From the 18th July meeting:
"It was hot. Blimey, it was hot. Certainly as far as the temperature was concerned, and actually the playing and singing wasn't far behind either. 25 or so of us steamed through Barry's playlist, which was packed with favourites. For the most part we did them justice, all bar a few for which my 'creative' interpretation of the tune bore little resemblance to what the writer intended! My homework for this week is to actually listen to Runaround Sue :) and apparently we've been singing the last few lines of Half The World Away wrong for years! If I have anything to do with it then we will revisit those next week to try and get them right.
And that might well happen, as we have now run out of playlists. If anyone would like to put a list together for next week, please do so and send it over. You might like to choose a list that is themed in some way (there must be lots with the words "hot", "sun" or "I wish it would bleedin' rain" in the songbooks somewhere) or just pick your personal faves. New member, old hand, previous list picker - all welcome to do it. If nobody steps forward I will produce a list that contains ones we didn't get around to from previous lists plus some other odd-ball choices. And the two mentioned above. If we get no other takers I will post a list by the end of the weekend.
Speaking of the weekend, (these links don't just happen you know) we have an informal gig at Trevor's house for his wife Erica's birthday. Saturday at 7pm for an hour. We won't be taking the PA, or any amps - just your music (the latest gigbook) and a ukulele will be fine. I will circulate Trevor's location details via email to everyone before then - if you don't get the emails for some odd reason but do use Facebook, please just message me and I'll send them when I have them.
Have a nice week - and keep cool (as if any of you could ever be anything else!)"
From the 4th July meeting:
"Last night found about 25 of us (including a new John - hello, John!) playing through a selection of tunes picked by Graham, with choices from the floor being added as we went along. As seems to be becoming the norm, Graham's list included both oft-played favourites and some more obscure songs that have been lurking unloved in the dusty corners of the songbooks for far too long. I think last night's most unknown find was probably 'Fire and Rain' - I didn't know it, and in fact didn't even know it was a James Taylor song. We gave it a good go, but probably lost on penalties! The mix of knowns and unknowns (don't get me started on the known unknowns etc!) seems to work well. Upcoming list providers are Lisa and Barry. When we get to play them is a slight mystery because...
... we may not be in the pub next week. There's a football tournament going on (you probably noticed) and after England's convincing demolition of Columbia (ahem), they will be playing in a quarter final on Saturday. Win that and they will be in a semi-final next Wednesday at 7pm. In that case the landlord, not unreasonably, would like his pub full of Ingerland supporters who will probably buy more per head than a couple of shandies, so we will not be meeting. So if England win on Saturday - no uke meeting next Wednesday. If England lose - meeting as usual. Talk about split loyalties!
Whether we have a meeting next Wednesday or not, we do have a gig next Saturday (14th) in a field in Wilden, performing at a birthday party. It's an evening do, playing from 7.30 until about 9.30 with a break in the middle (not earlier as I misremembered last night). This is a full PA and 'amplified ukes if you have them' affair. We ought to get there at about 6.45 - Crow Hill Farm, Ravensden Road, Wilden MK44 2QS . If we do as well as we did at Felmersham, it will be excellent fun. Mr bassman Martin won't be there, so maybe it's Tom's chance to make his debut as the group's John Entwhistle (look it up, youngsters!)?
We also have a more relaxed, informal gig the weekend after at Trevor's house in MK to celebrate his wife's birthday. More details next bulletin, but it will be purely acoustic - he has to live with his neighbours afterwards!
So - see you Wednesday, Saturday or Wednesday - keep practicing that E flat chord!
All the best."
From the 27th June meeting:
"Last night, around 20 of us braved the open mic session and Kathryn’s playlist – and a worthy enterprise that all proved to be.
In the open mic, everyone performed well, but I think special mention should go to Jon for combining the two great events of the current era (admittedly for a rather limited definition of era) of a new Half Man Half Biscuit album and a football World Cup in the one song, “Swerving the Checkatrade”, and then to Ian for Craig Robertson’s “That Dress”, which Ian performed faultlessly despite no preparation. The sound was good as well, and for that we have Rex to thank, who has now taken over this aspect of the open mic from David. David celebrated his well-earned rest by rushing home to get his music. Easily done.
For the main evening, Kathryn’s excellent playlist provided a solid backbone of good and varied songs, largely from the more modern end of our spectrum, and we welcomed Debbie as a newcomer who promises to be back. From her email address alone, which includes “hooded crow”, we can tell that the ranks of birdy uke players in our midst has swollen even further. Excellent.
Next week, Graham will provide the song list, with Lisa doing so the following week. As usual, there will be plenty of space for suggestions from the floor, but this new-ish system of soft curation is working well. We hope to post Graham’s list on our Facebook page early next week, but if you don’t see it just come along and enjoy the surprise.
This Saturday, 30th June, we will be playing at The Sun in Felmersham in the afternoon. Expect to be playing from around 3.30-6 pm but with a long break in the middle to celebrate the bicentenary of the town bridge. Please arrive from 3pm for sound check and set up and expect to be standing up outside or under a gazebo unless the weather is bad. If we are indoors, we half fill the bar.
I look forward to seeing you all next week. And if it’s as hot as last night, remember that the pub has ice.
Have a good week."
From the 13th June meeting:
"Without Jon and with a bass uke but no bass amplifier – stuck with Jon in his faulty car – there was the potential for last night to be much more difficult than it proved to be. We got away with it, largely thanks to the structure provided by Joy’s excellent playlist. This approach of soft curation really seems to work.
Digging through the songbooks between Joy’s choices, we managed to unearth other neglected delights as well. Dream a little dream has sat for too long unplayed and we did it justice. Daytrip to Bangor has perhaps sat even longer, but I am not sure we were the best advert for north Wales’ tourism. It’s amazing how not having the chords written in every verse, even for a simple pattern, throws us all off. On a few occasions we really missed the bass, such as for Dirty old town, but we can return to those songs in due course. Generally though, I think the 25 of us – including a new Christine, welcome – did ok and people seemed to enjoy themselves and to appreciate Joy’s time spent coming up with a list.
Next week, it is Trevor’s turn to curate, and we are going to try a slightly different approach. Rather than just pluck songs at random, Trevor has grouped his selection into keys to see if we gain any momentum or can spot any patterns in our performance of different songs in those different keys. If we find that either as a group or individually we sing or play better with songs in, say, the key of G, then that could be used to guide future song choices. Of course, this does raise the possibility of there being several songs in a row that just don’t suit individuals. Live with it. It’s only an experiment, and I am certain that this won’t see the exclusion of all future songs in Eb minor.
Rather than calling for songs from the floor to supplement Trevor’s list all the time, we’ll play a group of songs in one key, then see if that raises any ideas from the floor, and then move on to the next key group and so one. If your grasp of musical theory and keys is as flimsy as mine – I know there are some songs that are beyond me, but I never really know whether that’s to do with key, range, timing or what – just carry on singing and playing as usual and let others ponder about the stroky-beard implications of how we all do.
The following week, 27th June, we’ll start at 7pm for the open mic, but if you’d like to send me or Jon a list that we can base the rest of the evening on, then so much the better. It could be themed (how about summer songs, as the nights will have started drawing in by then!); it could just be songs you like; you could pick prime numbers from the songbooks . . . but please stretch your brain around some choices and let us know.
Don’t forget that we have a gig in the afternoon at Felmersham on 30th June. That 200th Anniversary of the town bridge won’t celebrate itself you know.
All the best"
From the 6th June meeting:
"It would be interesting to see whether, given a list of 15 songs selected from our songbooks, you could work out who chose them. Last night, Dave Shiers was our curator and some of the choices definitely reflected on him – in a good way. We had Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, 21 Pilots, Kraftwerk, U2, Katy Perry and many others. There was a good mix of the familiar and the rare and, as might be expected, some good challenges. One song, for example, suddenly sprung a Dmaj7 chord on us at the end. The volume of playing noticeably dropped for the duration. Another, Pin ball Wizard, that we have been astutely avoiding for years, proved a bit much, but it is certainly playable, especially with barre chords up the neck. One advantage of publishing a list in advance is that people can practice some of these trickier tunes, and I tip my hat to Dave for making us have a go.
For next week, Joy has come up with a list, and we have an offer from Trevor and possibly Kathryn after that. It doesn’t make sense to plan this too far in advance or you’ll find your choices have already been used up – not that there is anything against playing the same song two weeks in a row.
We have a few more details on forthcoming gigs. On 30th June, we’ll be at The Sun pub in Felmersham once more, this time celebrating the 200th anniversary of the village bridge. Like you do. It looks like we’ll be the filling in a morris dancer sandwich, playing from around 3.30 for 45 minutes and then completing our set for perhaps an hour more after the dancers have hung up their bells and put their sticks safely out of reach.
On 15th September, we are looking to play for two hours with a 15-minute break at Sutton Village Hall. This is likely to be between 2-4pm. Last year they had two other musical acts (loosely speaking – no one was quite sure when warmup ended and performance began for one of them), but this year we rule the roost. This is the same date as Strum Like a Pirate Day and we will be working out how we can have a presence at both events.
The next open mic will probably be on 27th June and our next learning session is likely to be on 4th July. Details to follow.
Finally, I think all 20 of us present last night should thank Dave again for a fun, interesting and challenging evening last night. If any of you would like to be our curator soon, let us know. All we need is your list of 20 songs. Surely most of us have spent an idle moment wondering what our song choices would be if we were cast away on Desert Island Discs. This is just the same but without having to suffer awkward questions about your childhood and the highs and lows of your career from Kirsty Young.
I look forward to seeing you all next week.
From the 30th May meeting:
"Last night, there were 29 of us in the pub, including a new John – welcome – and it was good to see Nikki and Ollie back. We sped through 15 of Jon’s list of 20 songs and still had plenty of time for more from the floor. This curated approach seems useful as a way of keeping things moving, and it saves my throat a bit. After all, I am sure your evenings are better without me haranguing you for a song every five minutes.
Publishing the list before we play elicited positive comments on Facebook, and if you practiced one of the five songs that we didn’t play and felt you missed out or – shock – wasted your time, then why not suggest it as one of the fillers in the next playlist. That playlist will be conjured up by Dave Shiers and we hope to get it to you before next week. We also have Joy and Trevor working on similar lists for the future.
Why don’t we have yours? All you need do is come up with a list of 15-20 songs that you’d like to play and let me know. They could be personal favourites, or you could list to a theme. You don’t even have to know how to lead them. And if a song doesn’t work or we run out, then we revert to suggestions from the floor – it’s relaxed, soft curation.
Musically, we were a little ragged on occasion last night when playing songs that have been lurking untouched in our books for a while, but it was a good selection and I think we’ll resurrect some of them more often. The songs we knew well, we sang and played well. That’s nice. But we also made a good fist of Proud Mary and Blame it on Me, and City of New Orleans is in danger of becoming a group standard of Wagon wheel proportions.
We have had a request for a gig in Gamlingay at Woodview Farm open day on 9th June – yes, very soon – but it looked a little borderline last night as to whether we would have the numbers. It would be in the afternoon as part of a fundraising event for MAGPAS. We haven’t committed to it yet, so if you are up for it, email me by the end of Friday and I can make the call.
Finally, we have had quite a few people say that the new venue is more social, with more chat and general interaction. This is good, and I think we all still like it. But there is a slight downside, as voiced at the AGM, that more chat makes it harder for people to hear instructions and even counting in. One table in particular last night struggled to hear, so please bear in mind the impact that your chat, post-song analyses and riff-noodling between songs has on everyone else. And if you can’t hear what’s going on, don’t be afraid to speak up. Let’s see if we can maintain viable levels of banter and order without recourse to the Duck Call of Power (some of you will remember its chilling tone) or a microphone.
I look forward to seeing and hearing you all next week and to finding out what Dave Shiers’ angling in the archives will yield. I can hardly wait.
From the 23rd May meeting:
"Following our slightly underwhelming – but actually still rather enjoyable – street party gig at the weekend, it was good to get back to a straight evening session with no pressure last night. I think there were around 29 of us and we played as broad a temporal, geographical and stylistic mix as ever. The approach last night was what I shall call “soft curation.” In other words, rather than badgering everyone for their personal choices, I came with a flexible list of songs that, I hope, still allowed space for people to say “Can we do the next one in the book?” or “Can we play X?” To my mind, this kept the evening flowing well and stopped us just panicking and playing the same few songs as the previous week. I thought it was great, but let me know if it seemed to work for you.
If any of you would like to be a soft curator soon, speak up. All you would have to do is give me a list and I can do the announcing – or you could. You could take the same approach I took last night of old and new stuff that we haven’t played much recently (I suspect Haole Hula was new for some people, despite its being a gig staple of old), or we could have a night that just focuses on your favourites from 1967 – so long as they are in our books – or songs that mention colours or the weather or whatever you choose. We’d perhaps run it for the first half of the session and make sure there was space for others – soft, see.
Next week, time and memory permitting, Jon is going to be our Mr Softee, and will come with a list of around 15 songs, but there will still be space for perhaps the same number again called from the floor.
Don’t forget to let us know if you are up for a daytime session in a local elderly care home or if you want to be part of a regular bunch on a Tuesday at the Wellington Arms that Tom is coordinating, or if you have any views on the timing for our open mic sessions. The limited feedback on that so far is that the earlier start is easier for setup, less intimidating for new performers and less intrusive over the break. On the other hand, for those who did brave it, they had a bigger audience who – perhaps crucially – had already started drinking. On balance, we are likely to go early unless you tell us otherwise.
And finally, we haven’t forgotten about our learning sessions on singing and playing and hope to have a couple more lined up before too long. As ever, if any of you have knowledge that you’d like to share, let us know and we’ll see what we can do.
I am looking forward to next week already. As we have only one Half Man Half Biscuit song in our books, Jon is going to have to dig deep into our repertoire and that can only be good.
All the best"
From the 16th May meeting:
"What brought so many people out last night? Was it the open mic? Was it the prospect of the open mic being in the middle of the evening? Was it a decent evening to be out but just too cold for a barbecue? Who knows, but we reaped the benefits of a great evening with up to 31 people present, including guests and visitors. Norman brought two guests who sloped off to a prior engagement part way through – they were keen to mention that their leaving wasn’t a criticism – and we welcomed Michelle and Algernon for the first time, although many of us knew them from BLUD. Last week’s new Ron returned, and we had a good turn out from the regulars.
When given the choice of what to play, we kept coming back to the GigBook, partly to reassure ourselves on some details but mainly because these are songs that we like to play, and we like to play them well. So we did. It would be fair to say that there weren’t many rarities in our songs from last night, but if there is one thing that being a lifelong birdwatcher has taught me it is that rarities are much less common that other things, however much we sometimes wish otherwise.
Songs of note for me were Memories are Made of This, the Rudy/Tide is High mash-up and It’s All About You, and all for the same reasons. When split, either between the sexes or between tables, our singing was so strong that everything seemed to work. That gives a nice added depth to our sound. It’s also worth mentioning that Oliver’s Army is now certainly gig-worthy. We have resolved the ending by simply cutting off all the ohs and ahs – no ending is a better ending.
The sound quality of the open mic is to be commended and it was good to be playing to a fuller audience than when it is in its usual early evening slot. Opinion is a bit split on when to have it, but the experimental move was certainly worth the effort. I would love to hear what you thought about the timing, whether you were one of the brave souls who performed last night, were a member of the audience last night or just couldn’t make it. It was slightly disappointing that no one who was asking for the timing to be moved at the AGM got up and sang.
As to the music of the open mic itself, Lydia performed George Ezra’s Shotgun – a great song done well last night; David performed a different version of Teenage Dirtbag that he hopes we can adopt; and Jon and Mark got away with an unrehearsed For What is Chatteris? Along with Joy Division Oven Gloves later in the evening, this gave us an unprecedented double of HMHB songs. Does that make it One Man One Biscuit? If I have missed anyone from the list, I apologise – one consequence of having the open mic at the same time as the break is the possibility of missing someone's performance when nature calls.
Next week counts as a normal (and therefore assuredly excellent) week – no open mic, no learning session, just a whole crate of fun from 7.30pm. Please come with some ideas of what you’d like us to play. Perhaps we can give some of our rarities a bit of an outing. Surely we can’t have two weeks with double HMHB and no Beatles? If it hadn't been for Ukulele Lady last night, surely the Uke gods would have been alerted to strange goings-on in Bedford.
This Saturday, because a Royal Wedding and an FA Cup Final aren’t entertaining enough in one day, we will be playing the street party at the Wellington Arms, Bedford. Be there by 1.30pm to set up and play between 2-4pm. There will be time for beer and scones as well, and the weather forecast looks great, so come and join us.
Until then, strum well."
From the 9th May meeting:
"We have had two good sessions since I last reported. First, the gig at Wilden May Fair went well, with 20 of us braving the heat and, I think, holding the whole fete together rather well. We played and sang well and the audience seemed to enjoy our selection of songs. For both the piercingly loud Tannoy announcements and the bagpipe band that lead the May Queen’s procession, you could see people literally covering their ears in pain. For us, there was no such nonsense. I think every song provoked at least a tiny bit of applause. In a split set totalling two hours, we didn’t get near to completing the whole of the Gigbook, so we should have enough songs to keep us going for the season.
Then last night we were at it again. Some 24 people – including welcome newcomer Ron – turned out and played a bit of everything, with the only complete non-event being Bat out of Hell (again), but we did struggle with a few of the more obscure choices where the half-remembered tricky bits only hit our brains just after they were needed. Mostly we had a good mix from the Bumper Book, several BrungStrums and even Spookelele.
Next week sees the return of our open mic, but in the middle of the evening rather than as an early start. As usual, we are going to limit it to 30 minutes and one song per person unless there are no takers for the final few minutes. New and irregular performers will have priority, and we’ll see whether moving to this new slot is worth pursuing. The plan so far is that we will break at 8.45 and restart our usual session at 9.15. For that half hour, people can perform open mic, watch open mic or drink and chat at the bar, or any combination of those three appealing activities.
