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!

Things I wish I would have known- Part 3

Last June I purchased my first baritone ukulele from Hawaii Music Supply. I wanted to try something new as I was in the process of gravitating toward larger ukuleles from the soprano. Buying the baritone was one of the best decisions I have made while playing the ukulele.

It is a very versatile instrument especially since it can be played in many tunings. Other size ukes can too but they really don’t handle the lower tunings well especially the linear DGBE. The baritone can also be tuned to a reentrant GCEA. Some people like the way it sounds when tuned that way and some don’t. I do but I still think the tenor is better for that tuning.

I do like having more room on the baritone fingerboard to make chords. My hands are average size but my fingers are short. I still feel very comfortable with the fingerboard. For me personally, on the concert and soprano fingerboard sometimes the chords are more difficult as I don’t have enough room for my fingers.

Recently I posted my first two videos to YouTube. Both songs, Amazing Grace and Fur Elise, were played on my Kala Baritone. I received many comments about the tone of the instrument. Many people really liked it. I do too. It is currently strung with Aquilla 21U strings. I really like the way they sound and my older hands like that fact that they are not too hard to press down. The tension is perfect.

Yes, the baritone is a fun instrument. I only wish I had purchased one earlier.

Amazing Grace

Fur Elise