Those who live by the old adage ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ have clearly never met the Seasons Waterford West ukulele group.
With an average age of 85 and limited musical experience, the keen group of budding musicians have taken up their new skill with enthusiasm.
Taking control of the sometimes rowdy bunch is resident Maureen Taylor, who taught piano to school aged children for over 30 years.
“Our previous lifestyle coordinator Janine brought the ukuleles in and she took us over to the local library and the guy there taught us how to play. We all came back in the bus and we had a ukulele,” says Maureen.
“No one knew what to do really. Someone came and gave us a few lessons and then everyone was playing different things, different tunes at the same time. We couldn’t play the chords as our hands have got arthritis in them, making it hard to put three fingers down on three different strings at the one time. So I had to devise ways of playing just the most important note out of that chord to play with one finger.”
Hearing them play today it’s hard to believe that those fumbling, humble beginning were only two months ago. The group has now formed a regular twice weekly practice schedule and are seeing the results of their effort – even if it’s just the fun factor, according to group member Gwen Hooper.
“I wasn’t keen at first. I said, ‘No, I don’t think so – my hands, I’m not musical – no!’ to Janine. And she said ‘You’ve got to. I’ve ordered the ukeleles and I’ve paid for them. You’ve got it.’ So I’ve got it. I’ve been playing just a couple of months. Very badly!” says Gwen.
“I keep whinging about it, but I like getting together and having fun, and I make them laugh because I keep saying ‘I’m selling it. I’m selling it! But nobody will buy it!’ We all have fun and laugh.”
The group’s most senior member Bert Higgins, 89, joined the group with his wife Gloria and is enjoying taking up a new instrument on the cusp of his 90th birthday.
“I like getting together with the group. I like practising with Gloria, and we get together and do a bit of strumming, and try to improve our technique, so to speak. Generally, I just enjoy it, I just like music. I can play the mouthorgan, and in my very early years I was a member of what they call the Hawaiian Club, we used to play the Hawaiian steel guitars,” says Bert.
“The group had just started when I came onboard at Seasons, so I helped them printing out the music if they need it and trying to find music so that they’ve got the background music to have the beat to play along to,” says Charmaine.
“It’s good fun, they’re loving it and they’re doing really well, improving every week. They practise twice a week, so we do up a schedule and everyone gets the timetable for the month.”
Now that the group are in the swing of things, thoughts turn to performing in front of their fellow residents.
The group made their debut last month at the community’s monthly Tune Time in the dining room and are enjoying their new found community fame. They even featured in The Courier Mail last month, so the buzz is definitely growing.
“We’re working towards a Christmas concert, but we’re also doing Tune Time once a month, so they’re practising for next month,” says Charmaine.
“We’ve got a staff member that sings along, and everyone gets a songbook and they sing. Then we have some people who come up and play the instruments. So the ukulele group comes and performs as well.
“They have a great time – there are many laughs throughout the practice sessions.”