Sign in front of the Kamloops Ukulele Festival. (Tom Roper photo)

Sign in front of the Kamloops Ukulele Festival. (Tom Roper photo)

Apparently, 160 ukulele players are better than one

Tom overcomes his reluctance to take part in ukulele festival

Do you remember back a few years, actually back many years when Tiny Tim broke into the music scene playing his ukulele on the Ed Sullivan show.

Well of course not, most of you weren’t born as yet, but it is funny cause when you mention you are going to a Uku (pronounced ookoo) Festival, inevitably someone will say oh, like Tiny Tim right, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”

Well not trying to take anything away from Tim, things have come a long ways in the ukulele world over the last five decades.

I was introduced to the ukulele about three years ago by my barber, Allan, of the once-famous Winnipeg Street Barbershop. Allan is an accomplished guitar player and singer. He became intrigued with this smaller version of the guitar.

Since his retirement, Allan has become a talented ukulele master. He has completed his James Hill certification and has organized several weekly drop-ins and classes over the last couple of winters. Naturally, with COVID issues, everything slowed right down to home practice.

One of Allan’s go to get-togethers was the Kamloops Ukulele Festival held in Sorrento on the shore of Shuswap Lake near Salmon Arm.

“You should come down, Tom, they are registering again for this summer, Allan said.

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “My skill level is still in the low novice area and I’m not sure I want to embarrass myself too much.”

“It’s all about learning and the workshops fit all abilities,” continued Allan.

And, so there you have it, I will give it a go.

I gave myself two days to get down into that country and thought I would slip into Horsefly just to check it out and then turn left to Lone Butte and Barriere for the fun of it. We are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful province.

Anyway, I drove into the site, collected my registration and parked my camper. I was a bit tentative as I approached a small group of jammers but that feeling quickly passed. There is something about ukulele players, they seem to all be smiling, happy, wanting to share their talents and pull you into their circle.

We all gathered at the main stage for our welcoming and after a hearty dinner there was no time to waste, our first workshop began. From that moment forward and for the next three days I felt so comfortable.

These people came for the fun and when I finally caught up with Allan from Smithers, now his new moniker, we laughed over my original tentative concerns.

Each workshop featured world-class instructors that introduced various styles, valuable tips and information on improving your techniques. Check these people out on Google.

Daniel Ho, has two hands full of Emmys.

Victoria Vox is an amazing performer who has also mastered the mouth trumpet. She even had an invite from Jay Leno.

Dani Joy and partner Perry are very talented performers out of Portland and even homegrown Tina from Kamloops was fantastic. Her laugh was infectious.

Last but not least, Jim D’ville, with his three chords and the true conviction to play by ear.

Can you imagine 160 uku players vying for open mike Friday afternoon and then the new performance “Band Smash” where eight or 10 players are randomly selected to form a band and play a tune with maybe an hour practice?

The weekend climax Saturday night with the instructors’ performance was a bit overwhelming. They were amazing.

So, that was it, closing ceremonies Sunday and back on the road returning along Adams Lake to Barriere up to Clearwater, Valemount with $2.40 diesel and then left to McBride, P.G. and home.

That was fun with a memory, hope the pics turn out.