Wow, what a crazy summer it has been! First the UK, Oregon and Cairns... I am now currently with Sarah Maisel on a cruise ship where we have been teaching and performing for the past week while visiting different areas of Alaska. It has been a very beautiful experience and while we are docked at Ketchikan today, I finally have some time to write about some of the amazing 'ukulele events of the past month.
Just a few weeks ago, I was still in Cairns, Australia. It has been my fourth trip down there for their festival and I am still delighted to discover new things not only of the area but to learn more about the wonderful attendees (some new and some I've met from my very first festival!). I feel so lucky to have been able to keep in touch and many of my friends in Cairns.
What amazes me about this festival is that it is always growing. One of the most heard things is that it is near impossible to see and do everything related to the festival. There are local and international artist showcases, art exhibits, raffles, at least one big concert every day, island tours, hiking, access to beautiful beaches, 'ukulele movie and documentary viewings, jams, open mics, community and school group showcases at the park (along with the gigantic strum along world record attempt!), build your own KoAloha 'Ukulele workshops and a great schedule of workshops conducted by the artists. I'm sure I am missing a few things in there but that is really just a taste of what's offered. Absolutely amazing.
The other big thing about this festival that always impresses me is the roster of artists. The festival is known for their incredible line ups and this year included some great artists that I was familiar with and some that I met for the very first time. From the USA we had Daniel Ho, Abe Lagrimas Jr, Ukulele Bart and myself. From Japan we had Ryo Natoyama, Tomoki Sato and Yuki and Gogo. We also had a great amount of Aussie artists such as Ryo Montgomery, Tiffany Ann Smith (along with the Montgomery Brothers!), Thom & Mike Jackson, Jane Cameron, Cameron Murray and more! It was such a diverse group that really showed how different the 'ukulele can be played. I was blown away by everyone and had a ton of fun during my concert by brining up many of my new friends and joined by old ones. I should have some videos up once I get back home. If you see Abe, make sure to mention "drop bears" to him :)
Every year for the past four years, I've wondered how this festival could top the last... and every year it does. Not only do I get to see familiar faces but there is always a huge group of new 'ukulele players and festival attendees that come every year hearing about the scope of this festival. Myself and other 'ukulele lovers will be keeping an eye on this festival throughout the year! Can't wait for the next one!!! Special thank you to Gaby for her consistant work on creating a grand experience year after year.
For now you can check out photos I took from the [Cairns 'Ukulele Festival here]
A week before heading down to Cairns, Sarah and I were at the 'Ukulele Festival of Great Britain! This was Sarah's second trip back and my first time ever in the UK. I had such a fun time! This was actually the first time meeting Ryo Natoyama and Tomoki Sato as well (which made the following Cairns trip together that much more exciting!) and we knew in an instant that we were all going to be close buddies. The staff and volunteers are responsible for giving off that incredibly warm vibe that puts you in a great mood just being around them. All of the local and international acts got along well and just wished we had more time to spend with each other!
There was an huge amount of playing to be had as well as a full day of performances in a stunning performance hall (the Cheltenham town hall). We were joined by Taimane Gardner, Jazzy Jazz, Phil Doleman, James Agg (he is an incredible bassist that helped back up nearly everyone!), Ken Middleton, Lionel K Hubert, Lorenzo and many more. I am excited to see this festival grow in the next few years. It has already become such a great destination for great 'ukulele and has helped set the bar, along with the Cairns Ukefest, as to what an interntional 'ukulele festival can be. Special thank you to Ally, Phil, Tony and Jude and the rest of the staff! You are incredible!
More photos of our adventures at the ['Ukulele Festival of Great Britain here]
Between those two grand festivals, I managed to make a few day stop in Oregon for the Britt Festival 'Ukulele Getaway! We had a really fun retreat learning a ton of 'ukulele techniques and performing. I was joined by Aaron and Nicole Keim, Guido Heistek, Tish McFadden, Mandalyn May and Bryan Holley. I loved that there were a lot of children at this event who were absolutely amazing. The next generation of 'ukulele players are already among us and it makes me so happy to see them engulfed by the joy of this instrument...
This has been one of my busiest years yet and I feel so incredibly lucky to help share this tiny little instrument with people all around the world. Thank you all for your support and love! There will be some very fun announcements coming soon :)
Love and aloha,