The next gig on 19th May at the Wellington Arms, Bedford, is shaping up nicely. At present it looks like we’ll be playing for up to two hours between the end of the Royal Wedding and the start of the FA Cup Final, as a way of stopping people from sloping off home for the afternoon. We may be under gazebos or indoors, depending on the weather, and it’s all for charity. Talking of the Welly, Tom is coordinating our response to their asking for a few people to play regularly on a Tuesday evening. You can engage with that discussion on our Facebook Group or on the new one Tom has set up specifically - www.facebook.com/groups/UkesofWellington,.
I hope to see you all next Wednesday for open mic and another selection of your chosen songs from any book from around the room."
From the 2nd May meeting:
"There were 20 players in the pub last night, but by the time Lydia had finished with us, we sounded like a choir of 30. It was a great night and the improvement in our collective singing from half an hour of simple, well-considered tuition paid off almost instantly.
Lydia went through exercises and procedures that will be familiar to anyone who has had a singing lesson, but the key thing is that we then put it all into practice and it worked. Wow! Isn’t education marvellous? To summarise the key points that I can recall:
From the 25th April meeting:
"After a slightly underwhelming rendition of Wake Me Up as our Avicii tribute last night, I picked on each of the 24 of us at random for a song and everyone came up trumps. We ended up with a light-fingered tour through most of our books, with slightly more focus on the new Gigbook than others. We included old favourites such as The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (filed under T for The, semi-logically) and Sway, as well as perilously modern songs like Country House and Exes and Ohs and everything in between. Mamma Don’t ‘Llow and Ra Ra Rasputin had rare and welcome outings. All in all, it was a very pleasant evening. Thank you everyone.
Next week, we start at 7 pm for what I shall term “Louder with Lydia”, a half-hour session on, I think, vocal projection techniques. Some of us certainly need more help on getting our voices across and Lydia considers this to be a learnable skill. I have no idea what the session will include. Be prepared for physical and vocal work that may more typically be associated with alcohol. Oh; we are in a pub. How convenient!
After 30 minutes of getting Louder with Lydia, we’ll probably do a similar thing to this week – personal choices from around the room, again with perhaps a bit of a push on some of the new Gigbook songs. Why won’t that be a splendid evening? No reason at all.
Looking slightly farther ahead, please do let Jon or me know if you are available for the gigs we have coming up. As well as the ones Jon mentioned in last week’s email (7th May at Wilden and 19th May at Bedford’s Wellington Arms being the soonest), we have the Sutton Village Day on 15th September, and we are looking into the possibility of a gig for ourselves in Bedford Park again, as this went well last year. Gigs are good. And with a bit of help from Lydia’s training and our updated repertoire, we should be able to make them even better, so do consider joining us for one or more. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a natural performer, there will be space for you in the back row, and there will always be a place for you on a Wednesday evening.
From the 18th April meeting:
"Typically, people avoid AGMs lest they get lumbered with more work, so it was really gratifying to see 28 members and regular visitors turn up and engage well with the club last night. We’ll pull together a fuller note about the meeting before long, but in summary from my recollection of the meeting:
Our new pub is the best venue we have had, but numbers attending have been a few lower than at our last venue. I would be really interested to hear from anyone who is still reads this but who we haven’t seen for a while as to why that might be. Is it because of the venue? Or is that coincidence? Have you just got out of the habit? Are you feeding your ukulele urges in other ways, such as through different groups? Or, Heaven forfend, have your ukulele urges dwindled? Ukulele Bedford is very healthy, so I am not worried about competition, but it would be great to hear from you if you have been out of our playing loop for a while.
After the AGM, we spent the rest of the evening wallowing in the hot tub of our new Gig Book. Download gigbook2018.pdf from our website if you haven’t done so already. Jon has done a great job in pulling it together quickly, and last night we were mainly checking that all the reformatting had worked. As a result, musically, we hardly put a foot wrong last night . . . the odd finger and vocal cord went astray a few times among an evening of generally very strong singing and playing, but no feet.
The bring-and-buy session at half time, I think, turned into more of bring-and-take-home-again, but it was worth a go and perhaps we’ll try again at some point.
As we were rather prescriptive last night – ironing out any last Gig Book wrinkles – we are going to be much less so next week. But that will happen only if you bring your choices. If you leave it to me, you might find yourself celebrating Björn Ulvaeus’s birthday all night, and I know some of you really wouldn’t want that. Just pick any song from any book and we’ll give it a whirl.
We start at 7.30pm, not earlier as advertised previously. This is because Lydia needs to postpone her vocal workshop until the following week, 2nd May. So if you turn up for an early start next week, you’ll just have to drink more. But do turn up. Last night showed us to be in good and robust form. There’s no reason to think next week would be different.
You will receive a separate email from Jon today or tomorrow about the forthcoming gigs. As explained last night there is a question mark over this Saturday’s as the venue may not be ready for us in the light of electrical work needed (and Wembley’s busy, apparently).
All the best"
From the 11th April meeting:
"Over 20 people braved the fog and springtime murk to join us last night, where we were first entertained by six takers in the open mic. Special mention must go to Rebecca in this. She joined us only in June last year, with hardly a chord to her name, but now she’s up performing solo at least as well as those of us who ought to know better. Norman and Lisa also stood up creditably, perhaps for the second time each, with David, Mark and Jon making up the numbers. Jon’s reworked words to Delilah – think more grappling for the tv remote control rather than murder – went well and may be heard again.
After that, we played a fair selection of definite gig songs, possible gig songs, ex-gig songs and nothing whatsoever to do with gig songs and generally proved that we can do this thing and enjoy it at the same time. Washboard Dave proved that he can tap, scrape and bang along to a different range of songs from his usual fare, so we’ll still be employing his percussive magic for gigs even as we lose some of his previous repertoire.
Next week, we will have a brief AGM at 7pm. It will be all over by 7.30pm but do please come along and have your say. So far, no one has come to me with agenda items but do let me know if you want the group to discuss anything. This will include elections, a financial statement, the disbursing of money to charity, gig signage/branding banners and, perhaps, future content of our 7pm slots as well as any other relevant business. I will send a formal agenda around by Monday, so if you want anything added, let me know this week.
At 7.30pm, we’ll play and sing some stuff, as yet unspecified, but I may well pick on you for a choice. Hide one up your sleeve to save embarrassment.
In an extra twist at break time – and thanks to Pat for the thought – we’ll also have a vaguely uke-related bring-and-buy sale. Do you have any beginners’ books you want shot of? Any spare koa-wood ukuleles that you’d like to offer for a fiver? Audio kit that is taking up too much room in your living room? Ukulele-themed trinkets from some thoughtful relative who hasn’t seen your house décor? Spare signed busts of George Formby? If so, bring them along, haggle with your ukulele friends and return home happy with your new purchase/sense of freedom. And if you felt like donating any of the ensuing profit to Ukulele Bedford, so much the better. We'll have a tip jar out, but I am not looking for a huge cut.
I look forward to seeing you all next week for what looks set to be a promising game of at least three halves. It will be good. I promise."
From the 4th April meeting:
"Last night 20 of us continued to look at the newer songs that could be added to our gig list, and I think most of them were pretty successful. There are a few endings to sharpen, a little meandering over timing to straighten and one or two where we need to convey more emotion, but overall I think we will achieve our aim of bringing our repertoire up to date with more popular songs for our many audiences. It won’t be completely out with the old and in with the new, but expect some of the older and less famous songs to end up as Wednesday night fare only.
Our first gig of the year is perilously close, so expect a new gig book before long – bear with us. These things take time and our aim is to have songs that span the decades and that make audiences respond positively – we’ll be very happy with free drinks and applause, quite happy with applause and at least ok with maintaining full consciousness. Even that would be progress. If you haven’t spoken up about what you want to see in our out of the gig book, let Jon or me know this week.
Next week is the first of our run of three 7pm starts, with the open mic. Be there ready to start singing from 7pm if you want a slot. As usual, if we are oversubscribed, those who have performed recently may have to wait until the next time. There is something uniquely challenging (aka scary) about open mics in general, even (or perhaps especially) among an audience of friends. It doesn’t feel as though it should be that way, and I am sure that practice will mean progress, so do come along and give it a go. It definitely improves individual performance.
After the open mic, we’ll revert to a mix of choices from around the room and tidying up songs from the gig list. As these are all songs that we like and know quite well, it promises to be a fun and flawless evening. Come and see if I am right.
Don’t forget that we will hold our AGM the following week. I don’t anticipate that being either long or contentious, but if you want to raise anything with the group do let me know.
All the best"
From the 28th March meeting:
"Last night we reprised a few of the songs from the previous week as possible gig candidates and made rather a better job of it than before. We added a few rarities, such as Time Warp and Werewolves of London (because horror isn’t just for Halloween), along with occasional favourites such as Hotel Yorba and the delicious chaos that is Ace of Spades. The fact that Motorhead’s finest is filed under T for The Ace . . . was only the start of the fun.
There were 25 of us last night, which the room seats comfortably with seats to spare, and I think everyone had a good time. The new pub is definitely a more social space than we have ever had, so if you haven’t been for a while, come along next week . . . and the week after – it would be great to see you back. It was good to see Norman after a few months’ absence.
There will be a fair amount of pondering over the gig possibilities now, but as we have one on 21st April and one on 7th May, we’ll get on with it and make sure we practise any additions. That may be what we start doing next week, but Easter week is always a bit of an unknown, so please come with some songs bookmarked and ready to go.
After Easter, we have three 7pm starts on the trot. On 11th, we have open mic night, with our usual 30 minutes of pre-session surprises – usual rules, one song per person, newcomers have priority, any music goes, from a Bumper Book favourite to your own composition. Remember, the more of you who come forward, the less caterwauling there will be from me.
On 18th April, we will have our AGM. Again, this will start at 7pm and will be all over by 7.30pm. If you have any agenda items that you’d like us to discuss, please let me know as soon as possible.
Finally, and perhaps most exciting of all (no pressure), Lydia has offered to take us through some vocal training, probably on 25th April. This will also be a half an hour and people can expect to work partly without their ukes and to make unexpected and embarrassing noises, all with the aim of improving our individual and collective singing. We’ll be mainly working on voice projection, I think. Details will be worked out in due course, but if this can go towards making Ukulele Bedford an even greater musical force, then bring it on.
See you all next week."
From the 21st March meeting:
"Despite being well-attended (24), last night was one of our more challenging evenings. Still better than a night at home with the telly by a long way, but perhaps not vintage Ukulele Bedford. Why? We missed a couple of our stronger voices and it rapidly became clear how much we rely on having a few confident performers throughout the room to bolster and marshal our collective efforts.
Musically, we continued our canter through possible gig songs, focusing mainly on Brungstrums 1&2. Within those, Please Don’t Let me be Misunderstood and The Tracks of My Tears stood out as being better than I expected, but we weren’t really on good enough form to judge their gig-worthiness. We know, for example, that Message to you/Tide is High is one of our stronger split songs, but not last night when not enough people were singing.
After the break, we reverted to people’s choices, and improved. It would be great if more people had a few choices in their back pockets otherwise not only is the music all chosen by the usual suspects, but, in the moment, we tend not towards adventure – not that familiarity is always bad.
There are still a few songs from our more obscure books that could be candidates for the gig book in due course, and we’ll have a go at a few of those next week, along with more comforting fare. Don’t worry; Capybara won’t be a gig option (unless you all request it). Make sure you have all our books downloaded on to your chosen device, but if not, do remember that one of the great features of our new venue is that the free wifi works properly.
For next Wednesday, 28th March, please come with a list. As you know, we try to fit in all choices, so that we play more and natter less. Whether you have been with us for years or just a few weeks, pick your song and we'll play it. After all, it is now officially spring – an optimistic season of growth and discovery. Ukulele Bedford can be part of that."
From the 14th March meeting:
"Last night, in a great evening complete with impromptu singalong audience of up to four people (!), we played a fine mix of tribute songs and potential gig book songs. We started with Urban Spaceman, for Stephen Hawking, continued with Happiness, for Ken Dodd, and even managed both Amarillo and Woolly Bully, for Jim Bowen. And who knew that Mr Bowen had been part of Peter Kay’s 2005 Amarillo recording? Google, apparently, under inquisition from Marion.
In our quest to liven up our gig list with audiences in mind, we had a good run through bits of Brungstrums 4 and 3 and some of the Bumper Book, with most of the candidate songs coming up to scratch. Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Exes and Ohs, Friday I’m in Love, Mamma Mia, L.O.V.E, Road Runner, Lola, and even rarities such as Always Look on the Bright Side of Life . . . plenty of choices for songs that people will know and that we enjoy playing. They won’t all go in, but it’s good to hear us play these well.
Next week, we’ll continue with the quest as we have a few more suggestions to try from other books that may prove suitable for gigs. If you want your favourite song to wow our audiences, come and have your say. If you can’t make it, let Jon or me know the song and we’ll try it and see how it goes.
Of course, the other side of this equation is that we will need to cut some songs from the book. We can still play them among ourselves, but we have already found that songs like You Say You Don’t Love Me – which we enjoy and we play well – leave audiences unmoved, and we regularly skip others that just don’t resonate. And that will never do. So, to quote Shakespeare's Caesar, "Beware the Ides of March". What would you slash from the current gig book? Let Jon or me know and we’ll add it to our deliberations.
There were 21 or so of us last night, ranging from founder members to near newcomers, so we are getting a good spread of people to help choose our future repertoire, and I think everyone had a good time as well. It would be even better if you came along, too. After all, the new pub remains brilliant.
I look forward to seeing you all soon."
From the 7th March meeting:
"Last night saw about 20 of us (I ran out of fingers) run through an eclectic selection from our back catalogue. From perennial faves such as San Fransisco Bay Blues and Eight Days A Week all the way through to seldom (or never) played numbers such as Folsom Prison Blues and Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. At least we now know why we don't play some of these very often!
A feature of the evening was the singing, I thought. There was a lot of it, it was loud, in tune and added a lot of texture and variety to the songs. Great stuff!
We welcomed Rex, a new member who it turned out was a near neighbour of Cath and Graham donkey's years ago. We hope you enjoyed the evening Rex and that we see you on a regular basis.
We have two gigs coming up.
The first is on Saturday April 21st at Bletsoe Village Hall. Playing from about 8pm until when we want. Indoors, with a bar. Probably two or three shorter sets with a break between.
The second is Wilden May Day Fete. Bank Holiday Monday 7th May at about 2 pm for about an hour or until people start throwing things at us. Outdoors: cover, power etc TBC.
For both of these, please can you let me and/or Mark know if you are able and willing to join in. We need to confirm them as soon as possible, so if you can let me know by the end of this Friday that would be great.
With that in mind, I think next week we will look through our songbooks to see which of our huge selection we would like to add to the gig book, as the set ought to be freshened up. (As our between songs banter ought to be, but you can't have everything I guess!). So can everyone have a think about any songs you think we do well, that audiences are likely to know and even join in with and that could be made 'gig-ready' fairly easily. We can also revisit some of the ones in the gig book that are there but rarely played out to polish them up.
Until then, have a good one."
From the 28th February meeting:
"Even the Beast from the East couldn’t prevent Ukulele Bedford’s open mic session last night, where we had six performances in our allotted half hour. These included The Rather Hot Chilli Peppers (AKA David, Lydia and Martin), Joy’s first solo performance with a Bessie Smith number and Andy’s debut with a Bob Dylan song. Mark, Lydia and Ian completed the line-up before a few other players arrived. Well done to all, and thanks again to David for logistics.
As ever, the open mic seems to kickstart better singing for the rest of the evening, which is something we need to consider. If anyone remembers next week (I probably won’t be with you) you could perhaps start with a couple of familiar songs which have a capella verses or that split the room to get everyone’s voices warmed up early.
Anyway, 15 of us braved the weather last night, and until the break had made good inroads into bits of the Gig Book that we haven’t seen for a little while. We perhaps need to do Blue Skies again soon, but starting with Gig Book songs has certainly kept our skills up to scratch. We then moved on to one or two BrungStrum4 choices – Pumped up Kicks, Cake by the Ocean and It’s all About You went well. Homework is to listen to Rule the World. The singing is good; our timing isn’t great, perhaps, as Martin suggested, because the song doesn’t lend itself so well to the pulse of massed ukulele strumming. But perhaps because we don’t all know it that well.
At the break, the Gamlingay contingent headed back to the beastly east, so any update on the second half will have to be on Facebook from those who remained.
Next week, who knows? Jon should be back after lurgy, but with nothing else planned and no obvious anniversaries (Albanian Teachers’ Day, anyone?) to give a theme, why not come armed with your choice of songs to play. Often that freedom of choice provides our best nights, and none of us likes to miss those.
Finally, we have been asked about whether we want to play one of Bletsoe Village Hall’s Saturday music gigs on 21st April. If you are free and interested, let me or Jon know. To be honest, I don’t know what sort of gig it would be, but if people are free we could ask for more details.
All the best"
From the 21st February meeting:
"Following our previous week’s loved-up Valentine’s Day effort, last night’s choices were, in general, much more lively. After a smattering of Gig Book songs to prove we can still play, we moved into Souvenir1 and barely touched the Bumper Book all evening. For the more challenging learning element of the night, otherwise known as BrungStrum4, we made some progress with Shut Up and Dance (definitely more to come there), enjoyed Pumped Up Kicks (we know that one now), and Trevor led a small number of singers (it wasn’t quite a solo, whatever some people thought) in Fidelity, which also shows promise.
I didn’t count, but numbers seemed to be about normal, with the welcome addition of a new Mike for the first half. He will be back when his fingers toughen up – it’s a hard business this ukulele malarkey. On a softer note, one member commented that “people seem to be having much more fun than they used to in the old pub.” Result!
Next week’s main event will be the Open Mic. Turn up and be ready to sing solo(ish) or listen from 7pm. That’s one song per person. Any song goes, amplified to the masses. New performers have priority. Then turn up in your hordes, armed with your choices from any book, to sing collectively from 7.30pm.
All the best."
