A quiet corner with a Ukulele

2-ukes

The gray of the sky outside makes me want to cover up and find a quiet place to read or strum the Ukulele.
We still haven’t had any significant amount of snow even though the NWS says there’s a hundred percent chance.
Hmmm, how does that work again? I hope you all find your quiet little nook this weekend to savor the warmth of your homes
and hearts. Advent season and all of its activities can be such a reflective time of the year…
And maybe with a little luck we’ll get some snow.

willow-ukulele

Photos enlarge.

Monday night Ukulele fun!

The Missoulian ran a featured article about our Ukulele Jam in last Sunday’s paper. Matthew and I started teaching Ukulele three winters ago as part of the school’s adult education series. Since then we’ve seen big changes. The class turned into a weekly jam and now we have a big group of very faithful players who gather each Monday evening in our local library to play and sing.

Vince did a really nice job on the story. He and his photographer stayed the whole session to see what we are up to in the Mission Valley. We are pretty proud of our group which has grown to well over twenty players in the last three years. If this were Seattle, and one used the same ratio to our town’s population, we’d have – whoa – a lot of members. Thousands. In the last week we’ve received many inquiries from others all over the northwest who want to start up groups in their own locale. As far as I know we are the only ones doing this in Montana right now, but not for long!

Rural areas and small towns need positive social activities where people live. Urban areas have scads of things for people to do. Distractions are around every corner with music blaring out of every door. Not so in small towns like ours. There’s the bar, there’s school sports, and there’s church. We had no idea our little group would grow like this and we feel very lucky to be a part of it.

Thanks to all the wonderful people who come out regardless of the weather each Monday night to play music with us. Uke on!

Ukulele Jam

When it's cold out – play the ukulele!

classroom-ukes

This is our living room yesterday afternoon while I was tuning and preparing for our third annual beginner Ukulele class
for the adult education series. Every single ukulele was singing by 7 p.m. It was magical outside with over a foot of snow
yet everyone still showed up for class despite the weather. It turned out to be pretty magical inside too because by 7:30
everyone knew enough chords and we were making music.  (Pics of our winter wonderland to come…)

Give me Sunshine

Sitting-on-the-porchpeace

I wish you all a Happy Solstice a bit early with a little extra sunshine sure to come your way. I probably won’t get to this tomorrow.

We were treated to temps in the low 50’s over the weekend but now we have four inches of snow on the ground. Notice the contrast below!

After tonight the days will lengthen. So until then we simply have to bring each other sunshine with our smiles.

grassflocking

Pre-Christmas Ukuleles

Matthew and a friend are building ukuleles and here is our friend’s Uke
all decked out on our kitchen table. This Uke is a tenor. He might have done more this weekend
but here it is in the embryo stage a few days ago. The rosette was one of the first things
to go in around the sound hole.
Embryo-Uke

Below is a side project: Matt’s experimenting with Mod Podge

on the peg head of one of our inexpensive ukuleles. Funny, there are dozens of “side projects” around here; how does that work? I figure, the thing

that is being worked on is the main project. Ha! I love the little nuthatch….

  • Nuthatch-peg-head

Sweet moments

the-vows
The vows and the rings stop time just for a moment.  Can this man be my little boy? Could that woman be their little girl? I think there might be a song in that…

the-quartet

Our friend Steve, Alasdair, Matthew and I played an original piece for three ukuleles and bass which we composed for the ceremony.

certified
Signed, sealed and delivered. They are well married!  These photos by Rhonda Jensen

stockings

These are my famous peacock feather stockings. This Mama still has it goin’ on, what? Check them out on Etsy; made by a couple in Tel Aviv. Note: the peacock feathers were a theme; pretty much everyone wore a feather in their corsage or hair.

C & ! #1 2011 logo mat-1
Congratulations to Ian and Caitlin!  This photo by Al Kajin

Notes from our summer front

The Mission Valley Ukulele Group had a party a couple weeks ago. It was a BBQ potluck mixed in with a lot of fun. We had seventeen people all gathered around playing and singing at our friends’ place at the end of town. What a wonderful evening. In the background are the Missions. Thanks, Caitlin for the photo!

