Givin’ the little ol’ ukulele some love

Chantal O’Brien

Chantal O’Brien

Players and lovers of this sweet-sounding instrument coming together for jams, concerts, workshops

Ukulele players of all stripes are coming together for Victoria’s first mass uke jam April 10.

The “love-in” will bring together many ukulele communities that don’t typically play together, said Anne Schaefer, who is organizing a week of uke events.

There is a seniors community that plays at the Monterey Centre, a long-running singalong jam at the recently-closed Blethering Tea Room, and group lessons playing more contemporary uke songs at Larsen School of Music.

“There is a lot of quite kitschy, old-school stuff out there, which is not to say that that’s not really endearing and charming and lovely,” said Schaefer. “Almost anything on the ukulele is pretty charming and lovely, which is one of the reasons it is so popular.”

Another reason for its popularity is how easy it is to play, she added. For this reason, it’s a good community builder. “Quite complicated sounding chords are very easily done, which makes it so accessible to people, apart from being the sweetest little thing.”

Chantal O’Brien, who works at Larsen Music, signs people up for lessons all the time who have no playing experience.

Ukulele jam groups are springing up all over North America, she added.

Rob Ratcliffe is one student who has jumped on the bandwagon. He started lessons almost three years ago and now belongs to a band with people he met through the classes.

Diamond Tooth Molly and the Mighty Little Uke Band numbers only a handful of members, but dozens of players join in on any given jam night.

It’s a very supportive audience, so even beginners feel comfortable participating, Ratcliffe said.

The ukulele originated in Hawaii in the 1800s, as an interpretation of the Portuguese cavaquinho, a small instrument similar to a guitar.

The ukulele, however, sounds completely different from a standard guitar, Schaefer pointed out. “It has a high, gentle sound (with) nylon strings like a classical guitar.”

Victoria Ukulele Week, a celebration of all things ukulele, opens Sunday (April 10) and runs through April 18.

Uke players and those who like to listen are invited to Market Square (560 Johnson Street) at 1 p.m. to jam and to sing along for free.

Uke celebration

• Victoria Ukulele Week takes place April 10 to 18.

• It includes affordably priced workshops, concerts, contests and quiz nights, all with a ukulele theme, take place over the following eight days – including events for people with no experience.

• For details, visit

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