If a person looks hard enough, they will be able to find almost any kind of club. They will find others to share their passion. If they cannot, the very passionate starts one themselves. This is what Ju and the uke team have done.
In a city that is renowned for its diversity, its culture, food and nightlife, the ukulele club has carved out her very own niche and started Montreal’s very first Ukulele club, the Ukulélé Club De Montréal. The club just celebrated its fourth birthday on March 19th. Once every two weeks, 40 to 50 people gather at a bar on St-Laurent with their instrument of choice and have an unapologetically, rip roaring, foot stomping, grand old time.
As Pierre, a member of the club, puts it “You can’t be mad when you are playing a ukulele!” This seems to be true. The vibe at a meeting is one of glee. There is not a glum face in the place. Once the music begins, everyone sings, everyone plays and everyone smiles.
“Some people come to be social, some people come to learn, and some people come to play,” says Ju. “Everyone is welcome, we have all levels of players, from beginners to very advanced. No one judges and we all play together. The club is for fun!” comments Jacques, another member of the group. He does not sit, he bops up and down while playing along with the music. “I used to play percussion instruments,” he confides, “But since I started playing the Ukulele I gave them all away. I just drum and strum my Uke.” Jacques has named his Ukulele “Amanda.”
Ju bought her first Ukulele in 2008. She wanted to played guitar but ultimately chose the ukulele because the instrument was easy and bright. She likes to sing, so the ukulele allowed her to learn songs at a fast pace. With only a handful of friends she began the club in 2010. “It was just word of mouth, people were curious about what we were doing” says Ju. “One person told another and there were always more people coming to meetings.” This led to workshops. Along with fellow member and friend Anthony, the club began to hold Ukulele beginner workshops that introduced students to the instrument and showed them how to strum along when they come to a meeting.
When associating music with the Ukulele most people think of Hawaiian hula dancers and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but as members of the group will tell you, “All kinds of music can be played on the Ukulele.” Some favorites from the Clubs songbook are Let it Be, Let’s Twist Again, and George Michel’s Faith. How can a person not enjoy themselves when they are standing in the middle of 50 people playing Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon on ukuleles? It’s something that has to be experienced to be believed.
In 2012 the Club put together Montreal’s first “Uke Fest.” The response was overwhelming. It brought together international Ukulele players and showcased local talent. The feat was repeated a year later with a full day of concerts and workshops and showcased local talent like James Hill, Adrien Janiak, and Victoria Vox. “The success of the Uke Fest exceeded our expectations” says Ju. And yes, at the second Uke Fest, there were Hula Dancers! Coming off of the success of the first two, the third annual Montreal Uke Fest is already booked for August 23, 2014.
The web page of the Ukulélé Club de Montréal advises that beginners will be “warmly invited to share a song.” There could not be truer words. This is a club that embraces having a good time and sharing a passion for music.
Meetings are held every two Wednesdays at the Sporting Club of Montreal, a 10 min walk from the Mont-Royal metro station. Everyone is welcome to come and discover the ukulele.
Hey what else do you have to do on a Wednesday night? Mahalo!
The Ukulele Club’s next meetings are April 2 and April 16 at the Sporting Club of Montreal (4671 St. Laurent) 7:30 p.m. The link is HERE.