Small instrument draws big crowd
Cyrus Graves, 19, and his aunt, Ellin Perry, traveled from their home in Montpelier, Vt., to play with other people at Nashua's first Ukulele Festival on Saturday. (BARBARA TAORMINA/Union Leader Correspondent)
But plan a ukulele festival, and they will come - from all over New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
"And it's easy," said Chung. "In five minutes, you can learn enough chords to get up and running."Chung and his son, Ben, who started a Ukulele Club at Bishop Guertin High, have been playing for years.
Chung said his son was amazed when he heard ukulele maestro Jake Shimabukuro perform and was instantly hooked. The Chungs, who also publish a ukulele newsletter, knew there was a growing interest in ukuleles, and having a citywide festival seemed like a logical step.
A lot of uke players credit the 2010 documentary "The Mighty Uke: The Amazing Comeback of a Musical Underdog," as the driving force behind the current ukulele renaissance.
"We do country western music, "Flowers on the Wall," "Psycho Killer," just about everything," said Russell. "Anything can be played on a ukulele."
Concord resident Sam Brown, a musician who is planning a career in music therapy, brought his electric ukulele.
"And it's portable," Chung said with a laugh.
The ukulele's other big selling point seems to be that it's a social instrument. People strum ukuleles, and when there's strumming, a lot of time there's singing right behind it.
Nashua resident Bob Carlson said he and his wife have a big basket of low-skill musical instruments, including ukuleles, and when company comes over, the music starts.
Although uke players all say it's an easy instrument to learn, it's not a simple instrument to master. Like many things, Chung said, ukulele music starts out simple and moves up to being highly complex. It's up to individual players to decide how much time they want to invest.
But whether one is an accomplished ukulele player or a beginner, Chung said, it's the instrument's unique sound that players and audiences like.
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