United by the ukulele

Bob Willis, Roger Pape, Doug Fudge, Joan Barlow, Phill Hipwell and Heather Higgs (not pictured). 196711 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Jed Lanyon

A Healesville U3A class dedicated to playing string instruments has seen the formation of a local ukulele band.

Class teacher Doug Fudge is joined by Bob Willis, Roger Pape, Joan Barlow, Phill Hipwell and Heather Higgs in the Healesville Ukulele Orchestra.

The band enjoys playing at events around the Yarra Ranges and provides regular entertainment to local aged care facilities.

“I think what we really enjoy most is being together as a band. It’s got that feeling of congeniality which we really appreciate,” Mr Fudge said.

“We hope that we’re bringing a bit of brightness into people’s lives.

“It’s a great feeling when you’re playing away and you start to see people’s feet start to tap.”

The band rehearses every second week and is currently planning what they have been calling ‘the start of their world tour’, as they jet off to Norfolk Island in September to visit the Spring Ukulele Festival.

“We’ll be strumming these little monsters every day for a week,” Mr Fudge said.

Band member Joan Barlow said she is looking forward to learning new techniques at the festival, while Bob Willis is keen to hear more of a Hawaiian kind of sound played on the instrument.

“If you went into a music shop quite a few years ago, you might not have even seen a ukulele, if you go in these days there are walls full of them,” Mr Fudge said.

“It’s become the instrument of immediate choice for a lot of people because it’s light, easy to carry around and relatively simple and cheap… Until you get an obsession like Bob.”

The group meets at Badger Creek Hall every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 7pm for their Strings N’ Things class.

They welcome anyone with an interest in string instruments to come along.

U3A or University of the Third Age is a volunteer community of people who share many educational, creative and leisure activities.

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