die Rag, sung by Country Joe McDonald. Next up was Peter with Bert on harmonica, with Bad Moon Rising, also as a sing-along, done at the time by Credence Clearwater Revival. Next was Steve with I Got a Woman, which Richie Havens performed in the first set. Just James did a song by Joni Mitchell, which apparently was the song called Woodstock, though I don’t think the word Woodstock appeared in the song and it was not written yet at festival time, and I don’t remember ever hearing it before (I was so not a hippie). Ken gave us White Rabbit, another song in which the title does not appear in the song, so thank you to the people who told me the name. It was originally sung by Jefferson Airplane. Tracy (who hasn’t been here since way before we got the new songbooks!) played the Beatles song Mother Nature’s son, originally performed by Crosby Stills & Nash. Rock performed the only non-Woodstock number, but it was a sweet memorial to his appropriately named bull mastiff, Toro, who died last week. Tom wrapped things up with Goin’ up the Country, sung at the time by Canned Heat. Tracy had wanted to do the Star Spangled Banner the way Richie Havens did it, but she didn’t have the equipment to provide the distortion; fortunately Ron had the same idea and thought our ukes and our singing would provide a fairly good substitution and we did our best.

So this was a contest, which we made the new people judge, though not in a very organized way. Daegan and Todd were taking their job very seriously and then we almost totally ignored them. First prize of a tie-dyed tote bag went to Ken, and Steve won second prize, which turned out to be the headband knitted and donated by Mariegold (his mom). It looked good on him.

It’s going to be our ninth anniversary next month, but that’s no reason for you all to show up! Our Town will certainly not accommodate all 310 of you. But it will be nice to see some of you who remember the early anniversaries.

Peace and Love!


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday July 21, 2009 addendum

Hi everyone,

I felt it important to note that as well as our largest turnout ever we
also had our youngest member ever. Now most of you know Callum who has
been a regular at uke circle since he was 3 (he is now an experienced
and wise 4.5 year old). Callum now has a sister who seemed to enjoy the
uke circle just as much as him. At only 3 weeks old she even made
Sarah’s baby seemed like an old hand!! [note from Wendy: Gary and Sandy
were there with their 25 month old grandson Nicholas as well.]

Its so great to see the kids coming along and enjoying the music and the
vibe. Maybe we should have an evening where performance time is just
“Songs for Children”?

So until next time may the wheels of your bus go round and round as the
baby beluga of life swims down the waterspout to meet the insy winsy
spider of destiny.

Keep crooning!!


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday July 21, 2009


Yes its hot and steamy and the old back of the neck is getting dirty and
gritty. Don’cha hate it when that happens.

I think few people around the world know how warm Canada can be. The
igloos are definitely put to the test in weather like this.

Of course it doesn’t help when 53 ukulele players show up at uke circle.
Biggest turnout ever!!! The hardworking wenches staffing the counter at
Our Town tonight were run off their feet. They had a line-up that lasted
over an hour and a half.

Before my report I just want to remind you all that this is YOUR ukulele
group. If any of you wish to start alternative ukulele goings on and use
this email to tell people about it then Please do. For example if you
want to organize a get together at a beach or park to eat, drink and
play music with friends then all you need to do is let everybody know
the time and place and then see who shows up. It’s that easy. To use the
group email just address it to One thing though,
you need to be a member of the group to email the group.

What a great night. Ron was proud to show off his new compact bass amp –
awesome sound btw.

Performances as usual were an amazing lot of fun. Tamara is playing at
her friend’s wedding this Saturday and used her time on stage to
rehearse the song she’ll be singing. If she performs like she did
tonight then she’ll be doing juuust fine. Jim did Love me or Leave Me
using his new baritone ukulele (am I right in thinking that I never
heard the kazoo tonight? What gives?? Perhaps he had to sell his kazoo
collection to buy his new uke.:-)). Beth was a real highlight tonight a
sweet lady with a heck of a country kinda voice who gave us Georgy
Georgy a song she wrote about the perils of lusting after your best
friends boyfriend (and haven’t we all been there done that). Rock sang
Island in the sun. Or at least he tried but there was one line that kept
repeating and he couldn’t remember it. So he sang dum de dum dum
imstead. Fortunately this rhymed with ‘sun’ so it all worked out in the
end. Steve plugged in his rock and roll k-wave electric and rocked the
house with Roll Over Beethoven. [Note from Wendy: You can watch
Steve’s performance on YouTube] Chuck Berry would have been proud.
I even saw Cynthia enjoying it and she is not the world’s biggest fan of
electric uke.

