For some people in Great Britain there are two items which will make them smile.
One is a red fez which immediately turns them into Tommy Cooper and the other is a ukulele which makes them instantly think of George Formby.
From the 1930s to 1960s, Formby was one of the biggest stars in the country thanks to his films, songs and catchphrases like ‘it’s turned out nice again’.
Over the years if you wanted to start playing an instrument you would gravitate to the piano or possibly guitar.
But now the ukulele is coming back with a vengeance and growing in such popularity it is replacing t h e recorder as an instrum e n t b e i n g taught to pupils in schools across the county.
One organisation which is benefiting from this upsurge is the Raunds Ukulele Group.
The seeds of it were sown in November last year when a beginners course was launched in the town by Annie Houghton.
It proved such a hit the first course was over subscribed and a second one was quickly arranged.
All those who came along then wanted to keep meeting on a regular basis as they enjoyed making music.
The songs the group play include Maggie May, Stuck in the Middle with You, Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, Here Comes the Sun, House of the Rising Sun and I’m Gonna Be (500 miles).
Ms Houghton said: “I decided to set up the group and then take a back seat.
“The first course we held was over subscribed and we had to turn people away.
“There was a little less for the second but we hope to hold another course in the autumn.
“It is a cheap instrument to get hold of and you can buy one for £20. We meet once every two weeks at St Peter’s Community and Enterprise Centre in Raunds from 7.30pm to 9pm.
“We play all different songs ranging from Hotel California by The Eagles to Leaning on the Lamppost by George Formby.
“There are different levels in the group and some people can play two/three chords. We get the whole mix of ability.” One of those who has caught the ‘ukulele bug’ is Ferris Specialist Arts College music teacher, 27-year-old Chris Gammon.
He said: “I started playing the ukulele a few years ago.
“My brother used to play it and when I heard there was a group I decided to join.
“It is easy to pick up and the good thing is you can start playing tunes within 30 minutes of beginning.
“The way I teach people is to teach them three chords.
“I think people should start playing it as it is such an accessible instrument and very versatile.
“You can play modern pop songs on it and it is something which both old and young can get involved in learning.” At the moment the Raunds Ukulele Group has 15 members but is always keen to hear from more people who want to join.
The sessions are informal and last for an hour and a half.
Ideally you should have some experience playing the instrument before attending.
If you would like to learn, the group can put your name on the waiting list for the next block of Saturday courses For further details, visit www.raundsukulele.co.uk or email raundsukulele@ hotmail.com Now let the music begin.and striking a chord
- It originated in the 19th century as a Hawaiian interpretation of the machete, a small guitar-like instrument
- The name roughly translates to jumping flea
- It gained popularity elsewhere in the United States during the early 20th century and then spread internationally
- The tone and volume varies with size and construction but ukuleles commonly come in four sizes – soprano, concert, tenor and baritone
- Ukuleles are most commonly wooden but different versions have been made partially or entirely of plastic
- Famous UK ukulele player George Formby actually often played a banjolele, a hybrid instrument comprising an extended ukulele neck with a banjo body