“This isn’t a group it’s a movement,” says popular jazz musician Sue Parish
The power of the ukelele is making a return but you won’t be hearing the familiar tunes of George Formby.
If members of the Garstang Ukelele Group have their way by this time next year they will more than likely be strumming to ‘Delilah’ down the pub in Garstang and beyond.
It is Sue that has lent her expertise to a bunch of inspired Garstang folk, who first came together just over a month ago. Following a workshop at the Garstang Arts Festival in August came a demand for the market town to have a little group of its own.
Group founder Bob Sapey estimated an uptake of around eight to 10 members. In fact there are now 23, plucking their way through weekly Sunday sessions at the Garstang Arts Centre tutored by Mike Gradwell.
Retired Lancaster University tutor Bob, only picked up the four string instrument himself two and a half years ago when a Friday session began at the university at lunchtime.
“It is just really good fun,” he says, “I played a little guitar when I was a kid, but for some reason when I picked up the ukelele it seemed easier.
“Mostly it is people learning from scratch. You learn a few chords and you can play a song
“Our group is middle aged mostly adults, some have never played an instrument but have found something they can do and learn.”
Bob has learnt a lot from renowned Lancaster musician Sue Parish who is also a very good ukelele teacher.
“Sue is very inspirational and the Gillow Ukuleleans, who meet on a Thursday are a very big and successful group now.”
While the group are still picking up the basics, it does not restrict the music they play - the ukelele, Bob says does not come with rules.
“It is so easy to pick ukelele music now with the internet, we play songs from the 50s, 60s, rock and roll, The Beatles. We have lots of ideas coming in.
“And I have to admit so far we haven’t played any George Formby!
“The great thing is there is no society trying to control how it is played or making rules. Pick it up and a few weeks later, you can play a song.
“You can come to the session feeling a bit down and leave feeling so much better”
Anthems Bob adds are the perfect choice, anything to encourage people to have a ‘good sing song.’ Tom Jones’ “Delilah” is a crowd favourite.
Bob says: “When the Lancaster group performed at the Garstang Victorian Festival, we had such a great reaction, it is good to get everybody joining in with a sing song.
“Everyone had a lot of fun. There is nothing too serious about learning the ukelele.”
The focus now is for the group to work on their repertoire and build a song book. From there Bob would like nothing better than a regular session in the local pubs.
“It is a great group, once we are feeling confident , hopefully we can sit in pub playing. It is an ideal place, lively atmosphere, pick a song and we’ll play.”
The Garstang Ukeleleans will play the Garstang Victorian Festival on December 8.