With black forest cake, red wine and a cute video, we celebrated the first anniversary of The Ukulele Assemble (sic) founded by our leader Cheryl Beh.
The group started back in October 2012 as a small gathering of eight people sitting at a table at the The Fabulous Baker Boy cafe.
“[I] emailed a few friends and people I met at ukulele classes about it. Word spread and the rest is history,” said Cheryl about the group’s beginnings. She also used meetup.com to meet others similarly interested in playing the ukulele.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain inspired Cheryl to form an ensemble after she saw their performance on YouTube. While there are other ukulele groups around Singapore, she wanted to form a group geared towards “ensemble playing” rather than “the usual mass singing & strumming”.
I wanted to meet other fellow ukulele enthusiasts to jam with a little dream of playing ensemble pieces as a big group.
She felt that people who had different ukulele skill levels could be integrated into an ensemble.
“It doesn’t matter what’s your level of ukulele skills,” said Cheryl. “A beginner can start off with strumming while the better ones can take up melody or harmonising role. As a team, that’s where everyone can come together and play as one.”
After the first meeting at the cafe, the group then moved to the Singapore Management University for sessions two thru four. Cheryl thought the university would be a larger site to accommodate more participants, free of charge, and wouldn’t require people to purchase any food or beverage.
One member of the group, Luther, was also a member of Hackerspace Singapore and offered that location to the ukulele enthusiasts for session five. The group, capped on meetup.com to 35 participants, has since been hosted at Hackerspace where we can appreciate the indoor, air-conditioned comfort and a large projector to share our music.
As the group grew in number, so did the overall quality and structure of the meetings.
“The music facilitators team came into the picture,” said Cheryl. “Without them, the sessions would not be as structured, really appreciate their commitment.”
The music facilitators – Paul Toh, Paul Lorett B. Amazona, Rex Lee, Jac Ang, Angela Wang and Luana Riveria Palacio – do play a huge role in the meet ups, each taking one session and sharing with us their favourite tunes and techniques, helping us grow as ukulele players along with breaking the ice to get to know each other.
Along with our ukulele skills, we have grown in friendship and camaraderie with each other along the way. It is always a pleasure to have a group to jam along with and make some friends while strumming up your latest favourite tune.
I asked Lim Thoutin, a Ukulele Assemble member who is also a member of two other ukulele groups in Singapore, what he thought made this group stand out from others. He said he enjoyed playing in an ensemble and thought this group had talented leaders who were always willing to share their knowledge.
“It has a good mix of working people from various background, occupation [and] nationality, which makes the group vibrant,” added Thoutin.
Indeed, aside from the ukulele, the group members do have a diverse interest. Through friendships forged in the group, I have partaken in a few random awesome events in Singapore I might otherwise not have discovered on my own, such as We Will Dance Singapore.
The big event for this year is our Christmas performance for around 1,000 senior citizens in December. Our little ensemble has practiced at each meet up for the performance, and will spend most of our weekends in November rehearsing for the performance too.
As for future plans, Cheryl hopes to find a place to accommodate even more people, and focus on more ensemble pieces at the meet ups.
“Hopefully have another ‘public performance’,” added Cheryl.
Please find us on meetup.com and join us if you find joy in little packages with four strings.
** As of this writing, The Ukulele Assemble is looking for a new home as Hackerspace is moving out of their current location. Please let us know if you have a location to offer.
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