Some of us are old enough (sigh!) to remember a high-pitched Tiny Tim singing his hit Tiptoe Through the Tips on a ukulele on that American show Laugh In (1967-73). A strange bod he was, but he revived enormous interest in this small guitar-like instrument that was developed in Hawaii during the 1880s.
It’s obviously popular again along the south coast – the Hawaiian shirts are a dead give-away on a Thursday morning with more than 60 members of the Ukulele Group of Goolwa meeting over the past three years to strum their stuff.
And at these Goolwa gatherings – now in the new Anglican Church Hall – it’s very much about personal achievement at your own pace with many not having played an instrument before, and being like our old mate Tiny by tip-toeing through life playing the ukulele and loving every moment.
The real fun comes during the Tour Down Under festivities in Adelaide in late January when the Ukulele Group of Goolwa (UGG) descends upon the city to join other South Australian players in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for simultaneous ukulele participation of 4792 set on a Tahiti Nui TV show at the Toata Arena, Papeeta, French Polynesia on April 11 this year. Of course, you remember this moment in history.
More than anything, this record attempt highlights the fun that these uke sessions generate, and Ronny Feist, who organises them ast Goolwa, says it’s something special.
“The Ukulele Group of Goolwa is not made up of professional musicians but people who seek happiness through music and fellowship,” Ronnie said. “They come along to strum chords and sing along to a large range of music from the 50s to the 1990s… their song list has over 870 tunes.
“We perform on average three shows a month and the highlight to date is sharing equal stage performance with the Australian Girls Choir.”
Ronnie, along with John Carter and John Duffield, are the teachers at the Thursday classes, and with Derik Maxted are recognised as masters. Also, under the guidance of John, a few call themselves the Cockle Pickers Ensemble and do other overtures including light jazz, Latin classical and folk using the finger-picking playing method.
The great thing about these sessions is that learners are encouraged and never made to feel inadequate. “We have all learned at some stage, and we all encourage good fellowship,” Ronnie said.
And everyone is welcome to attend a weekly practice session in the hall in Crocker Street, Goolwa from 9.30am-2.30pm to find out more about this fabulous group. Ronny & Co. would love to see you tip-toe there.