Meets Wednesday mornings
Leader: Robyn Northey
Robyn is an Australian through and through, but with her personality, it’s easy to mistake her for someone from Sweden. She possesses the same lovable and straightforward characteristics that are often associated with many Scandinavians- no fuss and always ready to get the job done.
“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 tutor at the workshop advised the attendees to practice playing music every day, even if it was only for ten minutes, and to join a group. Robyn explains that when she returned home to Nagambie, she was unable to find any group to join. The nearest groups were located at Wangaratta or Yarrawonga, which were at least a two-hour drive away. As a result, she decided to create an ad and display it on the newsagent’s noticeboard, inviting interested people to come 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.”
Originally formed as a ukulele group, the band now incorporates a variety of instruments. “We have a few guitars, a mandolin, and sometimes someone plays the keyboard,” shares Robyn with a chuckle. “Although we’ve evolved into more of a music group, we decided to keep the name as is.
We welcome newcomers and have several loaner instruments available to get you started. An experienced player can help you learn the basics and suggest the best ukulele size for you. You don’t need to know how 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 also have lots of laughs together!”