Ukulele, anyone? NJ Uke Fest off to rousing start

Lena Sherman, 7, of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., was looking forward to hula dancing lessons at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Lena Sherman, 7, of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., was looking forward to hula dancing lessons at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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One played a “harp-uke.” The other played 88 m.p.h.

Gracie Terzian and Abe Lagrimas Jr. both made sure everyone had a good time Friday to start the Folk Project’s fifth annual New Jersey Uke Fest weekend, in Whippany.

Terzian, 27, a silky-voiced singer based in New York, became enamored of the strange-looking harp-ukulele from a YouTube clip. The Washington DC native hunted for such an instrument online, and now “people will just invite you to play places.”

She also plucked a ukulele bass and an electric uke in her set, which mixed original songs with covers of everyone from Gershwin and Jimmie Rodgers to Dylan and Steely Dan. Ian Dansey backed her on (egads!) a guitar but, in the true spirit of uke concerts, they pulled an unsuspecting audience member, Beth Bachmann, from the crowd for a rip-roaring kazoo solo.

Video: Gracie Terzian goes country with her harp-uke:

Lagrimas, who honed his skills at the Berklee College of Music, was able to dig into his jazz-themed set without anxiety because Hurricane Lane bypassed his family back in Hawaii.

His lightning riffs, on original tunes such as 88 M.P.H. and Sunday Dance, were all the more astonishing when he revealed that the ukulele actually is his third-best instrument–after drums and the vibraphone.

Video: Abe Lagrimas Jr. floors it at the NJ Uke Fest:

Things kicked off with a short sing-along by members of the Morristown Uke Jam, led by Mark Dutton.

Stephen and Judi Vause came from Bloomfield to check out the scene. Stephen, who is retired, received a uke as a Christmas gift from his son-in-law, and got hooked.

“It’s kind of easy to play, and I like the way it sounds,” he said.

But does his wife like it?

“After he’s been practicing, yes,” she said, after some deliberation.

Lena Sherman, 7, who accompanied her mom, a vendor of “The Hug Strap,” from Bala Cynwyd, Pa., actually prefers the violin. But she was excited about one weekend lesson: “The hula workshop!”

The festival continues on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, with workshops for players (and hula dancers) of all ages and abilities–registration opens at 8:15 am, sessions start at 9:15 am–capped by a 7:30 pm concert featuring The Aloha Boys with Alan Distajo and Victoria Vox. 

Friday fun: NJ Uke Fest 2018, slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click/hover over images for captions:

Lena Sherman, 7, of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., was looking forward to hula dancing lessons at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Gracie Terzian at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Abe Lagrimas Jr. at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Beth Bachmann solos on kazoo for Gracie Terzian at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Members of the Morristown Uke Jam greet visitors at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Members of the Morristown Uke Jam warm up crowd at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Stephen and Judi Vause of Bloomfield at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Stephen is the uke player in the family. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Pam Robinson, organizer of the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Emcee FiL Wisneski keeps things moving at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Beth Bachmann came out of the audience for an impromptu kazoo solo, at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Gracie Terzian at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Abe Lagrimas Jr. at the 2018 NJ Uke Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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It’s at the Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey, 60C North Jefferson Road. Tickets are $25 for Saturday’s concert, $102 for workshops only, or $117 for the workshops and concert. 

On Sunday at 10:30 am, the fun shifts to the Morristown Green for a free jam session. Come to play, or to listen.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH VICTORIA VOX

MORE COVERAGE OF THE 2018 NJ UKE FEST

 

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