Submitted by Christine Whelan
Sept 2nd, 2021, VOL. 3 ISSUE 1
Elaine Bryck, the founder of the Fort Erie Ukes, is reaching out to the community, inviting anyone who is interested in playing a little ukulele and having a great time.
“It’s an instrument that anyone can play. You can learn a song in a half an hour.”
Bryck started the group in the spring. “In April, we thought we were on the verge of everything opening up again, but then that didn’t happen. We realized if we were going to do this, we were going to have to go on Zoom. So, we did that for a while. It worked out ok, but ya know, it’s Zoom,” with a little laugh, then changing to a tone of relief. “It’s so much better to play together in person now.”
In these days of a community re-opening, Elaine and the Fort Erie Ukes provide a reason to start getting out and about, reconnecting with others, in a fun and even therapeutic way.
The group now gets together on the 2nd and the 4th Thursdays of each month at 6:00 pm at the Fort Erie Golf Club. “We sit outside, in the covered, patio area.”
Elaine shared her story of how she herself got started playing. “I picked up a ukulele about five years ago. I kept hearing about ukuleles and I thought, I’m going to jump on this bandwagon.” She explained, she used resources online like YouTube to learn.
“I joined a group in Niagara-on-the-Lake called the Niagara-on-the-Lake Ukesters. They’re a much bigger group, more established. I play with them on Sundays.”
She added, “I just thought, we needed something like this in Fort Erie.”
And she appears to be right. “There’s a lot of interest out there. I checked this morning. We have 38 members. That’s pretty good for a brand new group. We have 12-14 people who attend our jams regularly, and that number fluctuates, of course.”
Ukulele players of all skill levels come out. “We’ve got absolute beginners and we’ve got some very accomplished players. And, you know, when you’re a beginner, that’s the best way to learn, to play with somebody who can help you out; listen to what they are doing.”
Bryck continued, “Because there is that wide range of skill, I try to pick songs that associate with music that a beginner can try. It might only have three cords. And I also have songsheets that get quite complex, for the more accomplished players.” So that they are playing the same song, at the same time, at different skill levels.
“There’s always an easy way to play a song and a hard way. It’s good that the beginners can hear what can happen.”
To further meet the individual’s needs, “At the same time, we want to have different genres, different kinds of music. So, we have everything from Country to Blues to Pop to Rock, from the 30s to current songs. We have a list of about 60 songs that I’ve put together with various cord information on them.”
Elaine then described a typical evening. “We play about 14-15 songs on that list. Then I try to work in if anyone wants to have open mic time, to do their own thing and show us what they’ve been working on. A few people usually get up, put on a performance for us. It’s great fun. It gives everyone the opportunity to shine.”
Elaine stated that, although they do get some younger people out, most of the members are seniors. “The majority are women, but we have had men come out.”
The group is still recruiting members, “We’re trying to find people who like to play the ukulele and sing a song. That’s another thing, too. We all sing along. We have a great time.” However, she added, singing is not mandatory.
There is no cost to join the Fort Erie Ukes but donations are appreciated since they need to buy some equipment such as mics and amplifiers.
“It’s coming along very well. I’m very pleased with it.” Elaine shared that she hopes to, somewhere down the line when they become more practiced, play at some of the retirement residences and long-term care facilities.
“A lot of the stars have and are playing the ukulele, everyone from Jimmy Buffet to Justin Beiber. And Eddie Vedder, the frontman of Pearl Jam, plays really well.” Ukeleles are making a comeback — and they’ve come a long way since Tiny Tim’s Tip Toe Through The Tulips.
To learn more about, and connect with, Elaine and the Fort Erie Ukes, you can find them on Facebook by searching Fort Erie Ukes. You can only email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos provided by Elaine Bryck