Well, my court day comes up soon and I’m sure to be found guilty.
There will be thirty of us in the dock – all charged with crimes against music and I think that we will all cheerfully admit our guilt.
My particular crime, of idiosyncratic timing, random and inappropriate chord changes and tuneless singing will cost me 400 hours of community service busking at the local dog pound (where the dogs will be ever so slightly more tuneful than my singing)
So how did this misdemeanor begin? Well, it started with a vague rumor that there might, just might, be a new Ukelele group in the nearby vicinity. Then, a sudden revelation of discovering the poster of said group with contact details.
I immediately text the details to my friend Argent (charged with Attempting To Pick Out An Actual Tune and Wilfully And With Malicious Aforethought Singing On Key) and we agreed that it would be good fun to find out the details and maybe go along.
I made the call and found that there was no meeting the next week – as the group, which had been going since October, was playing their first gig, but that we were welcome to come along next time.
Hmm, interesting: a gig eh?. At least they were a bunch with some sort of vision then.
Trawling around the website, however, a few alarm bells did begin to ring.
Firstly – there modus operandi is to have every one of the thirty or so regular attendees strum and sing along to the songs – thus to hide any errors.
Now, as anyone who has actually ever learned to play an instrument will know music isn’t something that just happens when you throw a bunch of people into a room. In reality we don’t all stand up in a music shop and sing an impromptu song about stereo equipment (no matter what the kids from Fame, or Glee might tell you to the contrary) without hours of meticulous practice. Even getting people to start and stop at the same time is something of an undertaking – actually being in tune and time with another in between: well, it might be easier to mount a solo expedition to the moon.
Thirty or so people just doing their own thing with no co-ordination, well – it doesn’t always end well.
Secondly – at the gig the players were encouraged to wear “flowery shirts and straw boaters” in the style of Ukelele bands of yore.
Two problems occur there immediately – which is that the overall “look” of the band then depends largely on the interpretation of “flowery shirts” of each individual member and that, to be frank, it’s a little cheesy and dated.
Still, the actual song list looked quite fun, and the general atmosphere of the set up seemed to be positive, so myself and Argent, ourselves no strangers to musical and fashion crimes, decided to give it a go.
We rolled up and, after a few problems finding parking, climbed the steps to the private room where a plethora of Ukeleles awaited in all shapes and sizes – including our band leader, on a Semi-Acoustic Ukelele (IE one that can be plugged into an amplifier) – something that I had, until that point, been unaware of the existence of.
Following on from the success of the gig the previous week the Leader had decided to try starting to teach some new songs as well as going over a few old ones, which was good because it meant that we were in a similar position to everyone else.
We trawled through a few songs, had a break and a chat with some of the others – exchanged envious glances over different makes of instrument, played a few more songs and generally had good fun.
But the big question is – am I going to join?
Well, there are a few problems
Firstly – the location is about 10-15 miles away from either myself or Argent, which means its yet another thing that’s costing travel expenses, as well as the ludicrously high car park charge
Secondly – my speaking club is still taking up a lot of my time and money, so another interest would definitely impact on my ability to practice my Saxophone (don’t tell my teacher, but I haven’t properly practiced in nearly two weeks due to other commitments)
Finally – thirty people all singing along and playing their own thing is fine when its just a bunch of like minded people having fun (and it WAS fun), but what it needs before it goes out to the public again is more focus – some harmonization, maybe only four of five people playing some of the songs whilst others do backing bits – and I’m not convinced that the Leader would be able to put anything more complicated together.
But it WAS fun. Ok so many of the songs sped up or down as we went, maybe most of us ignored the Preferred strum pattern and did our own thing, people didn’t sing in time, or key, with one another – at the end of that day music is about having fun and exchanging ideas.
So the Jury is out – will they find me guilty of musical crime, or will Henry Fonda persuade them otherwise? Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, and for anyone is interested to hear how good a Uke CAN sound I strongly suggest you watch the below clip in awe. The phrase you are looking for as you watch is “jaw-droppingly good”