From the 14th February meeting:
"According to Tuesday’s blog on the ever-splendid UkuleleHunt website, “It turns out every love song ever written is a steaming pile of garbage.” Perhaps that’s little harsh, but for an emotion that’s supposedly full of joy and all-consuming passion, the peak of human feeling, it has certainly inspired some real dirges from songwriters across the ages. But never mind. The 18 of us present last night – depleted, presumably, because of the foul weather, half term and the need to visit a romantic petrol station to buy chocolate and roses – fought our way through over 20 of the 24 songs in our various books with the word “love” in the title. We left out a couple of prehistoric ones that none of us could remember, including, with just a hint of irony, I Love a Ukulele. Themed nights are always a mixed bag, and we certainly found some good stuff in ours along with the romantic tosh, and we did get through a lot of music last night.
We also found time for a late Cranberries tribute with Zombie and both Love me Tender and Unchained Melody, neither of which were in any of our books, perhaps surprisingly.
Beyond that, we are getting to grips with Road Runner. The stops and starts need to be really crisp to make it work for performing out, but the Am->E->Am change is better after practice. Rockabye is teetering on the edge of singability for us, but I don’t think it’s time to reject it yet.
Next week it’s a general open request night. We’ll play anything you want from any book, from the Boat Book to Spookelele, so make sure you have everything from the website on your chosen device. We’ll go through one or two more of the less-played BrungStrum 4 songs in a bit more detail as well.
I suspect we won’t necessarily go as far as UkuleleHunt, which this morning lists all its anti-Valentine’s songs (at least three of which are in our books) to console the lovelorn and the hungover, but we aren’t continuing this week’s theme. So, think energy, think volume, think power . . . and now think of some tunes and have them in mind for next week.
If you can’t find anything you want to sing in the current books, perhaps you should be gearing up for our next open mic session in two weeks’ time, when you won’t be restricted to any of the 800 or so songs that we already have in the bag. Anything goes, so get your songwriting boots on or dust down your favourite ukulele hip-hopera ditty and share it with the rest of us.
Until next week, strum well"
From the 7th February meeting:
"Last night entertained 23 of us with a few gig book songs, choices from around the room and a bit more familiarisation with BrungStrum4, and a very fine evening it was too.
We started with Lily the Pink, as near as I could find to a song about a feminist icon, given Tuesday’s centenary of votes for (some) women. The original Lily, one Lydia E. Pinkham was, as well as a businesswoman selling her renowned potion for “women’s troubles”, an anti-slavery campaigner. Her potion was popular with men as well as women during prohibition era America, as it has been described as a 40 per cent proof eye-opener! We also sang My Girl, in honour of one of the original Temptations who died this week.
From BrungStrum4, we sidestepped the Girl Power of Never be the Same Again and instead tackled Lightning Bolt, Human, Pumped up Kicks, Island in the Sun, Roar, Somebody that I Used to Know, Somewhere Only We Know and It’s All About You. The last of these we split around the room and it started to sound really good. I would expect to see us gigging with some of these songs this year.
Talking of gigging, we have two potential outdoor bookings for the summer: May Day celebrations at Wilden, and Sutton’s Village Day in mid-September. More details/recruitment drive will follow in due course.
Next week we meet on St Valentine’s Day, when the world celebrates the beheading of the patron saint of beekeeping, epilepsy and boils . . . oh, and LOVE of course. By my reckoning, there are over 20 of our songs from all books that contain the word love (or lover – or even “luv” – thanks, Slade) in their title. We have hundreds where the word “love” is mentioned, from World Without Love through to Ukulele Anthem. Pick one or more and suggest it. Just for this week, if a song doesn’t mention love, we won’t play it, whatever its sentiment.
Continuing with our aim of getting BrungStrum4 up to scratch, we’ll have a go at Rockabye, at least. Listen to it again. It’s a great song, with love as its third word. We may also have another try at Roadrunner, which mentions love in the second verse. Please find a few minutes to practise moving from A minor to E and back for this one. I play E as 4447 (a barre across the fourth fret and my little finger on the 7th fret of the A string), but there are plenty of other options shown here: http://ukulelehunt.com/2009/04/22/e-chord-ukulele/ It was noticeable last night that our 23 players dropped to about seven when the dreaded E came up and we could all do without that dip in our sound. We did the same with Dmajor7, but that’s a rarity. E, however, is common and can be done. Trust me on this one. Or don’t, and come and find out how someone else plays it.
I look forward to seeing you all next week. Romantic costumes, rose-tinted ukes and other sentimental gestures are entirely at your discretion.
Love your uke"
From the 31st January meeting:
"We started last night in the Gig Book, with a tribute to the Super Blue Blood Moon, or at least that was the excuse to thrash our way through Bad Moon Rising/Deeper and Down. Later, we managed Blue Moon and that (blue) cheesiest of rhymes “Out on the briny, with the Moon big and shiny . . .” How Slow Boat to China ever came to be a classic with such a feeble line is beyond me, but a classic it is and we played it well.
After the Gig Book intro and a few old favourites, we bent our heads around BrungStrum 4 again. Let Her Go from Passenger has potential as does Island in the Sun from Weezer. Whether Mardy Bum will ever work as a group song is more debatable, but such experiments are at least part of the point of these songbooks. A stretch is good for us.
There were 28 players last night, along with a few locals and a party of perhaps 16 or so people having dinner. Not only was our area still comfortable with a few more people than we have had for a while, but service also didn’t seem to suffer from the pub being a bit fuller. Every week, I feel more at home in the Kings Arms.
If you haven’t been for a while – and it was good to see Terry for the first time for around six months – come and try the new place. They had different beers on this week, so there is even more to tempt you.
We still have a few BrungStrum 4 songs to give a proper airing and there will always be tunes that you just have to get out of your head and into the room. We forgot both It’s Only a Paper Moon and Werewolf of London in our astronomical tribute, for example, so there is always scope for more music, whatever the state of the Moon.
All the best"
From the 24th January meeting:
"Our second week in our great new pub, The King’s Arms, proved that the venue can do even more for us. Acoustically, it is noticeably better than anything we have had before and this was really born out in the open mic. A few brave souls - all men this time but only through illness* - showed that the acoustics in our new space are as well suited to solo performance as they are for our collective hollering. Even without amplification, it was a distinct improvement, and I have no doubt that it will prove up to the task of female soloists next month.
After the open mic, we started with the Gig Book – it’s easy to forget that the songs in there are ones we like rather than just ones that we think audiences will – and found that we hadn’t forgotten much there.
A foray into BrungStrum 3 provided us with Exes and Ohs, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, It Must Be Love, and the relative rarities of Fox on the Run and Four Strong Winds, neither of which we know as well as we think we do. But we did make a good stab at the spiced-up Rhinestone Cowboy, with its added sus chords.
Rather than being all sat round in a circle last night, we were more cabaret style, with three or four to a table. This seemed to go down well with the 22 present, providing a little more intimacy with table mates, while still being in a small enough space overall to interact across the room without shouting too much. That mix of pub and club feel is good. We’ll do it from now on.
We didn’t tackle any of our BrungStrum 4 songs last night, so a bit of a reprise of the previous week’s efforts and a go at a few of the other songs that we haven’t chanced much would form a good grounding for next week’s session, along with a smattering of your own choices from any book. BrungStrum 4 even includes Happy, which was requested from the bar last night, but that we shied away from. We did concede to I’m Yours, though, which resulted in an approving yelp from the staff and the locals, who, crucially, actually seem to like us.
If you haven’t joined us at The King’s Arms yet, you really should. No, not in a we-really-must-keep-in-touch-even-though-I-see-more-than-enough-of-you-at-Christmas sense. I mean you really should. You’re missing out and that’s not right.
All the best
*By which I mean some of our women were poorly rather than it was only men who were sick enough to think anyone wanted to hear from us."
From the 17th January meeting:
"I always like to be positive about our evenings, not just because they are a highlight of my week, but also because we have had some genuinely great times in all of our venues. What I have always left out of my weekly reports is the poor lighting, the stickiness of the tables, the vagaries of assorted landlords and bar staff, questionable acoustics, ropy beer and less than plush seating. You don’t need to know about that, and our playing surpasses such mundane concerns. No more. It’s time for a full and frank disclosure about our new venue, The Kings Arms, 24 St Mary’s Street, Bedford MK42 0AS: it’s brilliant! Good beer, amenable host, decent acoustics, a proper pub feel, but with just enough privacy to give us that club feeling as well.
For me the only issues will be whether it proves big enough – it was fine for the 22 of us last night – if we carry on expanding, and remembering to bring a cushion for the wooden benches if I have been cycling again on a Wednesday. Even the parking (free in the pub car park, by the way, not the rumoured £2.70 in the nearby rob-and-display) was easier than expected, and there were still spaces at the end of the evening.
So, that’s it. The various Foxes and Hounds can fade into sticky memory. It was useful to have a private function room. I am not sure our open mic evenings or learning sessions would have got off the ground without it, but we can find ways round that. Our new home is The Kings Arms, and very welcoming it is, too.
Musically, last night, we rediscovered the joys of BrungStrum1, a slightly neglected volume that has all sorts of delights, and then we played around with BrungStrum4 again, along with a modicum of Bumper Book favourites, and it was a great evening, full of the right buzz.
Next week, we’ll start early, with the first performers for the open mic ready to launch themselves to the rest of the world for 7pm. Usual rules apply: new performers have priority, everyone else is first come first sung. One song per person. Solo, duo, trio or other small groupings are all fine. No crowd surfing. Any song is acceptable, up to and including Bohemian Rhapsody in length (but perhaps not Tubular Bells). The power is cut at 7.30pm, when we revert to normal. Expect a little preliminary faffing as we work out where to plug things in and where to stand.
From 7.30pm, we’ll recharge glasses and have our usual blend of choices from the floor and more attempts at new songs from BrungStrum4. Remember, they were all choices from our current membership so it would be rude not to give them all a thorough test, even if a few don’t make it on to a regular play list.
Now for something special. Most of you will have heard of James Hill, arguably the best ukulele player in the world. Here's proof: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEDHdBG_5ac . I have been lucky enough to see and meet him several times at venues large and small and can confirm his brilliance and easy-going nature. Anyway, he and his equally brilliant cellist wife, Anne Janelle, are playing at Upwood Village Hall in Cambridgeshire on Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th April. Thursday is already sold out, but Wednesday tickets cost £15 from email@example.com or 07709 930398. More info can be found on the Facebook page for Upwood Village Hall Performing Arts or Upwood Ukuleles. The pair are also playing at Vine Theatre, Berkhamsted, on Friday 20th April, but I don’t know about ticket availability.
Before all that Canadian brilliance, come and join us at The Kings Arms next week and prove that last night wasn’t a fluke. You’ll enjoy it. Honest.
All the best"
From the 20th December meeting:
"Some 20 of us spent half of last night on Christmas songs and half on requests, which included several from Brungstrum4 that may deserve a public outing in due course. The other half of the evening involved extraordinary cakes, including these sparkly blue vodka-flavoured Christmas pudding cupcakes, made by Rebecca. And yes, that made our festive special feel like an evening of three halves.
From the 13th December meeting:
"Last night saw – in Jon’s words as neither of us quite counted - a blizzard of ukulele players in the Church Lane Community Centre.
We welcomed a new Pete and a new Jim and worked our way through assorted songs of choice and bits of Brungstrum4, which are also, of course, choice songs. Most disappeared as quickly as Marion’s excellent cakes, but we savoured a few of the new ones and, I think, liked the taste. Katy Perry’s Hot ‘n Cold looked easy to start with, but we tinkered with nuance at the end to tighten it up a bit, and despite Lydia’s best efforts at re-keying and leading from the front, we still haven’t quite grasped Robbie Williams’ Angels. We are getting better, but it still feels a bit more like a non-league football chant than the stadium anthem it will become. We’ll come back to that one, for sure.
Next week will be our final week at the Community Centre, and it’s Ukulele Bedford Christmas. We’ll mainly play songs from the Christmas book, that you can download from our website (ukulelebedford.co.uk/themusic.php). Any infrequent visitors – welcome back if you are thinking of coming – please make sure you have the current book and not the old BUG one.It would be lovely to end our year in the company of some of our older friends as well as our regulars.
When we have had enough of mistletoe, snow, improbably-beaked reindeer and bells, bells, more bloody bells, we’ll play a selection of this year’s favourites - it will be like a tin of Celebrations for your ears!
As usual for this venue, there will be free tea and coffee. As less usual, there may be a plethora of Christmas jumpers, glitter, extra calories (if you bring them) and festive cheer, but please bring your own flagon of ale or drip-feed of egg-nog to lubricate your singing voice. Let’s see the year out in style.
All the best."
From the 6th December meeting:
"I suspect that for some of last night’s 29 players in the Community Centre, this was the first time they had played in company while stone-cold sober. It’s ok. It didn’t show. In fact the venue is bright, plenty big enough and the break became more of a social event rather than a tedious wait at the bar, so I think we’ll all be happy there for the rest of the month.
The evening went as planned, with a good smattering of open micers – including Norman’s first go - , some nice choices from the floor, a successful reprise of the previous week’s BrungStrum4 songs and a deeper look at two more from our new book. It was also good to see John Box back with us again.
Robbie Williams’ “Angels” will be really good to sing – or at least to hear. The key doesn’t suit everyone, but the timing is foxing us slightly. We’ll come back to that because it has such potential. Imelda May’s “Road Runner” is a different beast: fast, with plenty of stops and not too tricky, especially after practicing smooth transitions between A minor and E.
Next week, we’re in the Church Lane Community Centre again, and we’ll tackle a few more of the BrungStrum4 songs as well as people’s choices. If you arrive a little late and no one is immediately there to let you in, try tapping on the windows to the right of the entrance. If it’s as good as last night, you’ll want to be with us, and definitely inside the hall rather than in the car park.
A request: relative newcomer Pena is a singer/songwriter and has asked if some of us can help with ukulele backing on a song she is recording in Bedford on Saturday 16th December in the early evening (5.30-7.30). She is looking for seven or eight competent soprano or tenor uke players, preferably electro-acoustic so that we can plug in, to join her in a proper recording studio. Space and time are tight, but if you are interested, let me (Mark) know as soon as possible and I can send more details and organise a list. This is a one-off, and if 25 of you want to sign up, I shall just pick people, even if I know that 23 of you could do it.
Finally, as we are now nearer to Christmas than to either Halloween or Bonfire Night, it’s only fair to remind you that we will be having our bout of festive jollity on 20th December. We’ll be playing from the Christmas Book that is on the website, so make sure you have that downloaded on to your chosen device before you put the sprouts on to boil. There will be festive nibbles, but only as much alcohol as you bring with you.
Have a good week."
From the 29th November meeting:
"It’s been another good week for Ukulele Bedford.
On Tuesday, our gig in the Engineers’ Arms at Henlow attracted 18 players, with a full range of experience, amplifiers and ukuleles. We played well to a small but appreciative audience. Then, last night, a baker’s dozen of us tackled a mix of songs from assorted books and before focusing on a few from BrungStrum4.
The device of picking songs from our names worked well to bring different songs to the surface last night: Lady Madonna, Mrs Robinson, Ida sweet as Apple Cider, Jolene and Pretty Flamingo all had rare outings, and there will be plenty more songs starting with the first or last letters of your forename or surname for next week.
From BrungStrum4, the improvements in Hidden in the Sand, Lightning Bolt and Pumped Up Kicks from simple repetition were excellent, but, thanks to Martin, we hit on a great way to improve House of Gold . . . learn and practise the tune! The improvement on this one song alone, from ok and promising to full speed and almost gig-ready in a matter of four runs through was fantastic to hear and be part of.
Next week, it’s all change for half an hour or so, in that we are going to run our Open Mic session from 7pm, followed by a similar evening to last night – your choice, perhaps picking songs that reflect your initials, and then working up a few more from BrungStrum4. We may see how much of this week’s improvements have stuck as well. Remember, though, WE WON’T BE AT THE PUB. Join us instead in Church Lane Community Centre, 147 Church Lane, Bedford MK1 0PW (map at www.facesbedford.org/contact). Be there early for open mic, and remember to bring your own flagon of gin/crate of ale if you can’t cope with two hours away from the bar. Tea and coffee will be provided.
I look forward to seeing you all next week. After all, you wouldn’t want to get left behind as we surge through into our 21st century repertoire, would you?
From the 22nd November meeting:
"I have a sore throat and headache this morning. I am tempted to blame Ukulele Anthem. There were times last night when we definitely passed from tuneful to cheerily raucous, but that’s ok. We all need sugar and salt, and we were at least occasionally tuneful.
We started with our learning session on chord cheats, full notes for which we’ll post on the website shortly. They just need tidying for e-posterity. Do let me know if anything wasn’t clear – there was a lot of information to absorb in 30 minutes. We’ll probably run half a dozen of these sessions and then repeat and amend them as necessary. If anyone would like to step forward to present one, let me know. Possible subject include timing, strumming patterns, special strums, stage presence, singing tips, fingerpicking, arrangements in parts . . . we’ll focus on things that help the whole group rather than soloing, but it will only happen if we have volunteers.
The rest of the evening was split between gig book practice and the final tranche of BrungStrum4, which, I think, proved slightly easier than the previous week.
Having now gone through the whole of BrungStrum4 once, we can definitely say there are some good songs in there. If we get to gig-level competency for even a quarter of them, we will have modernised and popularised our set massively, so thank you once again for all your contributions. They could put Ukulele Bedford ahead of the strummers’ pack. After all, this is the century we are living in. We can always visit earlier decades, but a ukulele group for today without today’s music is surely heading towards obsolescence, and we aren’t having that.
Next week is our last thoroughly normal session of the year. We’ll be in the pub (before decamping to Church Lane Community Centre for December only), with no open mic, no learning session, no last-minute gig preparations and no obligation to hurtle through new songs. It should be good. The rough plan is to take a couple of the BrungStrum4 songs and give them several runs though the Ukulele Bedford mill and see whether they still seem fit for the ukulele.
The rest of the evening will be your choice. Does that sound too broad with around 700 songs on our website? Let’s make it a bit easier. Unless there are songs that you are desperate to play, why not try to come with up to four song ideas taken from any book – one song whose title starts with the first letter of your forename, one with the last letter of your forename, one with the first letter of your surname and one with the last letter of your surname? That should be plenty to keep the evening flowing smoothly and allow for duplication with our plethora of Davids.
