7 Guitars, 3 Ukuleles, 1 Melodica and 1 Baby Grand = a Neighborhood Band

By Katryna….ukulele, guitar, Singalong, potluckBeing a professional musician can get in the way of a neighborhood singalong. I grew up with singalongs galore.  My parents would arrive with their guitar where others would arrive with a bottle of wine.  They weren’t pros, but they knew enough chords and words to fake their way through an evening of songs. My favorite memories of childhood are about those nights when we would stay way past our bedtimes singing cowboy songs and Irish drinking songs and lefty American political songs.  I took up the guitar in high school so that I could replicate those nights someday in the future.  Then I married a man known to all our friends as “Guitar Dave” and embarked upon a career as a folk musician.  Who knew that somehow those choices would stand in the way of my having fabulous singalongs in my living room.  But it did.  I think I was scared that my folky musical selections would seem tedious and nerdy to my neighbors and I think my neighbors were scared that only professionals were allowed to play guitar in our home.  I think it took me about 7 years before I just added to potluck invitations- “bring your instruments.”

This past weekend, I invited our neighbors over for a midwinter potluck and I got the nerve up to say “and bring your instruments along with your casserole/guacamole/chili.”

After a few hours of eating and drinking and laughing and talking and watching the children race round the house, I remembered about the instruments.  There were a few ringers in the crowd- my neighbor who took up the ukulele as an adult can always be counted on to enthusiastically join in, friends who play in a reggae band with my husband are game for just about anything, and another neighbor who was raised on art museums and Pete Seeger will sing any old lefty folk song with great nostalgia and reverence.  So, I had allys.  We started with Dylan.  Then Ingrid Michaelson.  Then U2.  Then one Dad started playing Walking on Sunshine.  We grown ups could not remember the words, but the kids came down and knew every lyric from singing it in chorus at school. I asked my daughter to play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” on the piano and soon she and her friend were providing the musical accompaniment for a roomful of grown ups, all singing at the top of their lungs.  Joy.  I have never been so proud.  So happy.  So fulfilled.  Then the girls led us in “Rolling in the Deep” and one of the adults sang the counterpoint harmony while the rest of us sang the melody.  All the while, the girls played the piano.  This is why I drive an hour every week to our amazing piano teacher.  Because this is how music is supposed to be.  It’s supposed to create community.  And it did.

The music went into the wee hours.  There was an amazing rendition of “All Along the Watchtower” and lyrical butcheries of American Pie.  Everyone was watching the fingers of the one person who had the iPad and therefore the chords.  Everyone was relying on their tired memories for the lyrics to Angel from Montgomery and Wagon Wheel.

When I finally fell into bed after midnight, I thought, “just what I always wanted.”  And the best part is, I know that now we’ll do it again and again.

About nields

musician, writer, mom
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5 Responses to 7 Guitars, 3 Ukuleles, 1 Melodica and 1 Baby Grand = a Neighborhood Band

  1. Nerissa says:

    Katryna, this is beautiful. I love the photographs and the way the guitars fill the room. And I love that the new singalong features an ipad.

  2. Ben says:

    Awesome post! I coughed out some Walking on Sunshine and was astonished to see the kids knew the words. I didn’t know that was a classic!

  3. Janet McLaurin says:

    very sweet. My youngest just got up this am to play his ukulele after his 1st lesson with B yesterday. a nice instrument he can play and sing with at the same time. music is so much better with kids when its fun and not about “practicing”

  4. Katryna Nields says:

    @Janet, I was so thrilled to hear that two more kids joined the Ukulele Chorus! It is such an accessible instrument. I hope your guy continues to love it.

  5. Pingback: Uke Mafia » “Because this is how music is supposed to be.”

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