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Report from the April 2018 Convention

by: (Norman) Pa Jones

(Norman) Pa Jones
Once described as the ukulele capital of England, Digswell is an ancient village in the English county of Hertfordshire and that is where we uke fans of all persuasions meet twice yearly on a Sunday, in April and October, to indulge in our fascination with, and enthusiasm for, these wooden and banjo style instruments. Although some time is spent in discussions, instrument sales, jamming, workshops and refreshments, the main thrust of the day is the all day concert where we members (stars and novices) get to perform a couple of numbers in front of our peers. I find it a great opportunity and a wonderful experience to stand on equal terms with some of the country’s best ukulele artists.

Variety is what we want and variety is what we had on Sunday, April 5th in the village hall at Digswell. For full details see the performers list in The Syncopator magazine but I want to tell you of the finer points that I recall. With Zip Pain behind the camera, Malcolm Marsh at the sound desk, David Huntingdon and Sean Pammenter in control of entry, David Grigg (Bass) and ‘Rumpole’ Baily (Keyboard) ready to back any performer and our regular M.C. Ray Neal in the wings, the show began at 2.00pm.

The first half consisted of a mixture of fine performances from the sublime to the ridiculous and culminated in a terrific, extended set from the great Andy Eastwood. With Ray Neal, in his usual all-singing, all-dancing style introducing each act, the show glided on with all performers reaching the peak of their abilities. The hall was far from being full but the audience made enough noise to welcome each performer to the stage and to show their appreciation at the end of each turn. The Eynsham Ukulele Quartet (all three of them) were especially good and vowed, there and then, to return in October as this was their first public performance. Their mixed instruments were well matched and worth noting here. Lead ukulele was James Spencer playing a Risa LP solid soprano ukulele, having steel strings with mandolin tuning. (James also writes the arrangements of the music that the quartet plays.) Toby O'Neil was on Rhythm ukulele playing a Brunswick tenor ukulele with a low G string and Anna O’Neil kept the timing good with a Mahalo bass ukulele. As representatives of the Eynsham Ukuleles group their presence was especially welcome and, hopefully, other ukulele groups will follow their lead and send delegates to a Digswell convention.

The Marsh family once again provided the two refreshment breaks, greatly appreciated by all, and the following two concerts produced some great entertainment with all types of songs/tunes and a fine variety of ukulele instruments including fiddle lookalikes. (Fiddleleles?) As one of the USGB’s aims is to give new and nervous ukers an opportunity on stage there were one or two stumbles but appreciative applause is always given to members courageous enough to mount the stage steps. With top acts dominating the proceedings there were plenty of good songs, cracking instrumental breaks and laughs a-plenty to make everyone glad that they had made the journey. Sadly, some folks had to leave early, due to long journeys home, and they missed some good stuff.

My first personal highlight was, of course, the appearance and performance of Andy Eastwood, a man who finds time to support the USGB in many ways despite his busy professional entertainment schedule. If pushed for a second highlight I would have to say it was the honour that I had of being a warm-up act for the great, new (to Digswell) Eynsham Ukulele Quartet. (All three of them.)

(Norman) Pa Jones.