Moving from one community to another can be extremely daunting, even more-so if your new home lacks the hobbies that made your previous one so enjoyable. But, as the old saying goes, when one door closes, another opens, even if you have to push it yourself, just like Marlana Williams did.
Relocating from New Westminster to Hope in 2015, Williams was disappointed to learn her new community didn’t have an outlet for her to musically express herself through one of her favourite instruments: the ukulele.
“I grew up playing this and that,” explained Williams. “I played my brother’s drums and dabbled with other instruments, but not getting (really) good with any of them. My favourite instrument is my voice, I love singing.”
Then Williams caught what she calls the “uke bug” after an office colleague brought one in that “piqued” her interest. Joining the Vancouver Ukulele Circle (VUC) in 2013, Williams formed connections with like-minded individuals who also shared her affection for the small chordophone.
Yet once in Hope, Williams was left to her own musical devices when it came to playing the uke in a group setting, as there was no local club established.
“But when the Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) began its ukulele program, I asked Deb Ireland, (the librarian), if they had a meeting (for uke players), and she said, ‘If you want one, you start it—you lead it!’”
And so that’s what Williams did.
“I knew Hope could use a group like this and I wanted a group like this, but was tired of waiting around,” so she made the leap to create the Hope Ukulele Club in 2018.
“And there’s no looking back now!” she exclaimed from inside the Blue Moose Coffee House, where the club holds its monthly meetings.
Starting in mid-May of last year, and using the VUC’s music book as a starting point, Williams began designing her own ukulele music book, which she used to launch the Hope Ukulele Club in September 2018. The book, which is available for $20 to the public, boasts 150 songs across seven musical genres, as well as shows the chord diagrams for each song.
“I decided if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. We’ve got a music book, social media, and website,” said Williams, who leads the club’s meetings, which take place on the second Friday of each month.
“It’s actually kind of funny that I’m leading this group,” said Williams. “I’m not used to that.” But the benefit of group playing is that it helps you feel not so exposed.
It’s been referred to as “the instrument of low expectations,” said Club member, Alan DeLong, “which sounds like an insult, but it’s not meant to be.
“The ukulele is just plain darn fun to make music with … (and) sounds nice,” he continued. Starting out with a loaner from the FVRL ukes stash, DeLong said it didn’t take him long to realize he could learn to play the stringed instrument.
“And it’s a chance for a group of adults to get together and have fun. If you’re not perfect, who cares? Nobody’s perfect,” said DeLong.
“If you don’t know the chords or lines, don’t play or sing them,” continued Williams. What’s great about playing the ukulele is “it’s not so daunting because you can still sing and play even if you’re not sure.
“And the ukulele is so cheap. For $60 or $70 you can get a decent instrument that will hold its tune,” Williams said. Or you can sign out instruments from the FVRL that are good for beginners.
Regardless, Williams and DeLong agree life is too short to not have fun, and since the uke is associated with fun unlike some of the more serious instruments, the two are encouraging other Hopians to join a non-judgmental group of people, who laugh, sing songs, and play music for the sheer joy of doing it, rather than ensuring it’s perfect.
The Hope Ukulele Club meets the second Friday of every month at the Blue Moose at 6:30 p.m., there’s no cost to join, and drop-ins are welcome.
For more information about the Hope Ukulele Club, please visit their website at Hopeukulele.com.