Before then, we have a gig at the Engineer’s Arms, Henlow, on Tuesday, playing from 8pm, so set-up from around 7.30pm. We’ll be standing. Bring your music, your music stand and a battery-powered amplifier if you have one, but if you just have a uke, we’ll still be happy to see you.
Until next week, keep strumming."
From the 15th November meeting:
"Ukulele Bedford turned out in some force last night for the third part of BrungStrum4, which proved interesting, challenging, entertaining and promising in almost equal measure. We struggled with more songs on first outing than in the first half of the book, but that doesn’t mean the songs were worse for us in any sense. It’s inevitable that the songs with more challenging timing or strums are going to be harder work, but they could still become club standards when we get to know them. I doubt if anything we tackled was really harder than Bye Bye Blackbird or Blue Skies, both of which we have been known to play well in public. On first play, Pumped Up Kicks and Road Runner went well; on second play, Rule the World has potential as a great sing-along crowd pleaser; and Mardy Bum and Rockabye, at least, showed glimmers of what they could become in due course.
Next week, we’ll start at 7pm for a half-hour learning session of tips, cheats and good practice, aimed mainly at our less experienced members, but, perhaps, with something for everyone. Come along and learn or contribute or both. Or just come and sit in a corner, tugging at your beard and sucking on your pipe in a knowing, professorial manner - but come anyway.
After that, we’ll hurtle through the final section of BrungStrum4 – Somebody that I used to Know to Yellow – before reminding ourselves that we can sing and play complete songs without stumbling by strolling through some of the older songbooks. In following weeks, we’ll revisit BrungStrum4 frequently, but in less of a whirlwind. You never know, we may even make some of the new songs presentable to a wider world.
December: for the three meetings in December, that is 6th, 13th and 20th, we will be at the FACES Bedford offices in Church Lane Community Centre, (https://www.facesbedford.org/contact) and not the pub. There will be free tea and coffee, but no bar. You are welcome to bring your own drinks – no need to smuggle them in in a paper bag. We’ll give more details next week. There are bound to be some sort of festive shenanigans. There will be no Ukulele Bedford meeting on 27th December, but we’ll be back with all our remaining pomp and glitter on 3rd January.
But, hey, it’s still November, so not time to dwell on the C word just yet. Come and enjoy what the rest of November has to offer first.
All the best"
From the 8th November meeting:
"A slightly slimmer group than usual – 22 by the end of the evening – enjoyed both the open mic session and our second batch of new songs from BrungStrum4. The sound from the open mic was better, thanks to the use of a microphone for the uke rather than a clip-on pickup and we had a good selection of songs.
One effect of starting early with the open mic is that the main session is ready to go bang on time. In practice, this meant we were able to run through a few of the new songs more than once. As usual, there were a few that seemed straightforward on first playing, others that will sound much better with practice and perhaps one or two that won’t make the grade. "It’s All About You" is just asking to be split into parts, and our singing was especially strong on that one right from the off.
We will do them all again. Yes, even "Let It Go" and "Happy" that were unfairly dissed before being given their fair chance. All songs are equal before the uke until they prove otherwise, and one or two outings isn’t enough for that. There are quite a number of songs that we can play easily from the start that then don’t end up being performed regularly, as well as some that we never get the hang of properly. You can never quite tell what’s going to stand the test of time.
If our playing was a little ragged at times last night, it’s only to be expected with new songs, and it shows how we miss the unifying beat of the bass when it’s not with us. We hope Martin will be back with the bass next time.
Next week, we’ll be running through BrungStrum 4 from Mardy Bum to Shut Up and Dance - the Kylie segment - possibly reprising a few of the songs from earlier in the book as well. As with this week, we’ll start with a few familiar warm-ups and revert to requests for the final half hour or so. If you still don’t believe in the 21st century, there should still be scope for a full mix of music from across the decades. Your best preparation for next week is to put Trevor’s YouTube playlist on repeat: http://bit.ly/UB-BrungStrum-Four-21-to-30. And if you believe the internet (and why wouldn’t you?) there’s good money to be made as Kylie impersonators. You never know. There could be good things to come On a Night Like This.
The following week, 22nd November, as well as scooping up the last of BrungStrum 4, we’ll have our second learning session from 7pm. This is aimed at our less experienced members, but is open to all, either as participants or contributors. The provisional title is “The Ukulele Bedford guide to chords, chord inversions and sort of cheating”, and will cover ways to play quicker, smoother and more easily. It should dovetail with the barre chord session (see the notes on our website), but if you missed that don’t worry. It will stand alone.
I hope to see you all next week, Kylie costumes optional, as usual."
From the 1st November meeting:
"After a few familiar songs last night, including Blueberry Hill as a Fats Domino tribute, we got stuck into the new millennium with the first 10 songs from BrungStrum4.
As expected, some worked well straight from the box, others will need a few performance upgrades and yet others may quietly sink back into the file, rarely to be heard again. On a first outing, it wouldn’t be right to cast any of them aside entirely, but some may work better as solo performances than as group songs. We will revisit them all over coming weeks... even those sneaky songs from the 1990s whose release date the compilers hadn’t spotted. Personally, Rag n Bone Man’s Human and the two 21 Pilots songs were highlights, and there were indications that our singing on Angels could be really good in due course. I was also pleased at how the group made a spirited attempt at tackling everything in front of us. A special nod must go to Jon for his work on this compilation, and, of course, to you all for suggesting its contents.
Next week, we’ll be starting at 7pm for our open mic, before tackling songs 11-20 of BrungStrum4, or thereabouts. As with this week, there may be reasons to delve deeper into the book, but try to familiarise yourselves with songs from Fidelity onwards. Fidelity, incidentally, goes really well with the C and F played as barre chords with a bit of bounce in them, but we can worry about that if we decide to pursue it.
For the open mic, we’ll play it the same as usual: one song per person, new performers have priority, get your name on the board to perform, and a clear 7.30pm cut off. Any song and any level of performance is acceptable. You can use it to try out new material, to improve your confidence with a microphone, to put the rest of us right about a song we keep getting wrong, to practice duets... so long as it’s you and a uke, it qualifies.
Last night proved that there is nothing about this century to be worried about from a ukulele viewpoint (la, la, la, - Trump, climate change, Brexit negotiations, North Korea. I am not listening - la, la, la!). I have every confidence that next week will prove just as life-affirming. Come and join us. It will do you good. You’ll enjoy it."
From the 25th October meeting:
"The pub last night had more than its fair selection of witches, ghouls, ghostly drinkers and the like . . . and then we turned up! Our Halloween bash provoked even more costumery (and carbohydrate consumption) than usual and proved that there is life in the old Spookelele book yet.
Thanks to new people and Jon’s radical departure of actually listening to some of the songs before he arrived, we managed a few more from the book this year, even if we did stumble a few times. It was great fun, and honourable mentions must go to Rebecca, Jeanette and Joy for bloody cup cakes, and witches and zombie fingers respectively - all much tastier than they have a right to be from their ghastly appearance – and to Lydia for traversing stairs with a splendid Dalek outfit, and a special call must go to Graham’s DEATH, complete with veil and trip-hazard scythe.
Moving on. Next week will see us strip back the make-up and launch into the 21st century with the start of Strum Wot You Brung 4. The book BrungStrum4 is downloadable from the website on 'The Music' page. Note, it’s about 40 songs long and just shy of 8Mb. By now, most of you will know the drill: download Brungstrum4.pdf on to your chosen device. Don’t risk accessing it live on the night. If you can’t get to it from the website, let me know and I’ll send it as an attachment.
We are going to focus on running through the first 10 songs next week, before letting you choose from any other book after that. The following week, we’ll go to the next 10 – possibly reprising some from the previous week - and so on. It’s all done alphabetically, and without any reference to the song’s chooser (several people chose the same songs anyway), so if ‘your’ song doesn’t get an airing until later in November, don’t take it personally.
For a real treat, try this YouTube playlist of the whole lot (if the link doesn’t behave, just search for BrungStrum4 on YouTube). There are the best part of 90 minutes of 21st century classics there just crying out for the Ukulele Bedford treatment. It’s full of songs that you will know, songs that you will never have heard, and possibly a few you never wanted to hear, but we’ll promise to give them all a good airing. After all, these are your choices, be they rowdy punk, shameless pop, cartoon classics or just plain strange. Come along, You’ll enjoy the challenge. If you are lucky, you may even enjoy the music.
While you are on our website, you can also download Jon's guide to barre chords from the music page. Although it stands alone, it's mainly a reminder of what Jon actually said last week rather than being the last word on all things barre. There are plenty of more confusing ways to look at it online.
Finally, if proof were needed that we appeal to a broad range of audiences, we played a gig at Faces Bedford last Saturday. It was a fun afternoon, studded with applause and compliments. And cake. We never forget the cake.
I look forward to welcoming you all to the 21st century with BrungStrum4 next Wednesday. Until then, get on to that YouTube playlist, and imagine it louder and with more ukuleles.
PS If you were expecting Open mic next week, you have another week to practise."
From the 18th October meeting:
"Last night saw the first of our learning sessions, with Jon very ably informing us about bar chords, running through everything from the idea of using moveable shapes to help you find more chords than you think you know, to how to make them sound as good as open chords. In academic terms, Jon’s approach would be termed a practical seminar rather than a lecture. We’d really like feedback on it, from information content and quantity to length and teaching style. Was it more useful than being pointed to YouTube links, how much can you remember today, what questions were left unasked and unanswered? Feedback will help us make it better. Possible future topics include special strums and strumming patterns, shortcuts and cheats, time signatures, simple picking patterns . . . or anything that you wish to learn or impart. Feedback anonymously to me if you’d prefer, or discuss it in public via the Facebook group. The next learning session will be in about a month.
After the bar work, we strolled through the various books, picking delights as we travelled, with the usual mix of strong finds, occasional meh moments, and the odd mystery. Somehow we missed the chance to cock up the Beachboys’ classic Barre Barre Ann … sorry … Homework is to listen to Fire and Rain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIqqASadfNc It’s been nestling unnoticed in the Bumper Book for years.
On Saturday 21st October – yes, very soon - we have a gig for FACES (see www.facesbedford.org for more about the charity) to help open their new premises. Expect tea. Expect cake. Expect a good time. Be there and ready to play with your uke, your kazoo, your music stand, the Gig book on your chosen device, bright clothing and your most relaxed, family-friendly disposition by 1pm at the latest. Where is there? Church Lane Community Centre, Church Lane, Bedford MK41 0PW. Find a map here. There is parking round the back or at Aldi. We’ll be setting up from about 12.30pm, so the usual help with standing on leads, wrestling mic stands into submission, making the amp howl with feedback and distracting us with conversation while we plug things into the wrong sockets would be appreciated.
Next Wednesday, 25th October, is our Halloween. Download the Spookelele Book from the website, don your costume, prosthetics and make-up and expect a few orange-coloured and suspiciously ghoulish foodstuffs to enliven the evening. We’ve done it before. It was good.
Thinking about costumes, it’s probably worth a reminder that you can buy all manner of Ukulele Bedford merchandise through www.zazzle.co.uk/ukulelebedford Hmm. Sexy!
I look forward to seeing you all playing live on Saturday, or playing undead on Wednesday."
From the 11th October meeting:
"Somewhere in the high twenties of us had a fine old time last night. Following our brace of successful gigs over the weekend, request night proved that we remain in fine fettle, vocally and ukulele-ly. This often happens – is it the amount of practice that we have done, or the slight relaxation that follows a gig? It matters not because our post-gig workout sounds good and is great fun.
Next week, we start early for a half-hour session on barre chords (or bar chords, or barré chords . . . up to you). If you want guidance on the bar, be there from 7pm. If you are happy to help, ditto. If your bars are up to par, get a drink from the bar and we'll see you up thar at 7.30pm as usual for another request night.
Talking of bars, the bar for submissions to BrungStrum4 (21st century songs only) comes down on Friday. We have enough entries to be ruthless with both the date and the era.
Finally, we have a gig on 21st October in Bedford, at the official opening of FACES new premises. FACES is a charity run by our own Wendie. (find out more at www.facesbedford.org) Among other things, FACES intends to use ukuleles as a force for good to to help rehabilitate vulnerable and abused youngsters, so it would be great to show just how positive our own ukes can be. The gig will be in the afternoon, and there will be tea and cake. More details to follow.
If that all that sounds very positive and relaxed, so it should. But remember, Halloween’s Spookelele night is only a fortnight away. Dust off your scary trousers and come along.
From the 4th October meeting:
"Last night was quite unusual, but in a good way. First, we had our open mic session, including two or three first timers, Lisa, Pena and possibly Graham. Graham – who may well have open miced before - gave one of three tributes to the late Tom Petty during the evening, and Pena scored maximum points for braving the open mic with her own song on her first visit. Lydia struggled bravely through, despite technical difficulties with the mic stand – one of the troubles of being a leftie in a rightie’s world. I am sure I heard Lisa mutter “I am not doing that again”. Lisa, you were great. We’d all like more from you. Standing up to sing is a brave thing to do, even among friends . . . And I should know better than to try a song with the words “Now, lend me your ears and listen, to another embarrassing song.” Talk about tempting fate! Anyway, thank you to everyone who took part, for David for setting up, and for the audience for turning up early to hear our efforts. The next open mic will be in about a month.
We welcomed Pena (rhymes with henna), Pete (rhymes with neat) and Dick (rhymes with trick) for the first time among our 24 or so players, and just managed to remember to give them kazoos before the final song. As initiation goes, I think that’s suitably low key. We hope to see them all back in due course.
For the main part of the evening, we practised the playlist for this weekend’s wedding gig, largely successfully. We are looking forward to the combined forces of Ukulele Bedford and Burton Latimer Ukulele and Drums Group helping to make it a day to remember for everyone involved.
And I’d like to hope that people will make the evening gig at Bedford Beer Festival memorable too, although beer and memory don’t mix that well. Drop a USB stick into a pint of bitter if you don’t believe me.
Next week sees us post-wedding and post-hangover and in between specials, so it will be a request night. Any song from any book on the website – you choose, we play. Simple. Choose before you come to keep the evening flowing. Even simpler.
Don’t forget the learning session the following week (barre chords explained, justified and practised), Halloween on the horizon and this is your last call for post-2000 songs for Strum Wot You Brung 4. We have around 30 so far, but a few more wouldn’t do any harm. We have a strong mix from punk to Disney already, but there is still scope for your favourite modern song.
If you are coming to the wedding on Saturday, there is a later version of the wedding songbook (as of Thursday, 5th), which supersedes the one we used last night. It is on the website on the music page - please make sure you have this latest version if you are playing at the wedding!
Enjoy your week."
From the 27th September meeting:
"Souvenir1 had a good thrashing at our session last night. As well as the familiar songs that have crept towards the gig book – Oliver’s Army, Make Me Smile – and the inevitable and excellent Joy Division Oven Gloves, we did justice to Release Me, Mack the Knife, Brown-eyed Girl and even Ace of Spades. Cecilia still causes problems with its bo-bos and wo-hos, but we definitely have the measure of the ba-das in Only You.
Returning to the English language, we had another try at White Wedding, Close to You and Shame and Scandal in the Family for the wedding gig in 10 days’ time. With one more run through next week, we’ll be ok. Close to You saw significant improvement, albeit from last week’s rather low base.
BrungStrum1 finished the night, with Country Honk, Space Oddity and You Got It rounding us off nicely. The only thing lacking was beer – the pub was between barrels of everything – but the 22 of us present made up for the lack of liquor with loudness and laughter. It was good.
Next week, I am sure the beer will be back on, and it’s Open Mic time. Turn up early and get your name on the board for one song and subsequent applause. We’ll start at 7pm and run into our usual evening session straight afterwards from 7.30pm. New performers will have priority, and if we run out of time – as we did last month – you can spend another month practising before unleashing your brilliance on our corner of the world.
Don’t forget to send Jon and me 21st Century songs for Strum Wot You Brung 4. Up to three songs per person is fine. We already have enough to make the new book work, but don’t miss out on your chance to contribute. The last thing we want is for it to be dominated by this stuff.
Enjoy your week"
From the 20th September meeting:
"It was another relatively quiet night at the Fox and Hounds last night, until we pitched up, of course. Just shy of 20 of us had a slightly chaotic but educational evening. Not for the first time, I started with a song that I thought everyone knew that turned out to be more of a solo effort – Don’t Fence Me in – but after that we played more familiar fare, until launching in to learning three songs for the forthcoming wedding gig.
Billy Idol’s White Wedding was ok on first play, and, after listening to the original, was pretty good on our second go. The Carpenters’ Close to You proved more problematic. Even with simpler chords than we have played it in the past, the sheer range involved is quite daunting. By comparison, the third choice, Shame and Scandal in the Family, with all of two chords, should have been easy . . . ah, well! There is time to have another go at that reggae strum.
Among the choices from around the table was The Beatles’ And I Love Her, which none of us remembered playing before, but is certainly worth repeating. We also played Cracklin’ Rosie for the first time in an age, which shows how easy it is even for our gig songs to slip through the net.
You should all have received an email with dates from Jon last week. One possible addition is a festive get together with Burton Latimer Ukulele and Drum Group, among others, on16th December. Details to follow. I gather that the BLUDGroup has already booked next year’s Strum Like A Pirate Day. AAARRR!
Before all that, though, we have gigs, open mic and Strum Wot You Brung 4 to consider. Songs are trickling in slowly for that. Please keep the flow going. There really are plenty more good tunes from this century than you may remember. Just think of all those adverts that get stuck in your head, or play a YouTube mix of number ones and you’ll recognise them. Once you have found a song, if you aren’t sure of how to find the chords and lyrics, try searching on UltimateGuitar.com, Scorpex ukulele, Ukulele Wednesdays or ozbcoz.com. If it’s not in there, it may not translate well to uke. Or, you have unearthed a new gem that we’d like to hear. Either way, let’s get some new ear-worms going.
Next week, as well as another go at the wedding songs, we’ll perhaps focus on Souvenir1 and BrungStrum1 for a while, unless you want to play something else. It’s more of an idea than a full plan, but at least make sure you have those songbooks on your tablet.
Until then, strum hard and strum often."
