Friday, March 29, 2019

Ukulele Camp

You might think I am going to go on and on about my spring break. Well, I am. You might think I am going to go on and on about ukulele camp. Well, I am. But first let’s start with this: Plato once said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

I guess this quote sums it up rather nicely.

By 7 a.m. I am packed and ready to go. My clothes, phone and ukulele are neatly waiting by the front door for Carolyn to pick me up. She arrives and we fill her van with my necessities and I hop into the front. We stop for coffee and begin the drive to Midland, Michigan, for as I call it, ukulele camp.

This is our second camp, if you remember. Two years ago we attended camp in Indiana, but this one is different … more players, flash mob, mall concert, nonstop ukulele playing. There is a Western theme for this camp as is noticed by Carolyn’s bright pink cowgirl hat in the backseat. I forgot my hat, but tie a purple bandanna around my neck as we drive. I know I am excited and happy about this camp, but really, I have no idea.

We arrive by noon to check in, get our name tags and share in the meet and greet. In the background I hear the strains of ukulele chords as if the Philharmonic were warming up. We meander back into the large room and find folks decked out in their “git along little doggies” clothing. There are still two seats available in the second row next to a handsome cowboy named Larry. We introduce ourselves to Larry and find out he is a guitar player from Richmond. We sit down, put our music on the stands and tune our ukuleles. My heart is beating wildly as I realize I am part of this marvelous event. I look around at the 60-70 folks each wearing cowboy hats and bandannas. And then it begins.

Johnny Hunt, the leader of the pack and board member of the Folk Music Society of Midland, takes center stage and welcomes us. He goes over the agenda and we begin.

Ukulele in place, songs on the overhead, we commence singing and playing. I am smiling from ear to ear. I look at Carolyn and she is doing the same. Soon we rehearse for the flash mob at the mall. We will be playing and singing six songs without music in front of us. My eyes reflect the deer-in-the-headlights syndrome. No way can I do this, but we pack up and meet everyone at the mall. Two by two we arrive in the center playing “Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.”

I don’t know how, but I do it, and folks gather round to take photos and sing along. This is my very first flash mob, and I think how proud my grandchildren will be of me!

Mid-afternoon we are back singing and strumming ’til nightfall. My fingers are raw from playing, but do I care? It isn’t until 9 p.m. that we head over to our hotel. But no sleeping for us … oh no. The lobby is full of ukulele players. We throw our stuff onto the bed, grab our ukes and join in the fun ’til the wee hours. I think to myself that I am now a real musician!

The next day is exactly the same, except now we have lots of friends. On this day there is a mall concert, but we get to take our stands and our music. After a rehearsal we head on out to the mall and take our places. It is Saturday so the mall is full of shoppers with 60 ukulele players in the middle. We play and sing our hearts out under the direction of guest artist, Petey McCarty, but he doesn’t know “Cool Waters.” Our new friend, Larry, goes up to sing and direct. We cheer and holler for him.

The rest of the day is full of strumming and singing and again at the hotel into the night.

I don’t want it to be over. Really, I don’t. I lament leaving my new friends and this rich experience.

I think of Plato as we drive. “Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life.”
*First published in KPC Media News.