Ukulele group brings toe-tappin’ music to Windemere

Ukulele group brings toe-tappin’ music to Windemere

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Ukulele members from left to right: Betsy Gately, Martha Child, Katherine Scott, Janet Sigler, Pam Brown, and Wendy Andrews performed at Windemere last Monday. — Photo by Christy Aumer

Feet were tappin’ and hands clappin’ when the Princess Poo-Poo-Ly Band struck up their ukeleles and began singing old favorites during the band’s monthly performance at the Windemere Nursing & Rehabilitation Center last week.

Around 25 residents quietly gathered in the recreation room at the long-term care facility prior to the performance last Monday. But the lull was short-lived once the kazoos, egg shakers, and hula dancing started.

That’s right, hula dancing. Windemere resident Dianne Rhoades was decked out in a lei and a straw hat. She was a big hit.

The room was transformed into a time machine for many of the residents. The sound of the nylon strings of the ukulele mixed with a familiar chorus from the 1920’s hit “Baby Face.” The crowd swayed from side to side and sang along to the music: “Baby face, you’ve got the cutest little baby face.”

The versatile band pulled out all the stops with the well-known tune, “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” The song showcased the ukulele group’s ability to play multiple instruments, including a kazoo, without the use of their hands.

The concert ended with the song, “How much is that Doggie in the Window.” Windemere residents were right on cue with the notable barking and meowing the song calls for.

As the party began to settle down, it was evident the Princess Poo-Poo-Ly band had accomplished its mission to entertain the residents. The lively atmosphere inside Windemere keeps the Princess Poo-Poo-Ly band coming back each month.

Versatile, simple, lively

Martha Child of Vineyard Haven is the leader of the Princess Poo-Poo-Ly Band. She said the group tries to play a variety of music to appeal to the residents, choosing form a playlist of nearly 300 songs.

The band rehearses songs for the Windemere concert from 1 to 3 pm every Wednesday at the Tisbury Senior Center. Huddled around binders full of music sheets on handmade wooden music stands, the band practices a dozen or so songs during the two-hour time slot. They also find time to sneak in one or two funny stories between pieces of music.

The versatile ukulele group also reaches out beyond the iconic Hawaiian instrument. For example, Ms. Child also plays the “banjolele,” a hybrid between a banjo and a ukulele.

“My grandfather used to have a little group in the twenties and he used to play one of these,” Ms. Child said as she plucked the small, stringed instrument.

The banjolele adds a touch of southern twang with a hint of Island breeze to the band’s sound. Katherine Scott, a ukulele player who also plays several instruments in the band, said each member of the group brings something different. For example, Ms. Scott said, Carol Loud plays the recorder. “Sounds just lovely in, say, ‘The Tennessee Waltz.'”

According to Ms. Child, she and Sally Flood had been playing dulcimer together when the idea of playing ukulele arised. The two reached out to Sandy Whitworth, director of the Tisbury Senior Center, and the group took off in 2011.

The year-round band generally includes eight active members with all levels of musical experience. Ms. Child said everyone is invited to join regardless of skill level.

The ukulele is a nice stepping-stone, Ms. Scott said, an instrument that can ease people into the world of music. “A diminished chord on a uke isn’t as intimidating as it may appear on the guitar,” she said. “It’s great to get to know more about music through the uke.”

Ms. Child agrees about the simplicity of the instrument most often associated with another island.

“The ukulele is great for everyone,” Ms. Child said while wearing a green “ukulele lady” shirt. “The ukulele can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make it.”

The multi-talented Ms. Child, who is also the musical director at First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven, said six chords are all that’s necessary to play a hundred songs. “The six chords you need aren’t very difficult, and once you learn that, you can really play a lot of music,” she added.

Janet Sigler, who just picked up the instrument in May, said she practices every day. “Because I wanted to play well for my first Windemere concert, I took the music for 23 songs and started cramming for the first concert,” she said. “That started my daily practice regimen.”

Ms. Sigler said she likes the ukulele because it is portable, and easy to hold. “I like the sound, and the fact that it’s not an intimidating instrument,” she said. “The more I practice, the more muscle memory takes over and it becomes easier to play the chords without looking at my finger placement.”

The Princess Poo-Poo-Ly Band offers a fun place to discover more about music, learn a new instrument, or find new friends. For Ms. Sigler, she said the group makes her feel like she belongs. “I think I have found my niche,” she said.

Anyone is welcome to join the ukulele group from 1 pm to 3 pm, Wednesdays at the Tisbury Senior Center. For more information, call 508-696-4205.

To view a video of the Princess Poo-Poo-Ly Band performing go to mvtimes.com.

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