Special Feature: Ukuladies a hit at Orangeville Seniors Centre

March 8, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Lynda McDougall

It is 9:30 am on a Friday morning in the middle of this endless winter of 2019. Twenty-seven people of a certain age walk in through the front doors of the Bythia Street Seniors Centre, leave heavy coats on the hallway rack, their snowy boots on the mat and make their way down the well-lit stairs to the activity area below.

Once there, each person eyes up the large rectangle of banquets tables, chooses a spot then push themselves and their sturdy folding chairs closer to the tables’s edge. The air is full of chatter and laughter as they search in their bags for their music. Some lay their booklets in front flat to the table. Others, because bifocals and trifocals demand it, tilt their book on top of a practical purse or a thick paperback iced up from the borrowing shelf in the stairwell.

The cardboard clatter of box tops and the soft whisper of zippers are next to the last sounds layered top of the joyous hum. And finally, there is the plinking and plunking of plastic strings as the more seasoned members of “The Ukuladies” with three years of performance practice under their belt make their way around the group. “My dog has fleas”  they sing. The ups and downs and middles of these notes meant to remind folks how to tune each of the four strings.

In the warm companionship music offers, they are here to learn to play the ukelele, just one of the many programs and volunteer opportunities the Seniors Centre on Bythia has to offer.

We begin the lesson. All eyes look up at the large chart paper diagram of the four chords, each chord a matching colour to the dots on each uke. The C chord, the A minor and the F are all manageable. The G7 still a curse for some after four lessons. During the days between the Fridays, some practice at home, humming along, tapping a toe, working to connect the brain to the hand and heart. Some in class come with arthritic fingers, damaged hands, failing eyesight, rusty vocal chords. The newly retired re younger and admire the older ones’ ability to give anything a go no matter what it sounds like. All of them there after a lifetime of nimbleness that living and working have expected of them. And all are wiling to crack open a hidden place in themselves in search of a talent they didn’t know they had.

By the first of March some have now bought tier own ukase and tuners, some have brought music to share or suggestions for places we could perform. It sparks summer visions of lawn chairs, campfires and coolers where the elderly and the young come together to share the joy of music. There is even talk of a group name.

The Ukuladies stand behind those seated and begin to strum. Those seated pick up the beat. We’re all in and we are goin’ to Kansas City. There is a jazzy C7 chord and everyone dips a shoulder and gives out their best Elvis. When the song is over, all is quiet for a split second, perhaps making room for a little magic, or an awakening, or a sudden brightly-lit shaft of the possible.

Then the silence is broken as everyone sits back and laughs, clapping enthusiastically for the success they have just shared. Turns out, a ukelele group is just the ticket if you were looking to brighten a few days during a long cold winter. Clearly everyone here plans on living with as much vigour as possible and they don’t mind singing loudly over any mistakes they might make as they go along.

Then, just as in life itself, they turn the page, lean in and prepare to tackle the next challenge that appears before them.

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