August 18th, 2023Friday’s time to ‘get your uke on’ in Clunes
Words and Images: Eve Lamb
It’s Friday on a chill mid winter afternoon in Clunes but the sounds emanating from the town’s Attitude building have a distinctly sunny edge. The weekly ukulele group gathering is in progress.
This fun little group has been happening now for the past couple of years, ever since Attitude started and the pandemic lockdowns ended.
Attitude – Ageing Well (its full name) is a community-led initiative that provides a range of social, intellectual and physical activities for people aged 60 plus – but all ages are welcome.
“It’s lots of fun,” says uke group leader, Clunes’ Victoria Reeve who is blessed with a singing voice that can hold a tune. Several years ago now, she took up playing ukulele out of a long-held wish to learn a musical instrument of some type.
“I used to regularly go to the Ballarat group before the pandemic,” Victoria said.
A couple of years ago a friend, who wanted to learn to play this personality-packed little stringed relative of the guitar, urged Victoria to start a group anew in Clunes.
“At the time, I said ‘but I’m only a beginner myself and largely self-taught’, and she said ‘well that’s better than what’s currently available which is nothing’.”
The group started meeting informally at Victoria’s house but the response was strong and now it meets every Friday from 3pm to 5pm at Attitude Clunes headquarters in Fraser Street.
“We’ve now got a core group of about five or six who are pretty consistent and we always welcome new members,” Victoria says.
“Basically we just love playing and singing. We play a few songs from as far back as the 60s but mostly from the 70s, 80s and 90s and also a couple of modern ones as well.”
The focus is wholly on having fun, and socialising while enjoying music, but the weekly sessions do tend to reap results in terms of participants’ musical ability.
“It’s really good to have that regular meeting because it keeps you honest,” Victoria says as we discuss the importance of practice, practice, practice.
As group leader Victoria brings to the gatherings not just a love of music but also a professional background as an educator, albeit in the area of tertiary-level literary studies. She still works as a writing teacher for both adults and children, and also leads regular exercise classes as part of the Attitude program as well.
She says the reasons locals decide to pick up a uke and join the group sessions are many and varied.
“One of our members considers it her ‘me’ time and certainly singing together releases all of those positive brain chemicals. People learn best when they are happy and enjoying themselves,” she says.
“One of our members is a really good muso and had a career where she’s performed but everyone has their own reasons for coming along.
“One of our members just wanted to be able to play ‘Happy Birthday’ for family members, and another one likes to go caravanning and he wanted to be able to sit around the campfire and play.
“With the uke it’s such a fun little instrument. It’s hard to be dogmatic or didactic about it.”
For Victoria learning to play this fun little instrument was the fulfilment of a lifetime wish that began as a child. It helped that she could sing.
“There was a local group, since disbanded, that had started meeting here in Clunes back a couple of years before the pandemic and I took to it quite quickly. I went and bought my first uke and I now have five or six which is more than any human being needs,” she laughs.
“Because it only has four strings it is easier than guitar and it’s a nice portable little instrument.”
Those interested in taking on the uke may be inspired by the likes of uke super group, The Ukulele Death Squad, (Google it if you aren’t already familiar) which demonstrates what’s potentially possible with this slightly humorous and humble little instrument.
But there’s absolutely no pressure to perform at all for the Clunes group regulars.
“The group has a lovely social quality,” Victoria says. “There’s no pressure to perform. It’s a really nice way to make friends, sharing an activity. I would recommend it to anyone if they’re feeling a bit isolated.”
Group regular Sandra Nichols says that before the group started she had purchased a ukulele but had then left it sitting, unplayed, until the group came into being.
“I think playing a musical instrument is really good for the brain, and we sing as well which is really uplifting,” says Sandra who encouraged Victoria to lead the group.
All of the uke players agree the gatherings are a great mood boost.
“Music makes you feel good,” says Deb James who, like fellow group regular Graham Quemard, likes to take her uke on caravanning trips and take it out around the campfire.
If you’re interested in rolling up for one of the Friday arvo uke sessions at Attitude you don’t even need to possess your own ukulele as the group can provide spares for those keen to give it a go.
Those keen to place dibs on borrowing one and getting along for a session can contact Victoria on 0420-432-931.