From the 13th September meeting:
"This week’s Ukulele Bedford session counts as straightforward and relaxed, but no less enjoyable for that. About 20 of us gave BrungStrums2 and 3 a decent examination, paddled in the gig Book and dipped briefly in to the Bumper Book for Jackson – somehow the version that I have running through my head has a bit more going on than our simple three-chord effort. I am sure it is possible to liven up some of our simpler songs through more harmonies, solo breaks, backing singing, without bringing in a brass section . . . there is so much to do!
We have a few events coming up that we need to start preparing for. Expect an email from Jon about dates and your availability, but we have a wedding (playing jointly with Burton Latimer Ukes and Drums) and beer festival at the Rugby Club on the same day, the chance to play at the opening of a new charity premises in Bedford, Halloween, the next open mic, Strum Wot You Brung 4 (21st century edition) and the learning sessions – all before the festive season jumps out from behind the bushes to surprise us, as happens every year.
The next open mic will be on 4th October from 7pm – usual rules apply (tune up before you stand up, announce your song, one song per person unless time allows for a second one later in the session, all done and dusted by 7.30pm). Other dates to come. If you prefer 25th October over 1st November for Halloween, let us know. The BrungStrum will probably be in the week following the spooks.
As I suggested last night, asking what ukulele skills you’d like to learn rapidly takes us into Donald Rumsfeld territory about known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns, but do let me know if there is anything you really want to improve. The sort of things we are thinking about are barre chords, chord inversions and when to use them, short cuts, strumming patterns, reading TAB. We aren’t looking at a full course and will focus on skills that would benefit the whole group. But it’s up to you.
Next week? No idea! But I bet it will be good.
From the 6th September meeting:
"With neither Mark nor Jon at last week’s gathering, I understand that Trevor and other members of the committee took control for an evening that sounds like it went fine. Certainly, if the result of practising all the gig/strumalong songs for yesterday’s Strum Like a Pirate Day are anything to go by, it must have been successful.
Our set yesterday went really well – even the dreaded strumalong section – and I was delighted with our appearance as well as our sound. We weren’t perfect, but – and I think this is real progress – we made light of our faults and played with genuine spirit. Three of us graced the open mic platform as well, which I am not sure would have happened without our own practice nights.
I think around 80% or more of the attendees had dressed up in an array of black-white-and-red stripy, pantalooned, booted and waistcoated outfits, with enough of a plastic arsenal of flintlocks, cutlasses and false beards to keep the local recycling team happy for months. There were prizes for best-dressed pirate. For my money, our own David’s plastic Kalashnikov, bowler hat and “I heart Mogadishu” topped the charts, but he was robbed – that what you get for playing with pirates. If they run another one of these events next year, go along. It was very good and Ukulele Bedford are definitely of a comparable standard to the other groups playing. Interestingly, I didn’t hear anything from Hawaii or anything pre-1955, with the exception of our own Shimmy like my sister Kate. Mind you, I have lost most of my hearing (temporarily, I hope) so I didn’t hear very much of anything.
Back to Bedford. This week, we don’t have anything immediate to practise for, and we are in between BrungStrums, Open Mics and the new learning sessions, so we’ll just play what we choose, in as relaxed or excitable a manner as we feel.
I will simply go around the room in turn asking for your choices and whatever you pick from any book, we’ll play – or at least try to. If you don’t have any preference, we’ll move on until someone thinks of a song.
Don’t forget to keep sending in your choices of 21st century songs to Mark and Jon for the forthcoming Strum Wot You Brung 4. I know the century is a mere 17 years old, but there has been a lot of good new music among the dross. Just go out and find it.
From the 30th August meeting:
"As Eric Clapton nearly sang, “Darlings, you were wonderful last night!” His original “Wonderful tonight” was one of the rarities we unearthed from our books, along with other strangers such as 24 hours from Tulsa, Budapest and The Lambeth Walk, along with other non-geographical splendours. The fact that Wonderful Tonight rolled around the room a bit more than intended only reflects the alcoholic nature of the song.
The evening started with another successful open mic, with more singers wanting to take part than we had time for, and most of the audience arriving in good time for the show. Singers ranged from our youngest – Oliver - via occasional visitors – Phil - to our more established – Joy and Ian, and everyone made a decent fist of their choices. Thank you all, and David for the set up. For the next one in around a month, we will introduce a slightly clearer timetable. The “Blackboard of Ukulele Promise” is on the shopping list.
Talking of audience, was it the rain, the end of the holiday season, the open mic or simply Ukulele Bedford’s general magnetism that brought 38 of us out to play? That’s just one down from the record for the current pub, and it was great to reconnect with some of our more distant souls. We can’t be doing badly if founder members and recent converts to the ukulele all still come and enjoy themselves.
We also just about cracked “We Are Sailing”, which is a relief, and I think will make a great strumalong for the Pirate Day coming up. And talking of that, the songbook has arrived in digital format and is available to download from Bludgroup.co.uk I am assuming that this is the definitive version, in which case, for our own people, we need to be aware that in the reformatting, Slow Boat not only now has a Bb rather than an F in the new third line, but also lacks a bar of F at the end of the second verse and on the penultimate line. Have a look and you’ll see what I mean, but we’ll still play our version as normal. Worse is that the formatting has taken out the two or four beat instructions for the end of We Are Sailing, so please make sure you have our version available on the day to help. You’ll be playing that again next week.
Now that the monthly open mics are proving their popularity, we are looking to have another half-hour pre-session session in the middle of the gap. This will be aimed at beginners and improvers as a skills exchange. Some of our more experienced players will be on hand to help if you are stuck with barre chords, want tips on strumming loudly, want to learn the easy way to change from Bb to G to D and back again, etc. As with the open mics, these sessions will be time-bound and the rest of the evening will continue as normal. This will be a way of fulfilling some of our education brief without slowing the rest of the evening too much. We haven’t worked out what approach it will take, who will do it or what to try to put across, but if you have any thoughts please let me know. The only things I am pretty sure of is that it won’t be a proper course and that the content of these sessions will be decided by your wishes (as students), our abilities (as tutors/facilitators) and group need (whatever that means). To start with, I think we’ll focus on ukes. Later we could spend a bit of time working on our singing.
Finally, don’t forget to send your 21st Century songs in to Mark and Jon for our fourth Brung Wot You Strum evening, which will be upon us later this month. We have already had at least one good and surprising entry, but I am sure there are more to come.
Have a good week."
From the 23rd August meeting:
"Nineteen of us graced the pub with our ukes last night, while, presumably, the rest of you were enjoying your holidays in the sunshine. If so, you missed out on one of our slightly more challenging evenings. We started with the Gig Book as preparation for the forthcoming Strum Like a Pirate Day, and decided on a subset of our repertoire for our straight performance. We then dived around the various songbooks for players’ choice, where difficult rarities such as Bye Bye Blackbird (used to be a resident fixture but is now an infrequent visitor - what a lot of chords!) vied with two-chord specials such as Jambalaya and Drunken Sailor, before returning to make a meal of We Are Sailing. The main song is fine and the singing is great, but it suffers a bit of a crash landing. This is one of our strumalongs for Pirate Day, so expect a definitive version of it to come your way within the next few days.
Next week, we’ll start at 7pm with the open mic session. Come along and grab a slot. Play one tune of your choice to an appreciative audience. This could be your opportunity to try out something from the 21st Century for BrungStrum 4, or to lay to rest a demon from one of our current books – your choice. And if you cock it up, we'll understand. What’s not to like?
From 7.30pm we’ll play whatever takes our fancy as usual, with just a brief nautical foray to top up our readiness for boarding the Pirate Day special. And for the sake of dispelling any confusion, there will be dressing up for Pirate Day. If only I can work out how to attach a four-foot inflatable parrot to my shoulder . . . Towards the end of September (either 20th or 27th), we’ll have Strum Wot You Brung 4, your choice of tunes from the 21st Century. Re-releases don’t count, but there is plenty of good material to choose from. Don’t believe that T-shirt doing the rounds. “I may be old but at least I saw all the good bands” works as a slogan, but let’s keep the ukulele spirit by remembering that ours must be the least curmudgeonly of instruments. We are going to run BrungStrum4 entirely digitally, in keeping with the theme, so start finding 21st Century songs and chords and send a copy to Jon and myself and we’ll compile the e-book and circulate it before the event. You have weeks yet to perfect "Who Let the Dogs Out", or "Oops, I Did it Again!"
Enjoy your Bank Holiday."
From the 9th August meeting:
"Last night saw 22 of us brave the 'October-in-August' weather. After a tribute to Glen Campbell ('Rhinestone Cowboy'), we decided to carry out our own version of weather magic by ritually preforming 'Bring Me Sunshine'. It didn't seem to work! But we persevered with the Bumper Book and a few diversions into Brungstrum3, playing some old and new favourites (including San Francisco Bay Blues, Dream a Little Dream, Friday I'm In Love, Ex's and Oh's) and a few less visited tunes (some of which were Daydream, Enjoy Yourself, Diana, a couple of Buddy Holly numbers, From Me to You). It's amazing how we 'miss' some songs and then rediscover them - there are a couple there we might play a little more often I think. We also learned to listen to what the bass was doing a little better, thus all slowing down at roughly the same rate at the end of a song or two and managed to curb our enthusiasm and play things without accelerating. Excellent stuff!
The next group outing is the Strum Like A Pirate Day (9th Spetember). The three tunes that we have chosen for the song book (and therefore to lead) are The Tide is High/Rudy, We are Sailing and Slow Boat to China. In addition we have a 30 minute slot to show our undoubted talents before we lead the mass strum of those three songs. So next week, we will certainly play those three songs and possibly have a think about which songs to play in the other half an hour with possibly a few 'spares' in case our thunder get stolen by a previous group playing one or two of our choices! When we practice the songs next week, in order to make it a little more 'realistic' we will say that only those who are going to the day itself should count the songs in and lead the singing etc.
The next Open Mic Night will be on the 30th of August, so if you want to try something out then get practicing. Additionally we will soon have a Brungstrum 4 evening. You have the chance to suggest a song (or multiple songs) for the group to play. More details later - but have a think about your possible choices. The wrinkle this time is that the song has to be from this century. Yes, that's right - the year 2000 onwards. Blimey.
Until next week - keep warm and dry!"
From the 2nd August meeting:
"What a great week we have had! First, the gig in Bedford Park went really well. Despite their being a massive 18 of us playing, I don’t think we outnumbered our audience at any point, and it was great to break Kathryn and Wendie into the fold. I love the fact that we have founder members and newcomers playing together – we play to enjoy it rather than to attain some musical perfection, and we can all do that however far along our personal ukulele path we have travelled. Our playing was probably the best of this season. We had a fair amount of applause, even from strangers, and our host is hoping we’ll return.
Last night, we started with the open mic session, which saw six brave souls deliver a range of songs from obscurities and instrumentals to a duet singalong. Thank you all; we’ll have our third open mic in about a month. Start practising at home today.
Starting an evening with the open mic means we are ready to play our main session a bit sooner than usual. Although that also means it takes a little longer to get to beer-o-clock, the evening still flew past. We welcomed Sheila and Dave, recruited via the Bedford Park gig, and new occasional visitor Martin (Lydia’s dad) among our 35 players, and bounced around mainly between BrungStrum3 and the Bumper Book. Yet again, we unearthed rarities: Raindrops keep falling on my head (no one knows why it says to speed up for the second half), Sixteen tons, Dream a little dream, When I’m 64, Amarillo and And I Love Her all had a fair outing.
In what I deemed an “experiment” but might otherwise be called a mean trick, I asked us to try standing and singing “Whiskey in the Jar” without looking at the music, and while making eye contact with other people around the room. It was bloody hard – I couldn’t manage it and I knew what was coming! As well as being just a fun and different thing to do, my hope was that if we do similar things in the future, we can gradually learn how to engage our audiences a bit better without losing our place in the music.
For those of you with diaries to fill, note that we have turned down the possible gig on 1/2 September, are completely committed to Strum Like a Pirate Day on 9th September (I even have the inflatable parrot ready), and are doing two gigs on 7th October – a wedding in the afternoon followed by the Bedford Beer Festival in the evening. It would be great to do both of those events proud.
Next week, I hope, regular bassist Martin will be back. Jon is also going to start thinking about gearing our gig book towards a beer festival in October, so expect – and get ready to suggest – a few more drinking songs from anywhere in our repertoire. And if you don’t fancy Lily the Pink, Whiskey in the Jar and I am a Cider Drinker all night, bring suggestions of your own to quench your musical thirst. Perhaps go for Dreaming rather than Chippy Tea or Right said Fred, if you’d rather have a cuppa than a pint!"
From the 26th July meeting:
"We had a great evening last night, with plenty of strong singing. I know, because I was concentrating more on the bass than the words so I could hear what you were all up to. There were around 25 of us again, which seems pretty good for the summer holiday season. That number included Eamonn and Alan as newcomers - welcome both.
We started with three from the Boat book - We Are Sailing, Slow Boat to China, and The Tide is High/Rudy - because these are the three songs that we have promised to lead in September's Strum Like a Pirate Day at Isham, hosted by the Burton Latimer Ukulele and Drum Group. Barring the comedy Abmaj7 chord at the end of Sailing, those went well. Our homework is to listen to the ending of that song and see if we can make it up differently next time. Remember, Jon won't be with us at Isham, so we can't rely on him to bellow "Oh, Lord" to the pirate masses!
We then moved on to requests, which saw the Bumper Book, Souvenir1 and Brungstrum2 rifled through for gems. Good morning, America, and How Sweet it is to be Loved by You stood out as rarities that I suspect will get more play before long, and we did I'm Yours more justice than usual.
On Saturday, we have our gig in Bedford Park. We'll be setting up from about noon, and playing from 2pm for two hours or so. It won't take two hours to set up, so if the weather is decent, join us for a picnic before the music starts. You'll find us outside somewhere near the Pavilion, arguing with gazebos, amplifiers and leads . . . always leads. There is free parking at the Robinson Pool, so long as you get a ticket. The map attached shows roughly where we'll be. Park by the Robinson Pool and head towards the red heart. It's NOT in the bandstand. Don't forget a chair, your music and stand, your kazoo and your uke. Join us. It may be as near as we get to a summer party, although we have threatened a home event in our pub garden.
Next Wednesday, we'll have our second Open Mic, from 7pm. Turn up early, play a tune to delight your friends, and then bask in the glow of success for the rest of the evening. It worked well last time. We'll have 30 minutes of individual music and then straight into our usual evening. That will be mainly another request night, unless we can think of anything that we ought to be doing. For the Open Mic, you could choose a song that you really want us to hear, one from our current repertoire that you'd like us to get right, something you have written yourself, a tune that works better as a solo than as a group, an idea for BrungStrum4 . . . you name it. It's not about competence - it's about having fun and giving yourself the license to perform in front of a generous bunch of fellow players. We'll have two voice mics set up and clip-ons for the ukes, so planned or spontaneous duets and even on-the-spot backing singers can be accommodated. Everyone now practice their doo-wops.
See you all soon."
From the 19th July meeting:
"Without either our regular bassist or our loudest vocalist, there were times when the 21 or so of us there last night struggled a bit, especially when not playing our most familiar songs. Cecilia proved to be the car crash of old – it’s those bo bo bos that get us – and we had to have a couple of runs at one or two other songs that we may have otherwise muddled through, but perhaps we learnt something in the process.
It wasn’t all a challenge, though, and it was good to dust off a few tunes from BrungStrum 3. The singing was strong on Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Good Riddance, and Land Down Under goes surprisingly well. We welcomed Wendie as a newcomer who has rarely played with other people, and who has promised to get kazoo lessons from a three-year-old relative. We’ll be listening, Wendie!
Bear in mind that we have our own Gig in Bedford Park in a couple of weeks’ time – more details to follow. There will be no restriction on numbers for that one, not least because you’ll need to bring your own chair. Talking of gigs, our Sutton bash last weekend seemed to go down well with the audience, even if we weren’t at our best in some ways. We accelerated rather harshly through the first two numbers but barely at all through Hot Tamales, but overall we impressed. We had good smatterings of applause throughout the set, had to do an encore – I know – and have already been possibly snapped up not only for a return gig there next summer, but also possibly for a wedding. We were praised for our choice of music and the length of our set – 90 minutes rather than the hour we anticipated – and generally put the ukulele in a good light. I don’t know about you, but I always walk a little taller after a well-received gig.
Next week, we’ll perhaps briefly iron out any remaining issues with our gig repertoire, but mostly it will be a request night. Each of you please choose one or two songs from any of our books and we’ll do our best to play them flawlessly. Any choice is a good choice, at least until we start playing.
Until next Wednesday, strum well."
From the 12th July meeting:
"There was an ample sufficiency, as cliched tautologists might say, of ukulele players in the room last night, but as to numbers, I have no idea. More than 20, less than a zillion. We spent most of the evening in the gig book, in preparation for this Saturday's gig. If you are coming, be at Sutton Village Hall by 4.30pm - directions here www.suttonvillagehall.org.uk - ready to play at 4.45pm, unless you have a note from your mum. Set-up time could be an issue, so please be prompt.
We may have resolved the confusion over THAT line in Shimmy LIke my Sister Kate, but Pete then uncovered another anomaly in it. That particular crack will remain papered over for another week.
As well as gig songs, we tackled the few remaining tunes from BrungStrum2, Wipeout and YMCA being the most successful.
Next week, as well as basking in the glory of our successful Sutton gig (you can tell I am not superstitious, can't you?), we'll do a mix of BrungStrum3 and your own choices from any book, so make sure you have everything downloaded and a song in mind.
The Burton Latimer day on 9th September now has a pirate theme. In the absence of any Somali songs in our repertoire, we'll be looking for nautical-themed ditties, mainly from our Boat Book. There will be a mix between us performing as a group and us leading a strumalong for other groups. Let me know this week which songs you think we should go with, otherwise I'll choose and you'll only have yourselves to blame.
Finally, we're gearing up for our gig in the park - that's Saturday 29th July in Bedford Park. We'll play from 2pm but join us there for a picnic earlier. And bring your own chairs.
I look forward to seeing you all soon."
