The Uke Night at the End of the Universe
Court House in Mullumbimby | Friday 26 July | adult $15/under 15 $2.50/family of four $25
For the past eight years, Miss Amber and Stukulele have opened hearts with their little instruments, strumming their way through the 80s, the Beatles, country hits, Elvis… you name it, creating a community of dedicated players. This month sees the end of an era with the pair hosting their last Mullum Uke Night – back at the Court House in Mullum.
Stu, tell me what you have planned for the last Uke Night at the Court House?
This is going to be a variety gala with a cast of thousands… Uke Night special guests from over the years including: Raku One O’Gaia, Clelia Adams, Ash Bell, Sara Tindley, Shelly and Dan Brown, Justin Bannister, and few surprise guests performing a diverse range of strummable tunes from Abba to James Brown. Miss Amber might just make a cake, though the restaurant will be open at 5pm so folks can be fed in time for a 7.30 start. There will be laughter and tears. We are doing it at the Courty as that is where we started and we’d like to see families back in the front seats.
What have been some of the highlights for you over the last few years?
Straight off the bat, having Rod Coe as our star bass player and all the great drummers, Jason Caspen, Jamie Pattugalin, Rex Carter… seeing Miss Amber overcome her stagefright and nailing songs like I Will Survive… having our kids performing with us… our son Reubs wouldn’t sing though he would whistle. At our first birthday having guests like Starboard Cannons, Mae Wilde, and then Joel Salom, who juggled while strumming tuned ukuleles with little kids at his feet in a packed Court House Hotel (see online at youtube.com/ukemullum). There have been only a rare few occasions that I didn’t come out saying, ‘That was the best night yet’. I loved Punk Night, 70s, 80s, and 90s, though equally I loved Crooners and Golden Oldies night. Apart from seeing smiles on a room full of people, my personal highlight from all of this was meeting and playing with all the great musicians and guest vocalists and our uke players who have become like family. I’m proud that we have helped to foster young talent or at least provided a stage for the likes of the Brandolini Sisters, Misty Henderson, Sam Sanders and Millie Stuart-Long from Loose Content, and our own daughter Rosie, as well as the folks who got over their nerves and had a go at leading a song.
What is the attraction of Uke Nights? Why do people love them?
For most uke players it’s somewhere to get amongst it with other enthusiasts and join in strumming a rhythm together. Some people are accomplished showy players, some people hide, some people come to sing along, some to watch a bloody good band of different players each time playing a different repertoire every month. For the guest performers it’s a chance to perform songs they would never dare to in their own sets. The unassuming ukulele gives you complete freedom over credibility and cool and no-one really cares if you bugger it up and have to start again. Uke Night is about coming together for the love of playing music.
Why do you think nights like this are important in the community?
It is well documented that community singing is good for your health and of course your soul. You feel loved up! There are scientific reasons why… owing to chemicals in the brain and what not… just like laughing but different… The uke is good because one can learn to accompany oneself for those times when all alone and one needs a little song to cure those lonesome blues. Live music is a wonderful conduit for togetherness and the ukulele just makes it easy to flock together… I’ve never heard of a tuba club; even guitars are on the cumbersome side. It’s a great way for people in a community to let down their guard and bond with the common goal, creating a bit of joy… good times help us get through the tough times and remind us we are all the same: we all need love.
How have you and Amber expanded what you do over the years?
We tried a Uke Night up at Tumbulgum for a year; that was great while it lasted. We tried in Ipswich and once in Lismore: disasters. Miss Amber and I have expanded our repertoire enormously… we can tailor a set for just about any occasion. As a uke player and teacher I have also expanded my skillset. Thanks to a member of the Northern Rivers Uke Orchestra who fronted some money for me to do a three-year course, I now have an accreditation teaching kids in schools music literacy and theory using the ukulele.
What’s ahead for you guys with uke? Are you sad to be finishing up? How can people stay in touch?
We aren’t finishing up entirely at all, though we need to mark the end of something and really that is the end of the Uke Night as we have been presenting it in Mullum. The vision for Uke Night in the very beginning was to encourage and support folks to get in front of an audience and have a go. We have achieved that wonderfully, at times, though I have been guilty of getting caught up in the themes and amazing songs with a kinda steamroller effect for the audience. People have sometimes been left behind, and while I knew that was happening I have only now found an interesting way to make it more inclusive of all levels. While you can never keep everyone happy, the new format that we took to Ballina recently really worked and that new approach is where we are headed. The Ukemullum website www.ukemullum.com and our social pages will remain active of course, and that’s where you go to contact me for lessons and or bookings. We do weddings!
So don’t miss the last Uke Night at the Court House in Mullumbimby, 6.30pm, Friday 26 July. Adult $15, under 15 – $2.50, family of four $25.