Then Ken did Ben. That means Ken sang Michael Jackson’s song Ben.
Clearer now?

Jill showed us several of her new things from Portland including her
Risa solid electric uke and tiny portable amp and a wonderful song
called My Mother’s Obsessed with Death. You had to be there.

Those of you that despise Seadoos and other noisy watercraft of their
unnatural ilk would surely have been thrilled to hear Stan singing When
I First Stepped in a Canoe. Peter gave us a rollicking good version of
Only the Lonely. And Cynthia, Ron and I did our best on Summer in the
City – well it got better towards the end. Trevor, sweet Trevor, whose
songs are so often morbidly dark did a doo wop song he wrote about
dating in Vancouver and we were pleased to note that the word funeral
wasn’t even mentioned until very near the end. Hey, way to be cheerful
Trevor!! Russ did an awesome uke solo while Cynthia sang on Till There
Was You. Russ and Cynthia were high school buddies at the age of 15. I
won’t repeat what they were doing back in those days but it is somewhat
ironic that one of them is now a judge and the other a well known
illustrator of children’s literature! Paul, Melissa and Luisa (Paul’s
mom) ended things beautifully with You Belong to Me.

A big full night. Thanks for coming along and for those who didn’t maybe
see you next time!!!

Bye y’all


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday June 16, 2009

Dearest Ukulinos and Ukulettes,

I am stepping into Ralph’s large floppy shoes to report on this month’s ukulele circle while he’s gadding off to yet another ukulele festival. Honestly! – the man is a glutton for public adoration.

Performance time was extremely entertaining, as always. It started off with the Ringo Starr version of “You’re 16”, played and sung with great verve by Peter. I regret to say that he’d been inspired by Just Jimmy Jackman to solo on a purple plastic kazoo affixed to some kind of neck holder cunningly created out of a coat hanger. His performance was so infectious that people couldn’t stop themselves from joining in.

Next came an a capella rendition of “the Touch of the Master’s Hand”, a song about the auction of an antique violin. Unfortunately, it being after the artiste’s bedtime, he left before I could get his details. All I can say is that he was under 3 feet tall and was held up to the mike by his dad. A nice lady called DJ acted as line coach. This small person projected wonderfully in the parts he remembered and was so adorable I had to be restrained from rushing up to the stage to blow a raspberry on his rosy cheek.

Paul, who last month played for his very first time, knocked us out with a very funky version of Eric Clapton’s Layla. He soloed with a lovely bit of chord melody in the middle and all us ladies at the front agreed he was a natural performer and a handsome lad, to boot.

Trevor played his original tune called “whether the weather” which I was agreeably surprised to learn did not feature murder. He was playing his gorgeous new 6-string tenor uke tuned with a low G. He got a standing ovation for actually remembering all the verses – the first time he’d managed it, although he did vamp charmingly for a bar or ten at one point while he waited for the next verse to come to him.

Bert sang The Motorcycle Song, which took all us baby boomers back.

Patrice was in fine, deep voice with “Wichita” by Gillian Welch, a poignant song about a woman going home.

Ken got up with his blinding yellow uke and played the sax line from Paul Desmond’s Take Five, unquestionably creating a couple of firsts: the first time anyone’s played in 5/4 time at uke circle; and the first time anyone’s played a jazz instrumental. He made it most of the way through which was pretty darn good considering how hard the piece is – I know, having struggled with it on trumpet in jazz band. Here’s a link in case you’re not familiar with it:

Tom played “Something” as sung by Paul to George at his sickbed, which he introduced in a very convincing Hungarian – no, I just checked my notes – Liverpudlian accent. Tom was a wonderful host as ever. He’s a real music engine, and seems to just get everyone performing at their best. He had a tremendous workout leading songs tonight, as performance time was surprisingly short with all the stage hogs currently at the Portland Uke fest.

I helped out with leading a few tunes, but as usual got lost and wished desperately that someone was leading me. Yvonne’s husband Bob spent most of the evening lurking behind a pillar shooting videos of tonight’s proceedings. He promises to send a link when he posts them. My table this evening was overrun with lawyers, who turn out to be surprisingly loud singers -must be all that protesting in court. Anyway, one of them was so charged up by coming to uke circle that he announced, “I will have a ukulele before noon tomorrow.”