From the 5th July meeting:
"Last night was as near to a standard night as I think Ukulele Bedford gets. And if standard is as pleasant as that then we are doing very well. There were around 25 of us, honing and playing songs from BrungStrum2 and the Gigbook, partly in preparation for, well, gigs. Notable last night were that our two newcomers for the previous week returned, suggesting that we are still welcoming, and the return of Oliver now that his school has broken up for the summer. It was a warm, but not unbearable evening.
Marion once again was called on to try to breathe life into Rum and Coca Cola, and we started to get somewhere with Pictures of Matchstick Men. There will be a few songs from Brungstrum2 to reject in Jon’s great consolidation project, but not that many, and I rashly promised to do Sukiyaki in an open mic session rather than inflict it on the whole group. I think this just shows what decent taste we all have.
We have a few T shirts spare, but just one of each size in one colour. These were the sample shirts and are your absolutely final chance to secure one. We are going to offer them to you for the ridiculously bargainaceous price of £4. How do you get one? Early next week, I shall post on the Ukulele Bedford Facebook Page what sizes and colours are available. Comment on the posting to claim your shirt – one per person. Unless you have a spare body of a different size, you are unlikely to need two! You will then all be able to see which shirts are still available and which ones have gone. As all of you barring a few newcomers had the chance to order in the main print run, I am not expecting fisticuffs over this. And the reason I am putting this up next week rather than now is so that you can register with the Facebook Group if you haven’t already done so. Don’t forget the alternative, pricey route to summer fashion madness: www.zazzle.co.uk/ukulelebedford
Next week, we’ll finish Brungstrum2, do a bit more with the GigBook and then possibly head into Brungstrum3 again, and I am sure there will be space to play your personal favourites.
Finally, check your diaries for 15th July for our afternoon/early evening gig at Sutton and 9th September to be part of a gathering of uke clans near Burton Latimer. The theme for that one appears to be nautical, so dig out the boat book and give me your suggestions to pass on to the organisers. After four, everybody . . . Capybara, bara, bara, capybara! (If that means nothing, see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grbnESRlQG4)
Until next week, strum well."
From the 28th June meeting:
"We had a great night last night, starting with a new feature - open mic. In our half-hour slot, six brave souls got to their feet and entertained the incoming tide of members before we made a meal of Brungstrum 2. There is no better way to practise performing solo in front of an audience than by performing solo in front of an audience, and knowing that you are in front of friends all willing you to succeed is a great help. Thanks to David for sorting the technicalities. We'll aim to run an open mic about once a month, so get in your supply of throat lozenges and get practising. Perhaps it was just me, but I thought that although the open mic section of the evening was separate, it seemed to encourage stronger singing for the rest of the night.
We also welcomed newcomers Rebecca and Carol, and hope to see them back soon. Remember a free kazoo is for life, not just for a Wednesday.
Warning: extended metaphor alert! For the main part of the evening, some 28 of us had a BrungStrum2 sandwich, comforted by the bread of the Bumper Book at each end of the evening. Perhaps surprisingly, there was rather less gristle in this butty than expected, with only "I'm Bored" and possibly "La Bamba" being spat out on the pavement of deletion. "Don't dream it's over" and "Gold" needed a bit more chewing than expected and we nearly fed "How Sweet it is to be Loved by you" to the dog under the table until we discovered that it really was much tastier than it looked. Thanks to Graham for encouraging us to keep that one on our plate.
Next week, we'll probably serve from the same menu - a bit of Bumper familiarity, followed by the second half of BrungStrum2. Join us. It's tasty. What else are you going to do now that the nights are drawing in?
Finally, we have confirmed that our next gig is at Sutton Village Hall on 15th July, playing from 5pm to at least 6pm, or until we have gathered enough rotten fruit and veg to make a ratatouille. About a dozen people have said they'll make it so far, but does that include you? Let me know if you haven't already.
Have a good week."
From the 21st June meeting:
"Last Wednesday saw a goodly number of us (I didn't count) brave the sauna like conditions of our room at the pub. Even with the windows open - thus delighting the locals with our music - it was absolutely roasting!
We started off with a few old favourites to warm us up (as if we needed it!) and then worked our way through Brungstrum 1. The intention was to see which ones were worth persevering with and which would be consigned to the dustbin of UB history. As it turns out (if you didn't know it already) the members of UB have almost immaculate taste and are excellent judges of a good tune, so there was virtually no wastage. Unless James can beat 'Atom and His Package' tune into our heads, that might be a casualty and Bo Diddley's 'Before You Accuse Me' is going to need some blues picking to rescue it from 'generic blues' status. It turns out that none of us is the uke equivalent of Eric Clapton.... whodda thunk it.
We then finished with some more oldies but goldies, before we melted out into the night.
Pushing our luck, this Wednesday we will try a similar exercise on Brungstrum 2, bracketed with more familiar tunes at the start and end of the evening.
Don't forget the new Open Mic slot from 7 until 7.30. If there is a tune you want to air to a group of supportive friends then this is the perfect opportunity, David's FB post gives more details.
I am typing this on my tablet over a dodgy wifi connection in Whitby, so apologies for any misspellings etc.
See you all on Wednesday, you might want to check my neck for telltale puncture marks, though!"
From the 14th June meeting:
"We seem to have settled on around 22 players when the sun is out, but not the same 22 each week. Last night we were a bit short of louder singers, but after a hesitant start (who knew Here Comes the Sun had such squirrelly timing?), we gradually got into the swing of a request night that featured a lot of older favourites and a few rarities, including Ringo Starr’s Act Naturally and Ain’t Misbehavin’. Tom, Jon and Dave S all made valiant attempts at fingerpicking introductions to different songs, something we could do with perfecting as the change of pace that gives would add colour to our live performances.
Next week, just turn up and play something. I dare say Jon, Trevor or other members of your committee will give direction. I won’t be with you, but that’s no reason for you not to enjoy yourselves. We have agreed to play a gig at Sutton village hall on the afternoon of Saturday 15 July. There were enough willing hands last night for us to confirm with the organisers, but there will be plenty of scope for those of you who weren’t with us to join as well. We don’t know all the details yet, but if you are free to play for at least an hour on that afternoon, please let me know directly.
In two weeks’ time, 28th June, we hope to have our first open mic session. The plan is for there to be up to 30 minutes of songs – one per performer – from 7-7.30pm followed by our usual whole-group evening. First come first heard. Just arrive in good time to get your name on the list and then sing and play. We’ll amplify both your voice and your uke. If we don’t fill the 30 minutes, you could try a second song. If we overfill it, we’ll run on to a different week, but it won’t impact unduly on our normal activities. I am really looking forward to seeing what you have to offer, but don’t feel you have to stand up in public. We all understand that one of the great attractions of our group is playing together.
Enjoy the last-ever Ukulele Festival of Great Britain if you are heading to Cheltenham this weekend. If you’re not, enjoy whatever Bedford has in store."
From the 7th June meeting:
"What a well-dressed and hygienic bunch we were last night, with many of us clad in our brand-new Ukulele Bedford T-shirts. As a request night, it was all very relaxed, with many of the songs being drawn from the Bumper Book and more from BrungStrum3. We still manage to turn up a few songs that we have barely tried before: Save The Last Dance For Me, Walk Right Back, Time Of Your Life, Radioactive and a curious World War 1 medley were different. I say curious because it was like ordering a sandwich from Subway with everything in it. Just because you can put bacon, raspberry jam and mango chutney in one bread roll doesn’t mean you should. I have always suspected that we shouldn’t play Cecilia either, mainly because we usually car crash it, but we may have solved that one. It's all in the wo ohs.
Next week, we’ll choose more songs from any of our books, so have a good look through and decide what you want to play and we’ll do it. In some cases, your vote really does count, so don’t spoil it by not having a song up your sleeve.
Two other matters: when we do gigs for charity, the charity is often already nominated, but occasionally we accept a donation for us to pass on. Felmersham was one of those and we now have the pleasant task of giving to a charity of our choice. We asked around last night for people’s suggestions. The four that came up were Macmillan, EACH, the Air Ambulance and Primrose. There was also a suggestion that rather than adopt one charity we could have a suite of choices. But what do you all think? Is there a charity that you would really like to see our money go towards, and is there one that would really turn you off? My preference would be to donate the whole of each gift to one cause – if we split the current £50 four ways, that would be four amounts of processing costs before actually helping anything. Let me know and your committee will do the rest.
Secondly, we have talked about having an open mic slot for ages but never actually done it. Now we have a plan, cunning or otherwise. Starting in about three weeks’ time – after holidays – we are going to try starting one session a month at 7pm, with the time from 7-7.30pm being a one-song per person open mic opportunity. Everyone will be able to give it a go, either singly, in pairs or in other small groupings. The normal Wednesday evening group session will then run on from 7.30pm. This means that people will get a chance to perform in front of a friendly audience – there will be no heckling of UB members – while the rest of the group assembles, buys drinks etc. We’ll run it on a first-come-on-the-night, first-on basis initially, and I don’t expect to get through all the offers in the first week. We expect to be able to amplify both vocals and ukes.
Open mics are great for building confidence, trying new songs or new arrangements of old favourites, introducing instrumentals (eg Dave's Apache), bringing possibilities for variations in gigs (including giving Jon a rest!), but they aren’t for everyone. We’ll be maintaining our collaborative vibe for the rest of the night. And if that means more nights like this week’s, bring it on!"
From the 31st May meeting:
"The last evening of spring saw 22-ish of us enjoying our ukes last night. Some basked in the glory of our first official Ukulele Bedford gig at the weekend (generally excellent, with improved sound thanks largely to David and the successful initiation of a few of our newer members into the world of live music - it's fun and only slightly scary); others were already sporting new UB T-shirts (come and get yours next week, please); and, as well as being substitute bassist, I enjoyed that fact that my latest £2 car-boot amplifier is a lot lighter to carry up the stairs than my other one, even if it does make me sound like a station announcer.
Other highlights included Pete's new home-made plywood uke, which looks and sounds really good even in fresh unwaxed form, and being able to welcome newcomer Ollie with a kazoo to add to his collection of instruments with which to annoy his parents. It wouldn't be fair to ask whether this collection and his attendance at boarding school are connected. We hope to see Ollie back in the summer.
Musically, we concentrated on the bits of the gig book that we didn't play at the weekend, followed by new favourites from BrungStrum3. We'd like to revamp the gig book to reflect the tastes of our members and audiences rather better, so if there are any songs we play - or should play - that you think would go well to our mix of audiences, please let me or Jon know. Similarly, if there are any that you think we can drop, we'd like to hear that as well. It doesn't mean we can't carry on playing them on a Wednesday for our own entertainment, but there should be only so many times that we allow a good song to fall on deaf ears. Personally, I think the days of Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy, You Say You Don't Love Me and possibly Coney Island Washboard Roundelay as gig songs are numbered, but I really want you, collectively, to have the final say. And I would be sad if we didn't play any of those three again on a Wednesday.
Next week, we'll have a request night. Look through our song books and decide what you'd like us to play. They could be old favourites, forgotten gems, gig contenders, songs we have struggled with or tunes right from the centre of our comfort zone, but do please have a couple of choices up your sleeve.
Until next week, strum for the summer."
From the 24th May meeting:
"I think there were about 22 of us last night, but I was rather too concerned with my technical difficulties to count. Without our regular bassist, I was feeling smug about having brought my bass. . . until I realised I had no lead. An emergency clip-on pickup sort-of saved that part of my evening. I then found that my Fluke kept going out of tune, despite being notoriously stable under the heat. I suspect a loose tuning peg to be the problem. However, for no obvious reason, I had a spare uke, so rather than my evening falling completely flat, it went decidedly shrill as my sopranino had a rare and piercing outing. It won’t happen often.
But hey, the evening wasn’t about me. We floated through a bunch of songs from 1967’s Summer of Love in preparation for some of our members’ trip to Cheltenham and its mass busk. I am not sure there are many keepers in there beyond our usual repertoire. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds? Yellow Submarine? The Green Green grass of Home? Perhaps not, but Puppet on a String showed surprising promise.
We then went into the gig book, reminding us that there are a whole heap of songs that we play well, which is handy as our first gig of the season is at The Sun pub in Felmersham on Sunday. Join us there to play (set-up at 4.15) or just to drink and sing from 5 pm. We’re booked to play until 7pm.
We also have a possible gig at a church barbecue in Bromham Park on Sunday 11th June at 6pm. It’s short notice, so if you are interested, let me know by Sunday evening, either in person at Felmersham or by email, and we’ll make a quick decision.
T shirts are likely to be with us either next Wednesday or the Wednesday after. Remember, you need to pick them up from the pub on a Wednesday evening, so bring your uke along.
Next week, we might start to refine the gig list a bit, giving a bit more time to some of the potential additions – getting the timing and endings right every time shouldn’t surprise us at a gig! But we’ll do other things as well, so if gigging isn’t your bag, there will still be plenty of good music and good company to be had. And I won’t even bring my sopranino, probably.
See you all soon, I hope"
From the 17th May meeting:
"I don’t know how many of us there were last night – 25+ at a guess – but everyone seemed to be having a great time, requesting all sorts of songs, from classic romps such as San Francisco Bay and Whiskey in the Jar, via rarities – for us – such as Obla dee Obla da and Every Day, to a few new favourites from BrungStrum 3 such as Exes and Ohs and Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I love the way these nights bring out a different selection, and we did them all justice, perhaps a little rough justice in some cases, but justice nonetheless. There was less of the slightly swirly timing issue than we have had in some weeks, but we still need to work a bit more on endings. Correction: we still need to play better on endings. Not work, play.
Graham sold another six T shirts last night and we’ll let people know when the order will be fulfilled before long. We must have sold about 50 now, but if you didn’t get your order in (chump!), then you’ll now have to resort to the pricy option on Zazzle
Next week, we are all going to take a mind trip to the Cotswolds. The last ever Ukulele Festival of Great Britain takes place in Cheltenham in a month’s time and several of our members are going. One feature the festival always has is a mass busk in the town park, and we thought it would be helpful to attendees and fun for us all to go through the busk gig book next week. The busk book is online HERE, but you won’t find it on our own website because it simply isn’t ours. Download it to your device rather than rely on the pub's wifi. Much of the book is familiar, but there are a few new songs to get our heads around. When we have dealt with that book, we’ll move on to something else. I don’t know what yet. Perhaps you can tell me.
Finally, we have a gig at The Sun pub in Felmersham on Sunday 28th May – a friendly and familiar venue. We’re booked from 5pm-7pm – one of the busiest times at the beer festival*. If you want to join us, even if you are completely new to gigging and think you sound like a goat (not the most sensitive of strummers, goats), then come along. We like goats. Please arrive by 4.15pm so that we can do all our tripping over microphone leads and knocking over beer before we start making a coordinated racket.
Until next week, strum like summer depends on it.
*Yes, beer. Come early and stay late if you like the stuff."
From the 10th May meeting:
"With numbers in the high twenties again last night, the room seemed comfortably full for a wade through the some of the murkier parts of the Boat Book. One or two songs we managed better than ever – Smoke on the Water, Proud Mary, Summertime – others like The Tide is High/Rudy are going really well these days, but there are few that could now sink gracefully into the choppy waters of musical obscurity. Be warned though: Capybara will be back. I promise.
The Gig Book provided more reliable entertainment for the second part of the evening and we’ll try to make sure we keep plugging away at a few of those songs as the gigging season approaches. We may have a couple of dates in July, but we’ll confirm nearer the time.
Graham sold a few more T-shirts – I think there will be 41 high-fashion statements on the streets of Bedford this summer so far. If you want a T-shirt to help you experience the full Ukulele Bedford lifestyle, you have until next week to grab yourself a bargain – a mere £7.50 per shirt, however slim, svelte, well-built or downright lardy you may be. Just turn up next week and give Graham a cheque.
Paul will no doubt process all the pictures he took last night in due course. Nothing will be used without the subject’s permission, so the secret nosepickers among you have nothing to fear.
Talking of noses, as we almost were for no obvious reason, while you are tying a knot in your hankie to remember to bring a cheque for Graham, tie another one for a couple of songs you’d like to play because we’ll have a request night next week. It could be any song from any of our books, so make sure they are all firmly written to your chosen device. If you want any direction at all – other than please to think about the songs before you come as it helps the flow of the evening – it’s perhaps to choose songs that you might like us to try playing out. You know, in front of an audience of real, scary, hairy people. We’ll probably delve into the Gig Book again as well, if you haven’t already requested songs from there, but let’s see how it goes.
Finally, I notice that ukulelehunt.com is celebrating 10 years in existence today. In case the site is news to you, I would check it out. I have learnt a huge amount from that website and the book Ukulele for Dummies that its author also produced. And no, I am not on commission.
Until next week, keep picking, plucking, strumming and singing."
From the 3rd May meeting:
"With numbers in the high 20s last night, our room felt comfortably full if not rammed solid. If there is one uke problem we like, it’s having too many people – but we haven’t, so come along next week.
We breezed our way through most of Souvenir1 and a handful of other songs, ranging from most decades of the last century, and they all sounded good. We seem to have a nice blend of salty old timers and fresh young ukers in the group at present, making for a range of competencies that keeps everyone on their toes.
The most exciting part of the evening, though, wasn’t the music, but the great T-shirt try on. As promised, we had a T-shirt from every colour in our new range and every size, and orders came in briskly. If I recall, we had pre-sold 35 shirts on the night, a nice boost for club funds. Graham will bring shirt samples for the next two weeks before putting in the one and only order. Don’t miss out or you could be left with just the expensive psychedelic options from our webshop.
It was perhaps a little unwise to think that we could take pictures as well as try the shirts on. Call me old-fashioned, but there is something not quite right about wielding a camera when so many people kept appearing in various states of undress.
As and when we do start to take more pictures of the group for our own website and publicity purposes, do please let me or any member of the committee know if you don’t want your image used in public. We can’t promise not to share them with Interpol for crimes against music if the request comes in, but we wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone.
Finally, there is movement on the gig front, with three possibles being lined up. We have yet to confirm dates and venues, but it does mean we need to get our gig book in order. So next week, we’ll start with one of the songbooks – let’s go to the Boat book for a real change – and then head into the gig book, with, perhaps, time for a few requests from elsewhere. We’d quite like to bring some of our very newest songs from BrungStrum3 to the public’s attention, so any requests from there may even be heard.
