Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Teaching an old dog: B flat on the ukulele

2:41 into this YouTube tutorial, "... Angle that neck, a hard 45 (degrees). Whose the ukulele police to tell you otherwise, right?!"
"Do you play ukulele a lot?" my friend asked me this past Solstice Sunday.
"No...not as much as I'd like to." It was true, distracted or resistant to playing the mahogany beauty she has been safely resting. But, tucked into her case for months. Now that she and I have resumed our love affair, and more reasons for playing chalangalang keep presenting themselves, I challenged myself to play the dreaded B flat chord.

The B flat chord is difficult, for many. It's difficult for me even though my son tried to show me an adapted version that works for him. This morning I found the tutorial above. I'm watching it, and practicing his approach. I especially like the commentary about the 'ukulele police' (too many of them stifled my early attempts). The joyful sounds of ukulele and voice are moving me like fresh water streaming into an ocean of (ancient) salt water. Unzipping the black case, stepping up again, I play and sing for the love of it, and send music across the ocean to an old friend.

Alice Moon, our old friend was Taurus(not Aries, as I was mistaken) She moved energy! I remember sitting in her Waianuenue Street office one day as voices rose next door. She rented space to singer and harpist, and teacher Oona McOuat, and this was a day for voice lessons. Sharing space and talent was something Alice thrived on. She was a Hilo-girl, and sank her roots deeply into this community from her Keaukaha family home and moved energy with the force of the Ram(perhaps she had Aries somewhere in her star chart). We got word of the cancer that would take Alice from Hilo. Our niece Rosie emailed us to tell us.

"She's not too good talking," Rosie wrote, "but here's her address if you'd like to send her a letter."

"I'll write it, and get it in the mail today," I replied. I did write, and mail it.

My chalangalang style with the ukulele has been one where I play without the high chord sound of the B flat. F, C, C7 ... three string chords easily accompany my lower range of voice, at this age. I give it all I've got and that has been enough to just keep playing.
This morning as I sat on the futon singing for Alice, I wanted a little change, a bit more lift, a higher note: the B flat!

Listening and watching the ukulele player in the YouTube I felt a kinship to this man whose obviously run the rapids on more than one occasion. He encouraged me -- fueled me with courage -- to play the ukulele by showing me how to adjust the angle of the neck, the position of the palm, and the knuckles. I heard some tips I'd never known were applicable. From a man who has flexibility issues I could hear the advice. "I'm not an ukulele teacher,..The instrument ought to become one with the body," he says.

This really got me good, "become one with the body." As I played ukulele having fun with friends this weekend the ukulele slipped into my lap from time to time. I had to use my legs to push it into place to keep the strum going. My whole body was playing music!

Old anchors, safety pins tried-and-true are being pulled up as they lele and ho'oholo (fly off, and run) the narrow trails of life's continuation. The precession. Connecting with loved ones through music is giving me comfort. The old dog who believed she no-can, is giving it one more chance to do it a different way.

You know what I mean?

Tuesday morning Rosie emailed, " I don't know if you mailed the letter, but I want to tell you Alice passed Monday." 

I emailed back, "I did mail the letter, and it should arrive Tuesday." I attached a broken heart to the reply, sorry to be late.

Early this morning I got a fresh email from Rosie, "The letter arrived on Monday. Her sister Sarah read it to Alice before she passed. Miracle mail."

Alice, this practice with the B flat? It's for you dear friend, you always found another way! 'E lele 'oe.
Our fondest and deep aloha to the Moon Women in Keaukaha ... Jan, Sarah, Ruth,
Mokihana and Pete 

Oona McOuat has written a lovely tribute to Alice Moon on her blog here. Once again, Alice, you have moved energy from where you are!

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