Once again, a few adventurous DUH members struck out on a field trip to partake in a ukulele festival. This time we struck out for Lansing, Michigan, to attend workshops, group strums and concerts being held at the Mighty Uke Day Festival. This annual festival has been organized by convenor Ben Hassenger and his local uke group, L.A.U.G.H (Lansing Area Ukulele Group) for the past 4 years.
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the legendary and fabled store, Elderly Instruments. In our carpool vehicle, as we entered the Lansing area we all took a vote on it and unanimously chose to go strait to the store before we even located our hotel to check in! All I can say is, walking up the wide concrete steps under the famous striped canopy of Elderly Instruments and entering the lobby through the heavy wooden door, is comparable to walking into a casino for the first time in your life! And the ukulele area was even more incredible than online pictures had shown! They had to share the space with a few banjo’s and about a thousand music books, but there were plenty of benches to sit on while trying all the various makes of instruments.
Workshops ranged in topic. You could take anything from Do-Wop Til You Drop – featuring the 4 chord progressive songs of the 50’s – with Jazz ukulele virtuoso Sarah Maisel, to Chord Melody; from Boot Camp to Ukulele Care and Set-up (which was free). You could learn how to Play Chords Beyond the Third Fret or how to do a mid-song solo with Gerald Ross – learning when to “take it!”; how to Strum and Play What you Hear with Mitch Chang; or explore the Percussive Side of the Ukulele with Craig Chee.
Most of the workshops took place in the basement at Elderly Instruments and others extended to Preuss Pets. They had also organized strum hours during Friday and Saturday by projecting songs onto a big screen at the downtown eatery Sir Pizza.
Friday night’s concert was called Michigan, the Great Uke State. The talented line-up included Hawaiian steel lap-guitar-player Gerald Ross; the Springtails (Andy & Julianna Wilson); Magdalen Fossum, a 13-year old ukulele virtuoso; The Fabulous Heftones (Brian Hefferan and wife Lynn); and Strangers in the Night. “Strangers in the Night is a loose configuration of Elderly Instruments employees; about as close to a house band” as Elderly can get. I would say every instrument for sale in the store was included in their uproarious show! The concert really delivered a great variety of folk songs, blue grass roots music and comedy!
Saturday night’s concert was the Spirit of Aloha Performers with Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee. The Spirit of Aloha Performers opened the show with Mitch Chang playing traditional Hawaiian songs for a Hawaiian singer and two traditional hula dance performers. They were joined by Gerald Ross on lap-guitar and Craig Chee on ukulele and vocals. (I was also told afterward, that the guy trying to hide in the background with a U-bass was Elderly employee Steve Szilagyi.) After the hula performance Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel performed their mix of jazz, pop, instrumental and Hawaiian music, backed by Mitch, Gerald and Steve. It was a bit calmer evening, LOL!
The weather also co-operated with us, as it was sunny, beautiful and mild. My other pics of scenes around Lansing, Michigan to follow in the next post. For more information on MUD4 click here: http://www.benhassenger.com and to shop online at Elderly click here: http://www.elderly.com .