I am looking forward to next week already. See you there."
From the 26th April meeting:
"Wednesday’s pub session had a bit of everything, and everyone. A record-breaking 39 players turned up, so we could welcome newcomers Pat and Pete and our returning guests from Northampton Ukes. We even had a surprise return visit from Ian. A few regulars were missing so the prospect of a night with over 40 ukes is very real.
Musically, we seemed to fly through Brungstrum1, covering a few of our more obscure tunes better than I think we have previously managed. Even Songs of Love, from the Divine Comedy via Father Ted, nearly worked. After the break we had free choice, which ranged from Elle King back in time to the Jurassic period, or thereabouts, but with a definite post-1960 bias.
Next week, we’ll do the same thing – tackle one or two songbooks to start with and then go around the tables for your own choices. Make sure you have everything downloaded, particularly Souvenir1 and the Boating book, which I think are two we have played least in recent months.
We need to play with the seating arrangements somehow because it is becoming hard to hear and react to one another across such a big space. Our slightly wavy version of Losing my Religion last week suggests room for improvement. We'll try starting with a smaller square of tables with space for people to stand behind. It will be work in progress, but bring a music stand - if you have one - in case you need it.
As well as the music next week, we are promised a fashion show of sorts. The T-shirt samples should be with us so that we can compare colours and fit. The T-shirts will be a measly £7.50 each, regardless of colour or girth, and this will be a one-off order. Future T-shirts will have to be ordered via our forthcoming web shop but they could work out at around £22 each, so our unique offer is clearly the one to go for. Order three. Why not? We’ll be taking orders over the next three or four weeks with delivery probably in June. Order forms and more details will follow soon. It will certainly be payment with order, and for those of you who may need to post your order to us, there will be a deadline and you will have to collect from the pub on a Wednesday evening. You have been warned.
Expect in-house paparazzi action next week as well. We could do with some photos of the new venue, the new group and our new T-shirt models to give everyone on our website and Facebook a reasonable impression of just how beautiful Ukulele Bedford has become.
From the 19th April meeting:
"We're not doing badly when 20 players constitute a quiet night - some of you may remember the times when a quiet night meant six of us, half of whom wouldn't sing! Last night, we finished our run through BrungStrum2 and then headed into the Gig Book to refresh our memories of some of our more recent additions. We still need a bit of ironing on a few songs, but Oliver's Army, Space Oddity and Make me Smile are pretty smooth. Losing my Religion had a few more swirly rumples, but our singing is so strong on that song that I am sure it will be publicly presentable very soon.
Talking of laundry, as we almost were in my stretched analogy, Graham's contact for Ukulele Bedford T-shirts is coming up trumps as well. We'll have six colours to choose from (Burgundy, Light Graphite, Royal Blue, Red, Pink, Black), with samples and prices to follow. Expect to be able to develop your farmer's tan in style this summer.
Special mention for last night must go to Dave and Martin for the rhythm section. Martin is getting to grips with our new bass and Washboard Dave kept his sonorous rattling, tapping and squeezing up all night in an attempt to widen his repertoire. Good stuff!
Next week, 26th April, we'll head either into BrungStrum1 or Souvenir1 to start with and then see where the muse leads, perhaps back into the Gig Book again. There will be plenty for all tastes as usual.
From the 12th April meeting:
"With 30 players this week, we were close to filling our new space, but with a bit more creative thought and use of such radical tactics as standing up we'll be able to fit even more in. When we are all on song, it's impressive, and makes for a great night. Highlights for me this week were California Dreaming, our second rendition of the Tide is High/Rudi (the tide was out and we were stranded in the seaweed for our muddy first attempt), Marion's near-solo singing of Rum and Coca Cola, and Martin's getting to grips with the new bass.
We welcomed Stephen and Robin as new to the group. I don't think either were expecting to be roped into kazoo playing, but that's the way we roll. As hazing rituals go, getting a free kazoo on your first night is pretty gentle.
Next week, we'll start with the front half of BrungStrum2 before moving on, perhaps to the gig book. There should be plenty in that lot to keep us happy.
Finally, just to let people know that we are on the case with Ukulele Bedford merchandise. Current thinking is that we'll soon be able to take one big order for T-shirts, with a range of other products available through a print-on-demand web shop after that. So, save your cash this Easter and prepare to splash out on your new summer wardrobe/Ukulele Bedford cat flap/ear guards. You know you want them.
Until next week, have a good Easter break and strum like your chocolate eggs depend on it."
From the 5th April meeting:
"Last Wednesday found 27 of us, including two new guests from Northampton Ukes and a substitute bass player (Mark), play our way through bits of BrungStrum3, followed by roundtable choices from the Bumper Book. We seem to have cracked Radioactive now that the chords are in the right places, and, after a slightly shaky start, our group singing was good, even rousing on occasion. The harmonies in Memories are Made of This came through nicely. We need more songs where we can split the room in various ways.
Next week, we’ll start with BrungStrums2 and 1, before possibly cooling ourselves in more familiar waters towards the end of the evening. Have a look through those books and decide what you’d like to play, especially if you didn’t get your song played this week.
Before our main session this week, we had a Ukulele Bedford members’ meeting, at which the current committee was unanimously re-elected for the coming year. Thank you all. We also decided that acquiring a proper bass was a good thing to do and a reasonable use of our funds. Finally, we had a chat about club regalia, ranging from T-shirts (optional) and tablet cosies to stickers and pop-up banners. We have a clear steer that you’d like something, so we’ll get on with that in due course as well.
I look forward to seeing and hearing you all next week.
From the 29th March meeting:
"Our second evening at our new venue saw around 25 of us (Trevor and I couldn't count the same number. That's what two shandies does for you - just say no, kids!) having a right old time.
We started with a few well tried and trusted favourites to get us going, then moved to the interim BrungStrum3 book to revisit some of the newer tunes that we have been test driving over the last couple of weeks. This selection of songs has turned out to be an excellent one, ranging from Nat King Cole all the way to Elle King via Green Day and Meatloaf, touching most points in between. We are making a pretty decent fist of many of them - and it is great to be playing some songs that don't need the dust blowing off them before we start! We ended the night with a few more evergreens to send us off into the spring darkness. If there was one feature of the night that I noticed in particular it was that the communal singing was both loud and excellent!
We had a new attendee (hello Steve - we hope to see you again when your other commitments allow) and Lydia returned after a couple of weeks away after suffering a horrendous sporting accident :) to lead us through her contributions to Brungstrum3.
Next week sees a General Meeting at 7pm (so just half an hour before the regular time). The committee either needs re-electing or replacing and the group needs to discuss the purchase of a proper bass uke from our funds. Only members can vote on these matters - you need to have filled in a membership form either on paper or electronically and returned it to Trevor. If you haven't, please either let us know and we will send you a copy via email or I am sure Trevor will have paper copies there next week.
Next week the plan is to play a few more Brungstrum3 songs and perhaps to revisit the previous two Brungstrum books to winkle out and revisit the gems in those, with generous helpings of member suggestions from the bumper book before and after. So have a look through and see what you'd like to play."
From the 22nd March meeting:
"At least 30 of us found our way to the new Fox & Hounds last night for our first evening in the venue. It was great. The room is a decent size, the acoustics are fine, the beer is significantly cheaper and better than the old pub and the range of soft drinks is greater as well. And the music? That was great as well. We finished the new songs in Brung-Strum3, barring Imagine Dragons where we await Lydia's direction, and reprised some of last week's new songs to even greater success. All the Strum Wot You Brung nights have been good, but I think this selection may be particularly enduring.
Next week, 29th March, I suspect there will be a similar approach - a second run through new tunes followed by a quickfire selection from other books, and either Jon or Trevor will keep order. We have plenty to keep us going. Now, a reminder that our General Meeting will be held on 5th April at 7pm, but with the venue now shifted to the Fox & Hounds, Bedford. The agenda remains the same: elections to the Committee and a discussion on puchases, including a bass ukulele.
Finally, my thanks once again to everyone who rallied round so quickly and successfully to find us a new home. All the indications are that we'll be happy there. If you haven't been with us for a while, why not be nosy and pay us a visit?
NEWSFLASH - New Venue!!
"For the forseeable future, Ukulele Bedford will meet in Bedford at the Fox and Hounds in Goldington Road. Repeat Fox and Hounds, Goldington Road, BEDFORD, NOT Clapham. We'll be in a function room upstairs.
Parking at the pub or in Caves Lane next door.
I look forward to seeing you all there next Wednesday for the second half of BrungStrum3 and would like to thank you all for helping us resolve our imminent destitution so rapidly. We won't have to squat in the empty restaurant I passed on the way home last night after all."
From the 15th March meeting:
"Unlike the mythical curate's egg, last night's session was genuinely good in parts. Most of the new tunes that we tackled from BrungStrum3-interim.pdf went well, and I think people generally liked the chaotic excitement that learning new songs together brings.
It was nice to include some more modern tunes (i.e. some from this millennium!) and they went well. The instrumental version of 'Apache' proved more challenging, but consider it 'homework' - we will come back to it!
Less good though was the bombshell (or eggshell) that that was our last evening in the Fox and Hounds. The pub's decision to relaunch its kitchen makes our position there untenable. We'd have liked more warning and discussion, but we have had two good years in that pub and I am sure we will thrive elsewhere.
As well as it being our last night at the pub, Sunny/Sonny - the barman - is also leaving this week. We wish him well in all he does in the future."
From the 8th March meeting:
"After three weeks enforced absence, it was great to be back with a room full of ukulele players on Wednesday, and especially good to be able to welcome five newcomers: Kathryn, Julie and Charlotte, and Barry and Janette. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as the rest of us and that we see you all again as soon as you can make it. After all, you have more kazoo songs to learn. Wednesday evening took us on a gently meandering route (or possibly a pinball machine frenzy, but the pace seemed fine to me) through the Bumper Book, both Brungstrums and the old Part1D file, just missing out the Halloween, Christmas and Boating specials. Perhaps another time – werewolves aren’t just for the witching hour.
Next week (15th March) sees Strum Wot You Brung 3, a thrilling evening of new songs that you want us to try. If you’ve just been with us a short time, you have as much say as the rest of us. We aim to be egalitarian.
The process is simple:
Find a song you want us to play and email it to either Jon or me by the end of Sunday and Jon will compile a new songbook from everything sent
Find a song you want to play and send it to Jon or me by the end of Tuesday and we’ll print 15 copies and bring them along
Turn up with 15 paper copies for sharing on Wednesday.
For this to work, everyone, please check your email or the website (ukulelebedford.co.uk/themusic.php) on Tuesday and save Brungstrum3.pdf to your device of choice. I suggest a tablet or laptop rather than your smart fridge. Bring it on Wednesday (again, not the fridge). Please don’t rely on the Wi-Fi or 4G connection at the pub to be able to read the new file on the fly. Any music goes, from ukulele screamo to tin pan alley. But please make sure you know all of the tune - verses, choruses, middle eights, random shouty bits, operatic solos, the lot. And if you don’t want to lead it vocally, especially if the song is a bit unusual (and we like unusual as well as familiar), bring a device to play it on so that we can hear it. The group will generally make a good fist of the chords of a new song, but we may need a steer on the melody.
Finally, consider this your formal invitation to the next Ukulele Bedford General Meeting, to be held at 7pm in the pub on Wednesday 5th April. So far, the only two agenda items for consideration are elections to the Committee, and the possible purchase of a bass ukulele. Everyone is welcome to attend and speak, and members are entitled to vote. You can join – for free – on the night if you haven’t already done so. The usual session follows straight afterwards, so if you are already in the pub for the General Meeting, you are likely to have a seat for the night.
Right. That’s it. Stop reading and go and find some new tunes."
From the 1st March meeting:
"After three long weeks of snot and dentistry, I hope to be fully fit and with you all again on Wednesday. Meanwhile, I gather that Jim and Trevor kept all in order for a decent session this week, but I have no more details to tempt you with. Thank you, both. Strength in depth is always good.
Moving on to next week (8th March), we'll have a request night: any song from any of our books will be up for grabs, and if you aren't quick enough to select one we'll move on to the next person - or worse, I'll pick more of them. That would never do.
In two weeks (15th), we'll have Brung Wot You Strum 3, your chance to shape our repertoire, so get your thinking caps on and come up with new tunes for us to murder. Murder? Well, it will be on the Ides of March so there is a precedent. Bring 15 paper copies of your chosen song or songs (no more than three each), and if you can't print them yourself, let Mark or Jon know beforehand and we'll make with the paper.
Good places to look for songs just waiting for our entertainment include:
There's nothing to stop you creating your own arrangements of your favourite songs. But please, if you bring a song, then either be prepared to lead it or have some way of sharing it with us all if you don't feel that's your thing. We'll try to bring amplification this time, so that if you are the only person singing on the first run through you won't be drowned by 25 ukes. We'll all do our best to join in and help, but we don't know everything.
Don't be surprised if it takes several weeks to get through all the new songs. After 15th, we may mix them up with more familiar fare for a few weeks so that we don't have an entire month of mystery."
From the 22nd February meeting:
"This week we had a more select bunch (about fifteen of us) which made the pub a bit less crowded and certainly a bit quieter - which probably pleased those in the other bar trying to concentrate on Leicester losing in Europe :( . But we welcomed back an old friend (hi, Colin!) and were visited by a couple of potential new recruits who have promised to return bringing their ukuleles next time.
Musically speaking we stayed within the confines of the Bumper book for most of the evening (although we managed to find a couple of the more obscure numbers that turned out surprisingly well) and dipped into the Extra Songs (AKA 'part 1d') for some variety. Next week we might do some more from 'Extra Songs' and perhaps dip our toes again into the two Brungstrum books and start thinking about what people might like to suggest on the next Brungstrum evening.
A reminder that it is Ukes4Unicef in Berkhamsted this Saturday (Google it if you don't already know what it is) - a great day out.
Until next week, keep well (and those currently suffering the lergy, get well) and keep strumming."
From the 15th February meeting:
"Wednesday's session saw well over 20 of us (I forgot to count!) finish off the rest of the Gigbook that we started to run through the previous week. We know these quite well and some of it actually sounds like proper music! It was nice to play a few tunes that we don't normally play weekly - 'Blue Skies; and 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter' were great.
After the break, we went to the other extreme and had a go at BrungStrum1 - which contains quite a lot of songs that are still frankly a bit of a mystery and proved more challenging. 'Country Honk' (which is 'Honky Tonk Women' with a stetson and chaps), 'Fever' and 'Have I The Right' were pretty enjoyable though and will probably merit a revisit before we forget what we did!
Next week, we will start off with your selections from the Bumper Book (pick a couple you'd like to play in advance), try a quick ten minute strumming patterns session (bring your printed sheets!) and then choose a few of the more cheerful ones from UB Songs 2015 part 1d.pdf (on the website as 'Some Extra Songs Vol 1').
In about three weeks, we are going to be having another BrungStrum evening. This is your chance to shape our repertoire. Have a think about songs you'd like us to play and even possibly sing. When you've thought of one, see if you can find the chords online (most things are there somewhere) and if possible a link so the rest of us can hear it (YouTube is normally good). More info next week!"
From the 8th February meeting:
"It comes to something when 25 of us feels like a quieter night, but what we lacked in numbers bulging into the annex last Wednesday, we made up for in song and strum. Taking the Gig Book roughly from behind, we started with the encores and almost-set-list, working towards the front half of the book with increasing confidence. We are close to being comfortable with Oliver’s Army and Space Oddity now and seem to be getting better with balancing our backing singing on Memories are Made of This. We just need to get some gigs sorted now.
Next week, we’ll tackle the front half of the Gig Book before moving on to audience requests from any book, perhaps interrupted with the odd bit of strum work. Then, a couple of weeks after that, we’ll introduce “Strum Wot You Brung 3”, your chance to shape our future repertoire. If you don’t think we play enough show tunes, enough country, enough 21st century pop, enough rap, opera, death metal or Bach, this will be your chance to convince us all that Slayer and ukulele are a perfect match. Start looking for our next showstopper now, and we’ll give advice about format and so forth in due course.
Until Wednesday, keep tickling the dog’s fleas."
From the Ist February meeting:
"The 29 of us present on Wednesday had a great run through a range of songbooks, finding gems, quirks, works in progress and lost causes as usual. It’s rare that Mrs Robinson or On the banks of the Ohio get an outing – both successful – but perhaps even more surprising is how rarely we now play one of our old standards from the Gig Book, Bye Bye Blackbird. Some of you may remember we spent months getting the chord change to Cdim in the right place (still got it!) and then working out a competent ending (lost it!). Never mind.
This brings us neatly on to next week, when, among other things such as the possible return of strumming pattern edukashun, we’ll have a proper look at the songs that need brushing up from the Gig Book (downloadable from the website). There may be more of them than we first thought, but we are in with a good chance of making them all sound good, or they wouldn’t be there in the first place. If we run out of those, we’ll play something else. There’s no chance of being sent home early.
Finally, in case you were wondering what your committee was discussing in the corner before you arrived, we looked briefly at setting up a secure members’ register, plans for our members meeting and election in March, possible purchases and publicity. We’ll share more about all of that before too long, and don't be surprised if Trevor pounces on you (digitally and metaphorically - maintain the surprise should he turn physical) to fill in a simple membership form soon.
May your strumming be well-patterned all week."
From the 25th January meeting:
"We had somewhere between a shedload and shipload, but just less than a full pubload, of uke players on Wednesday for a jolly hack through the entrails of Souvenir1, with the added spice of a tiny bit of education. Pink Floyd may not need none of it, but we should all be open to learning, and Jon's strumming patterns were a good place to start. We tackled six simple patterns in the one song and will have another go at them next next week (so remember to bring your printed strumming patterns sheet), perhaps with a different tune. I think it added a nice bit of variety for part of the evening, and will be good for our gigging potential.
