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Strummers to wrap up summer with ukulele festival at Proctors

Thursday, September 20, 2012
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"Jumpin' Jim Beloff - one of the top ukulele boosters in the country - will be among the performers at Saturday's first Electric City UkeFest at Proctors in Schenectady. (photo courtesy Eighth Step at Proctors)
"Jumpin' Jim Beloff - one of the top ukulele boosters in the country - will be among the performers at Saturday's first Electric City UkeFest at Proctors in Schenectady. (photo courtesy Eighth Step at Proctors)

Ukulele players will bring their ukes to Proctors in Schenectady on Saturday, and Ron Gordon expects the joint will be jumping.

The Eighth Step at Proctors will present the Electric City UkeFest from 1 until 10 p.m., and fans of the small but powerful music maker will get the chance to play in workshops and shop around for all things ukulele.

A 7:30 p.m. concert — “Fleabag” — will conclude the day. The word is especially significant to ukulele fans, as it refers to the instrument’s Hawaiian name. “Uku” is “flea” and “Lele” is “jump” in the island language, and the combination makes sense when folks consider the rapid finger movements used to play the ukulele.

“This is the first ukulele festival, I think, in upstate New York,” said Gordon, who lives in Schenectady, founded the Electric City Uke club and conducts regular ukulele workshops at the city’s Moon & River Cafe.

Electric City UkeFest

WHERE: Eighth Step at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

WHEN: 1-10 p.m. Saturday .

HOW MUCH: $15 for 7:30 concert; $25 for daylong festival

MORE INFO: 8thstep.org

Greater popularity

“Ukulele has been on the upswing and it’s getting greater and greater popularity among players, high-school and college students and guitar players. It’s a very accessible instrument.”

Performer-teachers at the festival will include Joel “Ukulele Eck” Eckhaus, “Jumpin’ Jim” and Liz Beloff and husband-and-wife team “Banjo Bill” Dillof and Paula Bradley. An open mic session and children’s workshop are also on the schedule.

Gordon will perform during “Fleabag,” appearing with Dillof and Bradley as the “Hokum Hawaiians.” The Vovodeeyos — Eckhaus and Tim Findlen — and the Beloff duo, Ukelele Mike and Terri Roben, will also be on the Eighth Step stage “Underground at Proctors.”

Gordon attributes some of the ukulele’s popularity spike to Beloff, who has promoted the jumping music through his website, www.fleamarket.music.com.

Helpful book

Beloff’s coffee table-style book, “The Ukulele: A Visual History,” has also helped. “If you read that book and you like music and playing guitar, anything along those lines and you like jazz or Hawaiian or hula music, you’re going to fall in love with the ukulele just reading this book,” Gordon said.

Gordon hopes people fall in love with the music during the UkeFest workshops.

“People could learn different aspects of the ukulele from beginners through intermediate and some fairly advanced techniques,” Gordon said. “So it’s a learning-teaching afternoon.”

 
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