As the late, great George Formby would often say, “Turned out nice again, hasn’t it?”. Well it certainly turned out nice again at the village hall in Digswell, Hertfordshire on Sunday, April 2nd, 2017 when the bi-annual meeting of the famous ‘Ukulele Society of Great Britain’ took place. There were people from far, wide and around the corner and it was great to see so many members from previous gatherings in attendance. Some of the regular notables were absent and if THEY had been there it would have been standing room only. USGB, Digswell is the venue where some of the stars of the British ukulele fraternity share the stage with people less talented but equally enthusiastic about singing and making music with ukuleles. This is an approximation of what took place.
For those able to arrive early enough a guest professional ukulele/banjolele player and workshop tutor, Peter moss was on hand to provide a demonstration of intros and endings to songs and tunes with the ukulele and he really held his students’ interest throughout the session He also provided printed hand-outs for all those involved. After the lunchtime refreshments the first half of the concert performances soon got underway and Peter Moss, who was given a specially extended spot, provided a scintillating and magnificent programme of fingerstyle dexterity and imagination that enthralled the audience before him. He seemed to be playing a baritone instrument and his obvious passion and pleasure whilst accomplishing this music was a sight to see.
David Griggs (Bass) and ‘Rumpole’ Baily (Keyboard) made up the support/backing duo as, and when, required by the rest of the days ukulele advocates while the man leading the fray was the society’s regular and splendid M.C. Ray Neal. Vice president Malcolm Marsh picked off the proceedings and a varied programme of events followed for the rest of the day. Before leaving the convention, Peter Moss was heard to say that he was surprised at how many ukulele banjos were in evidence on the day. This fact was probably due to the elders present and the George Formby phenomenon.
Influenced by TV talent shows here, and in no particular order, is a list of performers: - Peter Moss, Malcolm Marsh, Ray Neal, Tony Bailey, Alan Harris with guitar backup from David Gloan, John Croft, John Richards, Zip Pain, Peter Rabjohn, Johnny Key, Ray Reynolds, Malcolm Palmer, ‘Gambling Bones’, Reg Goldsmith, Brian Bowen, ‘Three Amigos’, Paul Hilder, Eric Bateman, and Norman (Pa) Jones. There was a varied and impressive collection of styles, abilities and types of instrument and all felt a pleasure to be part of it. With lunch and tea refreshments provided by the Marsh family what more would any ukulele enthusiasts want?
Although all present played their part in making it a great occasion there were three main highlights during the day. The first, obviously, was the workshop and concert performance by Peter Moss while the second was the presence and music of the famous Mr. Alan (Uke) Harris. Finally, when long serving member, and regular attendee, John Croft, stepped up in front of the stage he had with him one of George Formby’s Gibson banjo-ukuleles which had originally been lot 447 in the 1961 auction of the big star’s possessions. Bill Logan was the buyer and subsequent owners were Mike Metcalfe and Allan Randall. John is now the proud possessor of this wonderful and nostalgic instrument still with its original case. Members were invited to try it for size and have a photo taken in return for a charity donation.
Here’s hoping it turns out nice again at future conventions.