Next week, 1st February, rather than run through a book in order, we'll be taking your suggestions from the floor. We'll perhaps start with BrungStrum1 because it's been a bit neglected, but requests from elsewhere are also fine. For newer members of the group, all this means is that we'll simply take turns choosing a song from any of our songbooks. All choices are valid, and we'll try them all, so there is no right and wrong. If you don't care what we play, haven't picked anything, or just had your idea stolen by your neighbour, we'll move to the next person swiftly just to keep the evening flowing. Do have a look through the music this week and make a mental note (preferably including a page number), otherwise in the heat of the moment we'll end up reverting to all our favourites and this sort of evening works best when members unearth surprises from the books.
Have a good week."
From the 18th January meeting:
"We had another packed house on Wednesday, so much so that you had to arrive early to get a seat. I didn’t and I didn’t, but that’s ok. It’s worth remembering that you can breathe easier and sing much louder and better standing up . . . so long as your eyes are good enough to read the music. So my apologies to Lorraine whose shoulder I was looking over. That’s as good as my voice gets. It’s also worth remembering that none of the early stars of the uke used a strap to hold their instrument while on stage. Perhaps clothing was stickier in those days. Yuck.
Anyway, we made a decent fist of a fair chunk of Souvenir1, and only really dragged our knuckles on the same songs that always trip us up – we somehow make Cecilia harder than it deserves to be. The introduction of a better bass amp definitely improved the transmission of Martin’s efforts now that the plucking of all four strings comes through.
Next week, 25th January, we’ll see whether there is anything left in Souvenir1 that we want to tackle and then we’ll have a go at the best of BrungStrum1. Jon has also promised to return to looking at strum patterns that we last looked at a few weeks ago. This definition of "few" being near geological. To give a bit of variety to our play, we’ll practice some familiar tunes strummed in less familiar ways for a bit, but mainly we’ll be enjoying our music as always.
Be there and be early."
From the 11th January meeting:
"I barely feel I need to send an update this week because so many people turned up last night that most of you know what a great night we had. With welcoming Lisa and Lorraine to their first session, Stuart to his second and Annabel and Andy to their third as well as a great many of our established players, we had a new record total of 35 people. I know. 35. Brilliant!
To misquote Jaws, "we're going to need a bigger pub!" Well, not really. There is still room for overflow in to the annex, and the room works well. It gets pretty warm with such a vibrant crowd though, so my best advice for the busy nights is to wear sheddable layers. Even I was down to a T-shirt for the second half, and I'm known for being half-lizard. But don't be put off by the numbers; with or without kazoos, Ukulele Bedford is buzzing!
Musically, we carried on with some Ds, Es and Fs from the Bumper Book before heading to W for "Where do you go to my lovely", as our tribute to the late Peter Sarstedt. I suspect that's as much of a ukulele song as "Eye of the tiger", but we managed both creditably.
As well as the general bonhomie, I think one highlight was "Don't you want me". For the first time in a while we had enough women in the group to make splitting verses between the sexes work. Long may that continue.
Next week, we'll head into the exotic territory of Souvenir 1, downloadable from our website if you haven't already got it. We may have a smattering of BrungStrum1 as well.
I look forward to seeing you all next week - can we break 40?"
From the 4th January meeting:
"We began 2017 with a jaunt through the Bumper Book, with a mixture of old favourites and some that we play less often. 24 of us were there - glad to be back after a week off, and perhaps equally glad to have cleared the Christmas songs out of our system. Among the songs we played was 'Rockin' All Over The World' as a tribute to the late Rick Parfitt. We seemed to be doing that kind of thing a lot in 2016, let's hope the grim reaper decides to take on less work in this new year as far as musicians are concerned. Dave strapped on his washboard for a run of four songs and the kazoos made a tuneful (?) guest appearance. What with Martin's bass as well, we will soon be a full orchestra!
A very jolly evening, perhaps enhanced by the fact that the usual bitter was 'off' so we had to make do with the slightly stronger 'Stuffing' Christmas brew!
Next week, more Bumper Book follies - so have a look through and see if there is anything you'd like especially to play.
Happy New Year to all!"
From the 21st December meeting:
"I think we ended 2016 on a record high of 26 players for the night, ranging from local veterans and many Ukulele Bedford founder members to newcomers. And a fine thrash we made of it, with Christmas and gig songs all going well. We welcomed Andy (a guitarist) and Annabel (a flautist), who seemed to be having a good time with four strings. Is guitar to ukulele as flute is to kazoo? Discuss for 10 points over Christmas dinner. We also welcomed occasional visitor Tim, who aced the percussion all night.
Overall, we have had an excellent year. From what I can remember we:
From the 14th December meeting:
"On Wednesday, we had our second Christmas, with the addition of the late Greg Lake's I Believe in Father Christmas - thanks, Dave S - and more Bumper Book and kazoo-inspired madness. It was yet another great evening. Several of us rediscovered the difficulty of multi-tasking: singing and playing at once is generally ok, but adding jingle bells brings a whole new level of brain melt.
Next week, 21st December, we'll meet as usual with a mix of the Christmas Book and your selection from the gig book (Gigbook2016v3.pdf), downloadable from here. That way we're in with a good chance of at least one of us knowing everything we're going to play.
Christmas is a funny time for absences and remembering, and it would be great to see you, even if you haven't been for a while. You don't need to be a member to come along, and there are still a few kazoos for the taking.
We look forward to welcoming you all next week."
From the 7th December meeting:
"There were 23 of us playing on just the right side of chaos on Wednesday, and what a great night it proved to be. The new Christmas book is definitely a cut above the old one, with a good mix of the jolly and the jolly melancholy. We only skipped a couple of songs, so if the people who requested that we put Felice Navidad in our Christmas offerings turn up next Wednesday, we'll give it a go. None of the rest of us knew it.
After half time, we broke out the Tequila, or at least The Champs tune of that name, with our shiny new kazoos. That's one legal high the government forgot to ban! Our kazoo chorus for the old Ralph McTell song, The Streets of London, could be held up as an example of pure cognitive dissonance, and a right laugh to boot. Pure gold. We still have kazoos for anyone who hasn't claimed one yet. (James didn't manage to break them all.) Just turn up and a kazoo can be yours, with all the consequent buzzy-lipped pleasure that brings. You do know how to kazoo don't you? You just put your lips together and hum.
Next week, it's still kazoo Christmas, so bring your kazoos - and your ukes, obviously - along, and we'll have another bash at Christmas tunes for half the session, along with a stroll through one of our more familiar books. Music starts from 7.30pm as usual, but don't forget the General Meeting that will preceed it at 7pm. Be there if you'd like to help with the running and shaping of Ukulele Bedford. Let us know and there will almost certainly be a committee place for you.
Keep strumming, keep buzzing!"
From the 30th November meeting:
"Wednesday saw us plough through the remains of Part1D. There is some good stuff in there individually, but played together you realise how many minor key songs it contains, even ones we like. We must have created that book at a low ebb in our existence, but it just goes to show that even the world's finest ukulele player can be wrong: in James Hill's recent and excellent gig at The Stables, he said "Anyone who doesn't think the ukulele is a happy instrument is blowing in the wrong end!" All I can say is that he hasn't tried playing Crying in the Rain followed by Daniel. We skipped Sylvia's Mother for the sake of our collective mental health.
It wasn't all gloom by any means. It was great to see Sophy back, and Jon with even half a voice is a welcome return, and I think our playing was pretty strong.
Now, for insomniacs and Ukulele Bedford players alike, do you realise there are only three sleeps until Christmas? Woo-hoo! Time for a new songbook. Any members who have been with us for a while will have our old Christmas book that starts with Away in a Manger. Ditch it. Delete it. Never let it raise its dreary head again. Instead, go to our shiny new cheery Christmas book, pinched and only marginally tweaked from London's Ukulele Wednesdays group. It's attached and will be on the website shortly and should put us all in the mood for festive excess. We'll get stuck in next week, tinsel and all."
From the 23rd November meeting:
"Last night there were so many of us that we have even started to fill the annex, and at least five regular players weren't with us, so I think we can say that Ukulele Bedford is in pretty good shape. We welcomed back Mel and Peter and hope that our new observer, Terry, will join us with a uke next time.
The Bumper Book revealed a previously unplayed Rod Stewart song - I don't want to talk about it - and other more familiar gems, including a washboard quartet for Dave. We managed only a brief foray into Part 1D, but found some of the good stuff, including Dreaming and the Shoop Shoop Song. There is more to be revealed in that book, so guess what we are doing next week - possibly with added kazoos!
After next week, we'll be into December so expect the new Christmas book before long, but for now, please have a look at the Bumper Book and Part 1D (under Some Extra Songs Vol. 1 on the website) and come armed with requests so that we can keep the evening moving."
From the 16th November meeting:
"I ran out of digits trying to count how many players we had on Wednesday, but it was a very humid and healthy turn out. Notable this week were newcomers Ted and Phil - welcome both - and the return of Norman's military-grade banjolele. It's probably just as well that Norman brought that on a week when our loudest singer was tucked up in bed with a Lemsip or we'd have been hearing from Noise Abatement. I think Phil was expecting just to come and observe, but found himself in charge of the House Uke that lurks behind the bar for just such occasions.
We started the evening with Hallelujah, as a Leonard Cohen tribute. Then, just when you think we have winkled the last nuance from the Bumper Book, someone comes up with songs we haven't played for an age - in this case Mr Tambourine Man, a different Five Foot Two medley and Only the Lonely. We then went to BrungStrum2, which moves from the two-chord simplicity of Pay me my money down, to the surprisingly successful Losing my religion. We've mostly picked up the timing of that pretty well.
Next week, 23rd November, we'll move away from BrungStrum2 for a bit, except for trying Sister Josephine that I forgot about this week. Instead, we'll have a go at the catchily titled "UB Songs 2015 part 1D.pdf" Some of you will have this already under its old name of "BUG Songs 2015 part 1D.pdf", but everyone else can download it from the website under 'Some Extra Songs Vol 1' on the Music' page. There are some good songs in here, but it's fair to say that others are simply hideous. I'll be putting in a vote for playing "It's in his kiss". As usual, we'll start with your suggestions from the Bumper Book, so flick through it this week and come up with some ideas, otherwise you'll be getting Radiohead, Kylie and Abba. Don't say you haven't been warned."
From the 9th November meeting:
"You either enjoyed or missed* a lovely lively evening on Wednesday as we once again found lesser-played tunes from the Bumper Book, topped up in the second half with a few of the spicy new numbers from Brungstrum2. It was good to welcome Bob and Stella back to the fold after a long gap, and Ron seemed to be enjoying his second visit as much as his first, especially as he has now come out as a true leftie. We're hardly taking over, but I think there were four of us again in our total of 18 players.
Next week, we'll take a similar tack - Bumper book and Brungstrum2. One song we have been avoiding from BrungStrum2 has been Sister Josephine because Dave and I were putting together a better version. Let's try the one I sent you a couple of weeks ago. So, this evening, have a flick through the Bumper Book and see if there is anything you'd like us to try. If you wait until Wednesday evening to do that, you'll only ever come up with things we play a lot. That's ok, but let's see if there are any more nice surprises to be dragged from its depths. All future songbooks will have an index!
After that we can more or less declare BrungStrum2 to be normal fare rather than exotica and we'll move around the other books before gearing up to Christmas with a new festive selection.
* And if you enjoyed missing it, what's up? It was great."
From the 2nd November meeting:
"Last week's post-Halloween session was the musical equivalent of a long comfortable soak in the bath. The Bumper Book still manages to come up with a few soapy surprises, but overall, the 18 of us present spent the first half of the evening simply relaxing into tunes we know and like. For the second half, someone turned the bubbles on, in a good way. BrungStrum2 has some fine new tunes in it. We also welcome Lydia to our fold as a fellow leftie, making three southpaws on the night. That surely puts us above the national average.
Next week, 9th November, we'll do the same thing: your choice from the Bumper Book for the first half and your choice from BrungStrum2 for the second. If we aren't careful, we may even get to know some of these new tunes rather well. It will be good. Be there. And if you are desperate to do something from one of our other books, pipe up. We'll just do it."
From the 26th October meeting:
"Our witching hour has come and gone with a suitable degree of ukulele and cosplay silliness. We attracted a wider range of ghouls, vampires, witches and the undead than previously for our Halloween bash, as Tom's photo attests. And even though none of us had looked at the book since last year, we still managed to nail a fair number of Spookelele tunes and stumble over others: Bela Lugosi's certainly dead; Scooby Doo is nowhere to be found; but I think we traced A Devil in Disguise. I don't think we'll be calling Ghostbusters in the near future, except to explain the missing middle eight, and Thriller still seems to be one thrill too far.
And if all of this sounds too cryptic (not a sly Monster Mash reference), don't worry. Suffice it to say that we had a fun evening and have finished with prosthetic tomfoolery for the year, unless anyone goes for reindeer antlers and a red nose in December.
Next week, 2 November, we'll be sailing the gentle waters of the Bumper Book or other more familiar shallows, with perhaps the occasional foray into the back page depths of BrungStrum2 to spice up our trip. Come armed with tunes you'd like to play from any of our main books and we'll try to fit them all in. Join us. You'll enjoy it."
From the 19th October meeting:
"We spent rather more time wallowing in the Bumper Book last night than we perhaps intended, so didn't finish going through BrungStrum2. It was a good wallow, and we did at least have time to discover why classic rock merchants Rainbow tended more towards grungy guitar than ukulele. Hey, we can't win them all, but we at least had curiously unidentifiable wobbly Japanese sweets from Joy's trip to keep us going. We also welcomed a new Ron, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. We look forward to seeing him in full Halloween costume next week . . .
Next Wednesday, 26th October, will be our Halloween epic, so download the Spookelele book from our website (it was created by Moselele, in that there scary city of Birmingham), get your ghost sheet out and slither along to join us. It will be fun."
From the 12th October meeting:
"Wednesday evening's run through the first half of BrungStrum2 proved popular and fun, if a little challenging at times, but we eventually remembered most of the tunes. Just this first half covers rhythm and blues, folk, country, Britpop, new wave, and chart pop, and remember that this all came at your suggestion so it's really fun to see how our range is expanding. There are some sure-fire keepers in there. I think we made particularly good stabs at Losing my religion and I don't like Mondays, with Baker Street showing potential. Just wait for that shipload of kazoos to liven that one up! As for Spandau Ballet's Gold - Unbelievababble!
Next Wednesday, 19th October, we'll go through the second half of BrungStrum2, which takes us from Status Quo and the Andrews Sisters, via the classic rock of Rainbow, a Japanese whistling classic, to YMCA and beyond. And if that leaves you feeling a bit exposed and Dizzy (like your head is spinning), we'll probably finish the night wrapped in the comfy cardigan that is the Bumper Book. Who knows, perhaps we'll even play the song from page 95."
From the 5th October meeting:
"Last Wednesday's nostalgic stroll through Souvenir1 was good fun, if a little chaotic. Next Wednesday (12th October), we'll be playing more of your songs that you brought in for "Strum wot your Brung 2". Lost the paper sheets? No matter. A totally dust-free, hot-off-the-presses BrungStrum2.pdf will be on the website by now. This file includes not only all the songs brought in for the two meetings of Strum wot you Brung itself (I hope), but also a few leftover pieces that people either brought beforehand, such as YMCA, or didn't get around to bringing out on the designated evenings, such as Sukiyaki (one instrumental was enough).
Finally, on 26th October, our last meeting before All Souls Night, we'll be having another Halloween Special, playing the Spookelele collection that is on our website. There will be cosmetics, prosthetics and dressing up. There will be edible ghoulish delights, and possibly a pumpkin-coloured uke. There will be as much ukulele playing as ever. Order your spooky costume today. You really don't want to miss this one."
From the 28th September meeting:
"There was a great atmosphere in the pub last night for our riffle through the Bumper Book. Any session that involves both Kylie and Abba works for me, but there was plenty of real music as well, from as far back as 1933. Next week we'll start in Souvenir1, from the far end of the book. Expect Yoshimi battles the pink robots, Wild Thing and Wild Rover early on."
From the 21st September meeting:
"I came back from a week's camping in Cornwall with the sound of thunderstorms in my ears and the memory of a horrid drive home (six hours after leaving St Ives, we were still stuck in Devon), so it was great to spend last night rambling through our Souvenir Songbook, reminding me that travel isn't always so taxing. It was good to remember that some of the songs that we now play regularly at gigs were new to us in January, thanks to our mini-tour of other groups' songbooks. All in all, I think we had a great night and are making real progress on some of our rarer songs.
Finally, don't forget to send through digital copies of any of the last couple of week's new songs. I am looking forward to getting to know BrungStrum2 in the coming months. Next week, make sure you have BrungStrum1 and the Bumper Book with you and some suggestions as what you'd like us to play."
From the 14th September meeting:
"Wednesday saw the second half of our BrungStrum session, with us trying (and mostly succeeding) in wrangling something vaguely musical from the printed sheets. Personally I really enjoyed the tunes with different strumming patterns and little picking patterns - it's nice to give us something to practise a bit and allows us to make some tunes sound somewhat different. Having said that were were some simpler two and/or three chords singalongs which got the room going as well. Good stuff. If you brought something for us to murder, please send Mark and me a digital copy if you haven't done so already. We will compile them into a digital book for future use. Thanks to all those who found new songs - it's a chance to steer to group's repertoire in the direction you want it to go!"
From the 7th September meeting:
"We had great fun last night cavorting through a wide range of new music - well, new to us - for "Strum wot you brung 2". I am not sure if we broke into the 21st Century, but we certainly troubled the nineties. What you enjoyed (or missed) included Mustang Sally, Losing my religion, St Tropez, You're so vain, Country house and Wipe out, to name a few. We covered blues, an instrumental, gentle hippy nonsense (sorry, read "classic rock"), straight pop, calypso and more. Not surprisingly, we didn't manage to get through everyone's contributions, and, of course, not everyone was there last night . . . so
. . . For the next two weeks, we'll rattle through any remaining new songs that you'd like to bring in while mixing and matching between old favourites and last night's finds. At that point, we'll draw a temporary line under new contributions and bed this lot into our repertoire properly by turning it all into a new digital songbook.
To get your choice played, simply bring a dozen paper copies next week or the week after and then send a digital version to me or Jon for inclusion in the new songbook.
Right, I won't be with you next week as my summer holiday beckons. It will be in neither St Tropez nor a big house in the country, but no one seems to write songs about tents in Cornwall.