IMG_7260

We took a kayak /canoe overnight camping trip to Lake Alva and the Clearwater River this last week to celebrate our Silver wedding anniversary. We ended up finding Shangri La on the river. As we silently paddled up river we sighted more birds than I could count and heard the bird calls of even more. The loons on the lake were the most vocal.  I took this photo with my Verizon phone.
image

Soon we will be celebrating our son’s wedding this coming weekend. The lists are long but things are getting done.

Sometimes a girl just has to get away and take pictures of horses out in the field.Clearwater-horses

Guess what my fortune cookie said last night…

Oh Boy!  I hope your summer is all you want it to be! Mine sure is.

fortune cookie

Strum the winter away

Spring comes as an intrepid explorer to our little corner of Montana this year; cautiously and slowly springtime advances.  It peeks around the edges of the garden, tentatively greening the honeysuckle and gooseberry bushes. Soon the Trillium will be blooming in the forests. I’d forgotten what a hard winter felt like, but this last one certainly did remind me.

trillium-in-moss

How many Monday nights did we walk home from our Ukulele classes in the boot-top snow?  Nearly every week until just the last month we would leave our gatherings, go outside to wind and huge flakes, or frigid temperatures.  I truly appreciate and admire the members of our Jam group who faithfully would brave the cold nights to come and play music at the school with us.  Every Monday night.  This is our second year of teaching Ukulele to community members, ranging in ages from 25 to 85, through the adult education program.  Our Uke Jam has grown from the classes and so has the music and the laughter.

winter

So, if anyone asks how we spent the long winter, I’d have to say we spent it playing the Ukulele.  After six weeks of classes the beginner students have joined our regular community Uke Jam.  We play a mix of easy and difficult songs ranging from You are my Sunshine,  Five Foot Two,  to more difficult songs like the Beatles: All My Lovin’ or When Irish Eyes are Smiling. We play a lot of current hits along with spirituals and folk songs.  With only two exceptions, all of these people came to the classes saying: ” I am not musical. ” Well wow, they were certainly wrong about that!  Below our friends playing in our living room.

Uke-group

The practice of playing music in one’s living room, the art of making music in community is finding its place in peoples’ lives again because of this wonderful, little instrument.  And our small town is just one tiny snippet of  the world-wide rediscovery of the Uke. They call it the Ukulele Revolution.  Matthew and I marvel at the stories we’ve been honored to witness in the last two years we’ve been teaching these classes and leading the Uke Jam. Talk about enriching our lives and feeding the soul – music will open the doors to your heart.

uke-family

Vintage Uke?

Not vintage! This is a new addition to our instruments since Matthew ended up selling off all the other sopranos. We needed something to replace ours, and since we are Ohana dealers we can pick and choose styles fairly easily – instruments come and go quite casually around here.  We purchased a couple different styles to try them out, and asked Ohana to hand pick a soprano which was LOUD:  This is a Jumbo Shrimp of willow sides and cedar top; it is probably the sweetest sounding soprano Ukulele I’ve heard so far. It has a very wide and open range.  It’s a keeper as far as I am concerned. I love it.

Jumbo shrimp Ukulele

Sounds from the past

banjo-lampcard

This photo is of one of our little banjo ukuleles in the studio. It has the sweetest sound and the funniest appearance. A friend of ours wondered if we would get more banjo-ukes if we stuck the ukuleles and Matt’s big, old banjo in the closet overnight together. What do you think? This instrument is from the 1920’s.

Our second annual ukulele class begins on Monday evening for the continuing adult education series. Our first class (about 10 regulars) from last winter is still playing with us each week as a jam session. They are getting good. This year our beginner’s class has grown to more than capacity, so it will keep both Matt and I moving fast, to keep everyone in tune! Our classes are geared towards adults who have never played an instrument or don’t think they are musical, although we get a few people who simply want to play with others or really wish to learn the ukulele. I’ve never seen so many smiles all in one room. It’s a transforming experience and I feel honored to be a part of it. All of sudden these folks realize that they are musical and wow – I am playing! It is really neat.