Ukulele Group

The Ukulele Group meets on Wednesday mornings at 9:00am at the Community House.

Group Leader: Robyn Northey

Phone: 0458 147 333


“If music be the food of love, play on.”

Robyn is as Aussie as they come, but taking her personality into consideration, she might as well have come from Sweden. She has the kind of endearing ‘no fuss, tell it like it is and get the job done personality’ that characterises many Scandinavians. As she shares the story of how the Community House Ukulele group came about, it is hence with great humour, self-distance and humility. Today, the string group gathers over ten people every week, and although they’ve undoubtedly improved since their start in 2015, they are still most welcoming to any newcomers who would like to try their luck at strumming along

“It all started with me going to a festival at Wagga Wagga, called Stone the Crows, Robyn says matter of factly. “While I was there, I attended a workshop on learning how to play the ukulele. We had one hour sessions once a day over four days and our tutor Rob Nicholls said that if we learned four basic cords, C, A minor, F and G7, we’d know how to play six songs by the end of the four days. And we did!” 

The workshop tutor also advised the attendees to practise every day, even if it was just for ten minutes, and to join a group. “Well, when I came back home to Nagambie, there wasn’t any group to join!” Robyn continues. “The nearest one I could find was up at Wangaratta or Yarrawonga, at least a two hour drive away. So I typed up an ad and put it up on the newsagent’s noticeboard  and asked if people wanted to come along and play together. The first person to respond was eighty-five year old Alan Plant, then Wendy Mason and Chris Ellis Baker. They were all quietly playing/learning the ukulele by themselves at home. That was our humble beginnings and now, years later, we’re probably around ten to thirteen people who meet each week. We used to meet for only an hour but quickly realised we needed more time to really jam together. Now we go for three hours with a half hour break to yarn and yak, at morning tea time.” 

What started out as just a ukulele group now consists of a mixture of instruments. “There are a couple of guitars, a Mandolin and one member occasionally plays the keyboard. It’s really more of a music group now, we’re just not changing the name!” Robyn says with a chuckle. “We do welcome any newbies and have several loan instruments to start you off with.  An experienced player can assist you to learn the basic chords and decide which size ukulele best suits your needs. You don’t need to learn to read music, just learn the different chords.” 

So what type of music does the ukulele group like to play? It’s a real mixture of old goodies like the Beatles, the Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, the Monkeys, Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Roy Orbison, John Farnham and the Beach Boys. “We have our own songbook now, but lately we’ve been pushing ourselves to learn new songs and strumming techniques.” Attending the Frances Folk Gathering in South Australia, Robyn learned how to play a medley of songs. “Our group is now plodding along learning this new concept! Bev Kilpatrick, our Seymour player, has also introduced the twelve bar blues. It’s fun, because we can play along without singing, or add a popular tune and it works!  I think we needed to move out of our comfort zone and try new things. It’s all fun and although we have mild altercations we have also lots of laughs together!” 

When I ask Robyn what some of the highlights with the group have been, she thinks about it for a few seconds before she answers, “Probably when we’ve played at the monthly market and at the fundraisers for Breast Cancer Research and the Royal Children’s Hospital.” (Both at the Top Pub.) “We’ve also played at the Nagambie Health Care Hostel several times and at the Murchison Hostel recently. It’s amazing to see the residents suffering from dementia, suddenly clap their hands and even get up and start dancing or singing along. I firmly believe that music and lyrics stay in your heart and mind forever, regardless of your mental state…” 

“Those are probably my favourite memories, but I also enjoy just getting together with other players and making new friends. You can sit at home and be bored and boring or you can volunteer or join a group!” And again, there is that mischievous and yet unmistakably warm chuckle. “All of us come from different backgrounds, circumstances, life experiences and ways of learning,” Robyn finishes up our interview. “Apart from learning to play a musical instrument later in my life, I’ve also learnt that patience and tolerance are important parts of belonging to a group and keeping that group going year after year. But loving what you do in life is probably the main incentive!”