If, when you hear the word “ukulele” you think Don Ho or something like that, you’re in for a surprise when the Langley Ukulele Ensemble comes to the Duncan Showroom on Sunday, Dec. 22.
The Ensemble’s Senior B group is made up of kids from Langley aged 10-14.
They not only play ukuleles but they also sing in delightful harmony.
“These kids have earned a coveted spot in this honour group and meet for four hours a week of rehearsal as well as practising at home on their own,” says Longevity John Falkner of the Showroom.
The Ensemble has been active for decades in Langley, with roots originating from a popular school district program in the 1970s. Teachers taught ukulele in nearly every elementary school in that district and to motivate students towards better performance, honour groups were founded. Although budget cuts affected school music everywhere, the ukulele program managed to persist in Langley and continues to be offered to hundreds of students.
According to the Ensemble’s website, in 1980, Peter Luongo joined the group as an assistant director and assumed the lead role shortly thereafter. He has been the group’s director for all, or part of every year since.
The Langley Ukulele Ensemble’s composition changed quite dramatically over the next 33 years. In the early 1980s it was a group of about 15 children aged 12-15 years. During the mid 1990s it grew to 30 members with members ranging in age between 13 and 25 years. Between 2000 and the present the group limited its membership to between 20 and 25 members.
“The ensemble’s evolution has seen constant improvement in the members’ level of accomplishment with the ukulele as well as with their vocal skills.
Current musical director Elizabeth Zielke has been a featured soloist nationally and the Senior Ensemble director, Paul Luongo has been a featured performer in Japan, Hawaii, and throughout the U.S. and Canada.”
The group’s most famous ukulele alumnus is James Hill. He spent more than 10 years as a member of the ensemble and is now considered among the finest ukulele performers in the world, traveling widely and with several recordings to his credit. Find more at http://jameshillmusic.com/.
Because every group has to start somewhere the Ensemble began with local performances for seniors, school groups, and clubs, later expanding to include music educators’ conferences and concerts in communities throughout Western Canada. The group’s first big break came in 1984/85 when the musicians headed off to Hawaii. Media recognition included repeat performances with popular radio host Rafe Mair.
The association has four levels starting with the youngest, who start at age eight and going all the way up to 19-year-old performers. The eldest Ensemble, the Senior A group is renowned and travels each year to Hawaii to play as well as many other places such as the Halifax Tattoo and Stratford Music Festival in Ontario.
The group will be playing a 30-45 minute set at the Duncan Showroom. Look for some audience participation as well as a variety of types of songs.
Entry is $15 at the door.