Review of November 8 Ukulele Event

It was a very long day. We left home at 7:20 a.m. and returned at 9:00 p.m. after spending the day performing twice at the Maui Ukulele Guild Exposition followed by a dinner party hosted by the President of the Guild.

Display Table

Display at Ukulele Guild Exposition

We arrived early to the Exposition at Queen Kaahumanu Center to setup our table with business brochures and display copies of my five packaged song sets of book/DVD/CD. The table gave me a place to talk to people while we waited for our turn on stage. Six groups performed ahead of us including two intermediate school groups and four kupuna (senior) groups. It always feels good to see my students applying some of the strums I taught them while everyone else in those groups played chalang-alang style without variation to their songs.

Maui Ukulele Pops Band performs

Maui Ukulele Pops Band performs

Finally it was our turn. At one point one group went long, and then another group went short, and so the program schedule was back on track. I was so proud of my students who performed as the Maui Ukulele Pops Band. The 10 students played 10 songs during our 30-minute set, accompanied by Rich on u-bass and myself. We had four music stands to share between seven students who had confirmed their participation, but then 10 students showed up which meant more people per music stand. No problem.  We encouraged the audience to sing-along when they recognized the songs, and they did! The women’s attire was “wear the Band pink muu or white muu, whichever fits,” that we’ve worn throughout the years. It worked out we were able to alternate players by clothes colors so we looked good sitting in one row on stage. In past gigs when the stage was short, we formed two rows of players which resulted in some people hiding behind the person sitting in front of them. When everyone sits in one row, there is no hiding from the audience. Smile! Afterwards, my contact at Kaunoa Senior Center came up to say hello and I was so glad she had a chance to see us perform in public. Band members are some of the students that I have been teaching at the Center since January 2009.

Next, while the returning hula halau from Oahu performed, we changed out of our Band aloha attire and into our black jazz with gold garland leis and waited for our turn to go back on stage. We were the last act, and as they say, “save the best for last.”

Maui Ukulele Jazz Trio

Maui Ukulele Jazz Trio with new member

New this year was the debut of our new member of the Maui Ukulele Jazz Trio, Cindee Burkitt. Just a few weeks ago, our regular third member declined to participate this year and that created an opportunity for a new player. Cindee was the only person I could think of with the skill and confidence to pull off the difficult music with syncopated rhythms at the last minute. We practiced once together as a trio on Monday, and then performed on Saturday. It went great! We played 10 popular jazz songs during our 30-minute set. We hooked up the vocal harmonizer for me and had lots of fun.

During our last set I told the audience why I enjoy teaching and playing the ukulele – the instrument is small, easy to carry around, and you can play all kinds of musical genres on it.  Just as we played a mix of Hawaiian and popular songs in the first set, this second set was about difficult jazz songs which you usually don’t hear being played on ukulele. I really enjoy playing all kinds of music and sharing with others.

Aloha, Mele Fong, aka Ukulele Mele

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Mele Fong is a professional singer, song arranger, and master of multiple strumming styles for the 'ukulele. She is an experienced educator with over 50+ years experience playing the 'ukulele and entertaining worldwide. Mele performs with her husband in the duo "The Hawaiian Serenaders" and leads student groups. In 1996, the duo represented the State of Hawai'i in concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Mele and her husband Richard Tom were both born and raised on Oahu and now reside in Maui.