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.