Well, that’s all folks. I’m off to bed with the Girl who played with Fire, which, sadly, isn’t as naughty as it sounds. It’s the 2nd novel in the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson.

Yours melodically, Cynthia

Addendum from Wendy:
Bob delivered the videos as promised:

It was great to see what went on while seven of us were at the Portland Ukefest. Thanks, Bob. And thanks for making it a promo for our club.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday May 19, 2009

Before tonight’s meeting I sent out a list of songs that I was going to lead for the group and we only managed to get to about half of them.  This is because I had help tonight. Hooray and may it always be so. Big thanks to Tom and also to Jill + friend (Martin). It makes it mo’ fun and generally mo’ betta. I only know about half the songs in the blue book so it is impossible for me to lead them all.

At one time I had really good intentions to use this fact as an incentive to learn a whole bunch of extra songs. When I realized that this was only going to lead to more time sitting and staring into a computer screen I decided to change my ambition. Whereas my ambition had been to learn loads of new songs it is now to get loads of other people to learn and lead them for me. The reason for this is 3 fold:

1)     It makes less work for me

2)     It also means that I don’t have to do as much work

3)     Work less me do

Who were those people by the fridge? I don’t know where they came from but we had a fully intact peanut gallery delivered to our sofa by the fridge. They heckled, they sang and they were wonderful. Whoever they are I hope they’ll come again and again. I think it would be fun to see if we can actually get them all to fit inside the fridge next time.  That’ll be a laugh too.

You were all pretty wonderful btw. Lots of good times and some ear bogglingly neat performances. Wanting to get it over with and 1st up as usual was Peter who gave us Winchester Cathedral. Gary sang You Can’t Do That. Steve did a song written by Jawknee which was a parody of a Britknee Spears song. It was a little over my head as I am not exactly au courant with the entire Ms. Spears’ oeuvre so therefore the parody was lost on me but I think everybody else probably got it.

Tom and Jason performed one of the first ever reggae(?) hits. The Israelites. Jason did an astounding job of singing the sub-bass-baritone part which was amazing for he is usually an alto-soprano and often enjoys wearing a pink tutu. Oops no I’m sorry, that was a different conversation.

Jackman and Jill (good name eh? Eh!) sang Burt Bacharach’s song Baby Its You. Jill sang the lead and Jim did all the background parts. They got a huge round of applause at the end. Was it because they were quite good or was it because Jim managed to get through a whole song without playing the kazoo? We’ll never know. Anne sang a Bob Brozman/Marie Lynn Hammond song called Daddy was a Ball Player and Stan sat in the comfy chair and gave us another baseball themed song called either Playing Right Field or Watching the Dandelions Grow? I Dunno and forgot to ask.

Paul for his 1st time on stage anywhere did an awesome job of Stand By Me and for that he got his first timers standing O. Blind Lemon Howling Guido Magee was able to hand his young daughter over to someone else for 3 minutes while he played Monday Morning Blues – a very sweet fingerpicking blues number along with some fine Mississippi delta blues harp. I don’t know if that’s what it was but it sounds good. Ralph (me) sang when the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano. Jim came back and delighted us by talking for ages and ages and then singing a song which seemed to go on for even longer. It was the most wonderful and haunting piece of music I have ever heard in my life. Well, to be more accurate, it was just haunting. Its still haunting me.

And that is it folks. Next month some of us will be at the Portland Ukulele Festival but uke circle will be go on and will be as fantastic as ever. So see you next time!!!!

I love you all.


Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday April 21, 2009

I am still on east coast time and feeling pretty tired but…. Uke circle though has a magical way of energizing me enough to become one of those people that doesn’t need sleep.

An item of news – listen to CFRO Radio this Friday from 8pm to 10:30pm. The show is Ukulele Noir, Friday April 24th at CFRO 102.7 fm Its normally an accordion show but they’re having a ukulele special.

I just got back late last night from my WhiteOuts East Coast tour with the amazing Joel Eckhaus . We had high winds in Florida, torrential rain in Charleston and the rest of the time the weather was nice. Tonight was pretty rainy. Thanks for showing up. Several people didn’t come because they preferred to watch a bunch of burly chaps who they haven’t even met play a game of hockey. Why anyone would rather do that than play the ukulele is totally beyond me. We still had a packed house at Our Town Café though and a really great Performance time.

