‘We are all musical!’ promised Danny Wootton, ukulele tutor at The Idler Academy in Westbourne Grove, as a stream of apprehensive-looking beginners made their way through the door, clutching ukes with one hand and self-consciousness with the other.
I may have tested Danny’s optimism to the limit during the six week course. Like many people, I gave up on making music as a child, after a few tussles with a squawking recorder. Singing lost its charm after I realised there was such as thing as ‘out of tune’, and I was it. Since then, I’d assumed music was what other people did while I listened. But there was a nagging sense that I was missing out. Singing, dancing, playing music in a band – it all looked like a lot of fun from the outside. How hard could it be? I’d decided to learn the ukulele, on the promise from Idler Academy founder Tom Hodgkinson, that the instrument was ‘very cheap, very portable and very easy to play’.
Hmm. Easy to get started on, maybe. Easy to master, no. The gin and tonic which began every lesson (most civilised) may or may not have helped my concentration. But Danny’s patience with his class of ukulele ladies paid off. Eventually we got the hang of a few chords, the ‘down down up up down up’ strum, and a little light plucking. At the end-of-course party, we showed off our new skills to long-suffering friends and family. Despite the pre-concert nerves, I found myself relaxing and enjoying the performance. A friend’s young daughter, viewing the video, opined that I ‘rocked out’. My suspicion that musicians playing in a band were having a lot of fun was proved right.
After the interval, proper musicians Michael and Jenny let rip, playing a range of period instruments and a wild variety of music from English folk to Status Quo, via Vivaldi. It was amazing to watch as the music simply flowed out of them, transporting us all somewhere else completely. I know I’ll never reach those heights of musicianship. But I have signed up for Ukulele Two, starting in January.