By Kevin Coughlin
Dozens of aspiring players left the Ukrainian American Cultural Center in Whippany convinced of that, after Hill and fellow performers Jim Boggia, Manitoba Hal, the Kansas City duo Victor & Penny and Brooklyn band Cousin Earth cast their spells.
But the really cool part about these magicians was they shared some of their tricks, in workshops geared toward players of all abilities.
“Don’t be afraid, just play a note, if it sounds bad, play the next one,” advised Joey Calfa, whose pyrotechnics on lead uke for Cousin Earth had jaws dropping.
“The best guy can make one note sound better than somebody who can play a million notes. If you’re feeling it and it’s inside of you, one note is all you need. And I guarantee you’ll find a bunch of notes that work,” Calfa said during one of the workshops.
Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin, Fran Wood and Marie Pfeifer
Many Festival-goers were inspired to show up Sunday morning on the Morristown Green for a giant jam session.
“It just makes you smile,” explained Linda Krause, a retired illustrator who traveled to the Festival from Scranton, PA.
She took years of classical piano lessons, but the vintage Martin ukulele that her dad gave her made the most lasting impression.
“It’s the happiest instrument in the world. It’s a change from playing a Beethoven sonata…It makes the blues happy!” Krause said.
Karen Siebart , a software engineer from Cedar Knolls, got hooked the same way Calfa did: By seeing a YouTube video of Jake Shimabukuro re-imagining the Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps on ukulele.
“It was a long process, but I can actually play it now,” Siebart said of the song. Still, some of her friends don’t quite get her hobby.
“If they remember Tiny Tim, it’s like, ‘Oh, my God…'”
Started four years ago by Scott “Scooter” Ferguson of the Folk Project, the Festival has grown into one of the area’s feel-good events on the summer calendar. Landing Canadian singer-songwriter James Hill, one of the world’s most acclaimed ukulele players, was a coup.
“It went well. There was lots of excitement. The performers all had fun. I had fun. My volunteers had fun,” said Pam Robinson, who ran this year’s festival.
Juggling many moving parts required some magic on the organizational side. Robinson feels she’s learned some tricks to keep the momentum going.
“We think there will be a year five,” she said.
That would please Ron Schneider, a salesman from New Providence who came away from the festival determined to pick up a uke over the next year. The magicians made it look easy.
“If I can’t play the ukulele,” he said, “I can’t play anything.”
Stay tuned for video highlights.