I kicked things off with an Inkspots song ‘Do I Worry’ and then Tanya and Adrienne did a song they wrote about the relationship of a person to their computer called You Complete Me – a very neat song. Technology is getting totally out of hand these days and uke circle is no exception as I found out tonight. Steve played his uke through a loop pedal which played the same thing over and over for him which meant he didn’t have to do anything much. In the future we won’t even have to show up at all we’ll just send our ‘iselves’ to uke circle to perform for us. He did a nice job of Jack Johnson’s Breakdown. Jill had her own technological doo dad and played Rockin’ in the Free World with distortion. Btw. If the blog is a little short this month it’s because I’m knackered. Bert sang White Boy Lost in the Blues (a Sonny Terry song). Our in-house Elvis (aka. Rock) did In Love With the Girl of My Best Friend. Jim Jackman played Brazilian Song with fingerpicks and Cynthia sang Don’t Blame Me (as if we would).

Thanks to everyone for coming. btw if anyone can tell me what the attraction is of watching complete strangers play games on television please don’t bother because I’m too busy playing ukulele!

Have a great month.

I’ll see you in May


Note from James Jackman – April 4, 2009

Hale to The Court of the C-Tuned King,

As HRH mentioned, the global ukulele community is reeling with the sad news of John King’s sudden death.

I got to hang out with John a bit at the past two Portland Uke Fests. He had an amazing facility to play classical music on the ukulele. He had huge hands and stocky wrists. I was always amazed at how he could make those thick fingers of his fly up and down a narrow soprano fretboard with such commanding ease!

He had a very wry, and very dry, sense of humour. He was fun to be around. He was fond of telling people, with a twinkle in his eye, that he never, ever, changed strings on his ukuleles!

Jimmy Jackman and John King at Portland Ukefest 2007John taught me the proper way to wear a Hawaiian shirt. The secret is to first put on your newest T-shirt, and then don the Hawaiian shirt, leaving it unbuttoned and untucked. You see, you have to dress warm to look cool! It’s a lesson I learned all too well. Now you know the ‘how and why’ of the way I dress to busk the Skytrain stations ‘eight days a week.’ Attached is a photograph of John King and me at PUF07.

I never took a class with John. (It’s impossible to take every instructor’s classes at The PUF. There’s only 3 days and upwards of fifteen performer/instructors!) I was fully intending to take John’s ‘Pulling Strings’ class this year, but now it’s too late. I will have to settle now for his published charts and the Jumpin’ Jim Songbook.

VUC members may recall I performed What Child Is This?/Greensleeves as a chord solo during performance time in Dec 07? Well, that was John’s arrangement. I found it on John’s website on day, after PUF07.

I mentioned that I had learned this piece to John at PUF08, and that I next wanted to learn how to play his arrangement of Carol Of The Bells. He said to just start whittling away at it, and learn it in sections. COTB the most daunting piece of music I’ve ever attempted! I had hoped to have it worked up in time for last Christmas, but I only managed to get it ‘roughed in.’ Hopefully, I have it fully polished up by Christmas 09, and I’ll perform it for you then. I try and run through both these pieces once a day.

Wendy took the opportunity to take classes with John, though, Here is a You Tube link of a recording that she made of John in class

I’m glad I knew John King. I’ll miss him.

Here’s to the memory of a good guy, and a great man!

Sadly, Jimmy Jackman in risu veritas

Note from Ralph – April 4, 2009

Hi Everyone,

Those of you who have ever attended the Portland Uke Fest or bought his records and books will know the name John King.

It is very sad for me to announce his passing. Sadly he had a heart attack in the last day or two and we will never hear him play his beautiful instrumental pieces again.

John was a remarkable musician and historian. He would make his ukulele ring with sound as he played. Whether it was a piece by Bach or one of the earliest tunes ever composed for ukulele his music was always clear and true. The same can be said for the scholarship and dedication that he put into his study of the ukulele’s history.

It is especially sad for me at this time because myself and Joel Eckhaus are about to embark on a tour of Florida, the Carolinas and Maryland and we were looking forward to meeting and playing music with John on his home turf this week.

John King was fascinating and funny and would transport listeners on the wings of his music as if he were playing a sweet harp. He was very dear to so many of us in the ukulele community. Please remember John King.

