Review- Fourth Annual Allegheny Ukulele Soiree

This last weekend, April 21-23, 2017, I attended the Fourth Annual Allegheny Ukulele Soiree. It is a two-day festival put on by the Allegheny Ukulele Kollective. This is the third one I have attended in the last four years of the Soiree’s existence.

It was held at the Laurel Lodge in Duncansville, PA. near Altoona. The festival included workshops for all levels of ukulele players, five different jams, two open mics and two concerts.

The workshops were taught by all six of the performers as well as a couple of clinicians. I attended many workshops and learned something new in each one. They were all well attended by an enthusiastic group of people who love playing the ukulele and want to grow as musicians.

As I did last year, I took advantage of the dining package which allowed me to stay at the lodge all day on Saturday. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were provided and I got to hang out with fellow uke players the entire day without having to leave to find a place to eat.

There was a vendor area where instruments and accessories were sold. Mim was there as well as Mainland and others. All of this was in the same building which I found very convenient. The lodge is in the foothills which provided us with a fantastic view and plenty of room to take classes and hang out.

I stayed after registration for the Friday evening concert which featured Mim, Rachel Manke and Lil’ Rev. It was so much fun! They are all so talented and personable plus they were instructors for the weekend.

Saturday was packed with workshops, meals and an evening concert. The performers for that evening were Ben Carr, Gracie Terzion and Stuart Fuchs. They are all great performers. A fun time was had by all.

There were also drawings for different prizes Friday and Saturday night at each concert. Kala and Ohana donated ukes which were raffled off Saturday evening.

For the second year in a row the Soiree was a two-day event. I know putting on something like this is a lot of work for many people not the least of which is Mike Holzer. He is the Allegheny Ukes Co-Director and Chief Uke Evangelist. He has a great team of people who help put this together and run it for the weekend. Add in the performers and instructors and it is as close to uke heaven as you will get.

I love what Mike and the Kollective have done in the last four years with the Soiree. It is a great value and provides a fun atmosphere to meet others and to learn. The only issue I observed for the weekend were ongoing problems with the sound system in the ballroom. There were issues with hums and shorts most of the weekend. I have set-up and installed a few sound systems so I realize it can be difficult with all the amplifiers, boards, snakes, cables and speakers etc. Bottom line is that it effected the schedule and the teachers and performers. It was a distraction to say the least. I don’t know if it is owned by the Kollective or it was rented but a better set-up is needed for next year. I don’t feel it is right for teachers, performers or attendees to have to deal with the distraction or schedule delay  a poor sound system has on the event. Hopefully, next year this will be rectified.

The Soiree had about 125 people show up this last weekend which is great but that means Mike and the Kollective must search for a bigger facility for next year. Altoona is not a very big city so facilities that will work are few and far between. Let’s hope that they find the perfect place so even more people can experience this great get together.

My suggestion is to plan ahead for next years event. It will be the 5th year of the Soiree and who knows what they will come up with? I am sure it will be great!

Changes for 2017

Today is January 1, 2017. It has been almost two years since I retired from 31 years in full-time ministry. I don’t really like the word “retired” as I know God has a calling on my life and will continue to use me as He sees fit. Unfortunately, when I left the church I had been on staff at for 16 years, I and my pastor used the word “retired.” I didn’t want to say I was quitting, as I wasn’t. I was taking a break to recharge the batteries, so to speak.

In the process of recharging the batteries I have simply been home helping with the grandchildren and doing errands to help the rest of the family. I have done other things: photography, fishing and playing music. Honestly, the ukulele brings me the most joy when it comes to music. I also play bass and guitar but neither appeals to me as much as the uke. I love sitting on the couch in my cave and practicing/singing.

I have noticed my voice has atrophied as I haven’t sung consistently for years. When I was a worship leader I was practicing and singing constantly. Not any more. As I began to think about this I realized I need to make some changes musically.

One thing I really need to do is play more music with people. I do play music, almost every day, but because I am an introvert I do it by myself in my cave. I enjoy that but I need to force myself to be around others so I can grow and meet other musicians. I always enjoyed leading a worship band, but that isn’t in the cards anymore, so I need to take a step of faith and get involved elsewhere.

I have decided to take part in the Maryland Uke Jam this month on Sunday, January 22nd. It is in Gaithersburg, MD. I will have to drive a ways from where I live but I trust the time will be well spent. It will be about 2.5 hours round trip. I am playing more tenor so I am able to keep up with the group. They will be posting the songs for the jam soon, so I will be up to speed by then. If you are reading this and you take part in the MUJ let me know. I would love to meet you.

I am also attending the Allegheny Ukulele Soiree this year. It will be my third time. This is also a great opportunity to be around other musicians and to be challenged as a ukulele player. I am registered, with the dining package, which worked out great last year. Being able to break bread with others was fun and I didn’t have to leave the Laurel Lodge to search for food. If you haven’t been, and you are within driving distance, you should join us. It has grown every year since I have attended. I assume it will this year too. Mike and his gang put on a great conference and the concerts are a blast. I hope some of you can make it. As I have done the last two years, I will be doing a review after I return.

I also have a new uke on order from Hawaii Music Supply (HMS). It is a tenor Pono that will be set up with a Low G. Then I will have two tenors, one with a high G and another with a low G. I find that most of the instrumental songs I do work well with a high G. If I am practicing worship music the low G works better for fingerpicking and singing. It takes awhile for HMS to get the uke set-up but the wait is worth it. I has been almost two weeks since I ordered so I am hoping to get it by the end of this week. I will do a video review of it after it arrives and we get acquainted.

I have no idea what other doors may open for me this year. It may be doors for ministry or music or something else. I am open and continue to pray about God’s will for me in these areas. I will let you know what happens and how it goes at the jam later this month.

Until then, I pray for a blessed 2017 for you all.