Uke in a group

Townsville's Anu Grace will conduct a Pop-Up Ukestra in Townsville Bulletin Square later this month. IMAGE: Creative Commons

When I think of ukuleles, I instantly think of the Hey Soul Sister­-esque strumming of heart-warming ballads, or Lilo and Stitch-esque riffs of a Hawaiian soundtrack. But I never imagined what hundreds of ukes playing in symphony would sound like.

Umbrella Studio contemporary arts’ inaugural Pop Up North Queensland (PUNQ) Festival will bring music to the streets and offer the chance for people of any skill level to participate in a Pop-Up Ukestra, with three rehearsal workshops in Townsville Bulletin Square during the Festival ahead of a performance at the Cotters Markets on 6 August.

Pop-Up Ukestra Facilitator/ Conductor Anu Grace said the concept behind the Ukestra was not to attract strictly professional players, but for people to socialise, have fun, and create something beautiful together.

“The Ukestra is a way to get people involved and participating in music together, in a social setting – you don’t have to have a lot of skill or experience playing ukulele. Some beginners may have a small part where it could just be playing a single chord, but on the other hand there will be gun players who may play whole riffs. We’ll be playing popular songs that people know, so it’s all-inclusive: from kids through to retirees,” Anu said.

“The biggest Ukestra I’ve been involved with was conducted by Mark Jackson and Jane Jelbart, with Ben Collier from the Nukes and Aldrine Guerre (Ukulele Underground) on ripping lead uke. That was at Spruke Festival 2015 where we had 200 or 300 people playing – and we had about five minutes of rehearsal before that! The great part about going into the community with this is it’s all about different people’s talents – so if someone is an amazing singer or they can play the trombone, we’ll find a place for them and that skill.

“I think creative opportunities in Townsville are really important – one of the main reasons for this being that it brings people together in a participatory way, and makes you feel good and gets you involved in a social activity. Getting to participate and socialise is all so important.”

Whether you’re a professional muso or have never touched an instrument before, the Pop-Up Ukestra will offer a chance for community collaboration and creativity; with ukuleles available to borrow for the week if you don’t have one of your own.

As part of Umbrella Studio contemporary arts’ Pop Up North Queensland (PUNQ) Festival, join the Pop-Up Ukestra for rehearsals on 28 July, 1 and 4 August from 12:25-1:30pm, before the final performance at 11am on Sunday, 6 August at Townsville Bulletin Square.  Book your tickets here.

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