Ralph Shaw

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday March 17, 2009

Top of the mornin’ to you all,

A grand night at Our town Tonight! Over 40 people there and we are
really packing the place. So much so that some of you didn’t get to
perform. I’m soooo sorry. New rule for next time is that if you are
going to perform in more than one song (ie. because you are accompanying
someone else) then the second song will have to wait till the end.

Wendy says if you have pictures from tonight then she suggests you can
put them on the vanukes blog page send them to her at:

In keeping with the Irish theme I was presented with a potato that
happens to have the face of the pope. Amazing!! Even more so because in
Spanish the word pope and potato are exactly the same (or very similar

New people are always welcome. Tonight’s first timers were: Russ, Kaity,
Sam, Adrienne, Karen, Melissa, Ken, Tabata, Jiwoon, Jane and Karey.

Funny how some nights have a special energy that just seems to take
things off into a different realm. Tonight seemed like that for me.
Maybe it was the position of the stars or it could have been the amount
of sugar in the cinnamon bun I ate but I know it was real.

Peter sang And I love Her (Beatles), Marie-Gold dressed in her
distressed overalls and together with her son Steve on Electric ukulele
they sang Come On Eileen (Dexy’s Midnight Runners) a song which was a
hit when I was 15 years old and which evokes for me an almost painful
feeling of nostalgia. Ron, usually our bass player, sang a song about
his shillelagh and guess what? His grandma was born on St. Patrick’s

Although I don’t know why we make such a big deal out of St Patrick’s Day
but not out of St George’s Day. My hunch is that they haven’t figured
out a way to make red and white beer yet.

Steve broke out his electric uke for a second time and with distortion
and perfect 1980s vocalizing sang Duran Duran’s song Hungry Like the
Wolf. Rock (claiming to be the uke circle’s only Chinese Irishman
because he has black hair, slanty eyes and an Irish last name. He was in
danger of being about as politically correct as Prince Phillip. Thank
goodness there were no cameras..or were there? Hmmm) anyway he sang
Irish Lullaby and then returned to sing Blame it On the Bossa Nova with
the radiant Claudia. Guido did a nice bit Ozark mountain, kentucky fried
banjo style pickin’ with a song called Boys from North Carolina (its
right next to West Carolina which tends to have a higher percentage of
millionaires, jaguars, alcoholic wives and an area called the British

Tamara sang “Confessions” which fit into the St Patrick’s theme because
it sounds like the James Bond theme and Sean Connery is er… Scottish. Oh
well – close enough!! Trevor sang the darkest song I have ever heard.
God it was miserable. Something about shoving a daughter down a well. Oh
dear. Its going to give me nightmares. I hope he gives me lots of
warning if he ever intends to sing it again. Talk about dark – he made
Leonard Cohen seem like Jerry Lewis. Jill sang ‘Drinking Song’ (by Moxy
Fruvous? – I remember them but not the spelling and at this time of
night I can’t be arsed to google anything). Last and not least it was so
good to see Pam again after so long. She finished off performance time
with a Waterboys song – I don’t know which one. Pam now runs an open mic
in Maple Ridge. So if you ever feel like driving out there to where
women chew baccy and cows roam freely in the streets and the annual
spittin’ contest is generally won by the mayor himself then go on out to
Maple Ridge and strum a hurtin’ song!

That’s all from me. I want to thank all of you for continuing to make
the world a better place.

Bye for now friends and keep plonking.

Ralph Shaw

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday February 17, 2009

It’s Wendy here, reporting on the unexpectedly Ralph-free evening (I did NOT coin that phrase). And what a great evening it was! Ralph talked Gary into leaving his easy chair in front of the TV and driving in from Surrey to lead the show with co-hosts Don and Cynthia, and Ron, who emceed as if he does that all the time (maybe he does, what do I know).

Don started the evening off by remembering all the important things to say and do – introducing our group, tuning, singing Singin in the Rain, and welcoming the new folks (Joe, Isaac, Yvonne, Bert, Ellen, Mariann, Paddy, Louisa (mom to Paul, who was new last time), Anisha, Alysha, Bryan, Kayleigh, and our server Jennifer who bought a songbook and has joined our list as well). Bryan in his younger days was in a gathering of 3000 ukulele players in Nanaimo – they made it into the Guinness Book of Records.

Don, Gary and Cynthia split up the sing-along hour and were in fine voice. It was a treat to get to hear them. Gary broke the A string on his uke while he was leading, so I offered up my uke and got to play his Da Silva tenor, which sounded so beautiful I didn’t bother to tell him that it really didn’t need that string.

