Ukulele festival: Strumming fun in Antrim

Union Leader Correspondent
October 06. 2013 6:06PM
The Ukulele Society of Antrim, including members Katrina Maloney, Brian Murphy and Sarah Smith, perform at the town's second annual ukulele festival Saturday night. (MEGHAN PIERCE PHOTO)

ANTRIM — More than 120 people turned out for the second annual Antrim's Ukulele Festival at the Antrim Grange Saturday night, tripling last year's attendance.

"And we'll have more next year, I'm sure it will just build," said festival founder, musician and ukulele instructor Brian Murphy on Antrim.

The night was filled with songs from Irving Berlin to The Beatles, and this year, while attendees were encouraged to attend with their ukes in hand and perform a song or two, the evening was anchored by two groups: the Ukulele Society of Antrim, founded by Murphy last year, and the featured act, the Ladies Auxiliary Ukulele Orchestra of Williamsburg, Mass.

The allure of the uke has been building because of its sound, its accessibility and its sense of fun, Murphy said.

"It's simple to play. It has a great tone. There nothing intimidating about it for the general public coming to watch a performance. It encompasses a learning tool, but it can also be played by virtuoso musician. It's only got four strings, so everybody that wanted to play guitar can learn to play the ukulele in 10 minutes. And that's what we like about it. It's a fun instrument. You can't play songs that people don't like; on the ukulele, it's just too nice a sound," Murphy said.

While Murphy has been playing since kindergarten — that's about 50 years — other members of the Ukulele Society of Antrim have only recently started playing.

Consider 58-year-old Joan Gorga of Antrim, who came to the first festival last year with a ukulele she had won in a raffle years ago. The bridge was broken and strings were missing.

"I came in with my broken ukulele I had gotten 40 years ago and said, 'Do you think I could fix it and play it?'" Gorga asked Murphy last year. "I had never played it. I always wanted to play it and then I went to college, and then I went to graduate school, then I had kids, then I was working. My husband was always trying to get me to throw it out all that time and I said, 'No, no, no. I'm not throwing it out, I'm going to learn how to play it.'"

Classical violinist Katrina Maloney of Marlborough, who plays with the Windham Orchestra of Brattleboro, Vt., joined the Ukulele Society of Antrim after she started playing the ukulele in June.

Maloney is the music lessons coordinator at the Peterborough Music Company in Peterborough and was attracted to the ukuleles on display in the music store.

"I just picked one up and started playing it, and it's so fun and so easy, I just got hooked."

The Antrim Ukulele Society is planning more concerts this year including a performance at The Grapevine in Antrim this Thursday, Murphy said. Another concert at the town library to raise money for the town food pantry is also in the works, he said.

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