Performance time started off with Miyako, performing for the first time, a nice rendition of Sukiyaki. Steve did Every Breath You Take, by the Police. He’s looking and sounding very confident now, with great rhythm and a nice strong voice. Joe, another first timer, sang Pink Floyd’s Hey You, but in rockabilly style. Rock performed Earth Angel and managed to make it sound like he rehearsed it, which he assured us he hadn’t done. Tamara hushed the crowd with an intense offering of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Peter C. sang an original song written by his son Wesley called The Hype Machine. Just Jimmy did a Dean Martin song – Ain’t Love a Kick in the Head. Jill was hoping to show off the distortion pedal she has for her new Fender Telecaster-style uke, but she and Ron couldn’t get it to distort. Survivor by Destiny’s Child sounded fine anyway, but then I don’t know the song and whether it NEEDS distortion. Ronin ended the show with an outrageous as ever version of Unchained Melody. He gets the prize for largest range of notes in a performance.

Steve, Gary and Don led the ending sing-along, and a good time was had by all. Ralph, get well soon, we really did miss you. Cynthia, I have your notebook (thanks for the paper) and Steve, I have your red songbook.

Vancouver Ukulele Circle Meeting – Tuesday January 20, 2009

Well some of you may have thought the inauguration was exciting but obviously enough of you decided to forego the trip to Washington. Our Town Café was packed – as usual – with smiling ukulele players ready and willing to do their bit for world peace. Although it can be a bit of a noisy sort of peace the way we go about it!

Will the fog ever go??? We sang songs about every sort of weather to try and help the fog on its way but to no avail. Tonight as I was wending my way home with Wendy (hmmm that could be the name of a 20s song right there) through the pea soup of lower False Creek I thought wow fog fog foggery fog foggery foggery fog.

OK then so on with the blog blog bloggery blog bloggery bloggery blog.

Girl from Ipanema sounds so dashed good when it is sung and played by actual Brazilian people. Tonight Dalai and Claudia both from Brazil graced us with their presence. Dalai played uke and Claudia sang that song in its original Portuguese. I am just mentioning them first because Dalai is probably going back to Brazil soon and it may be a while before we see him again.

Performance time got off to a fantastic start with a Buddy Holly song called Think it Over by Henry and Betty. They set the tone for the whole session because after them came several great cover songs. Peter did Eleanor Rigby. Tom did another Buddy Holly song: That’ll Be the Day. Btw. Did you know in 2 weeks it will be the 50th anniversary of the so called “Day That Music Died” when BH and a few others met their quick and untimely demises. Jill did Depeche Mode’s song Somebody. Dark and sweet. Not Jill but the song. I joyfully received a baritone ukulele from Stan. He found it in a thrift store and he said if I performed a song with it then I could keep it. So I did “I Like Trains” by Fred Eaglesmith. There was a sort of murmur at the back of the room. I found out after that by sheer coincidence Brad and Peter had been discussing Fred Eaglesmith just minutes before I sang the song. This is unusual because his name has never come before to my knowledge. Spooky eh? I bet Obama is behind it somehow. Jimmy sang Going to the City Blues by Barbecue Bob.

Trevor sang the only original song of the evening. He forgot the last verse of his Godzilla song. I must say I am often the same way with songs I have written. For some reason I find it easier to remember other people’s songs. But I am so glad he did this. It’s a wonderful reminder to us that it is not succeeding that counts. It is far more important to get up on stage and do SOMETHING. Life is too short to be sitting on the sidelines worrying about what will happen if we fail. The Olympics used to preach the same thing but I think they’ve lost the monopoly on that particular ideal somehow. Trevor’s performance was greeted with just as much applause as the flawlessly played songs. And he got paid just as much as everyone else. Nothing!!!

Actually I did get paid didn’t I?! I got a new thrift store baritone ukulele. Hee Hee payola in action for you there folks. Thanks again Stan – I owe you one.

A big hello to the first timers. They were: Lawrence, Carly, Caitlan, George, Ander, Paul, Melissa and Claudia.

See you next month. By then I am expecting Mr Obama to have solved all the problems facing America today. I’m kidding of course. But then again he has a way of inspiring so much hope it almost makes you think that anything is possible eh?!!

Have fun in the fog fog foggery fog until the next blog blog bloggery blog.