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Strathmore Ukulele Fest 2011

Last Wednesday, August 24, I had the great pleasure of attending the third annual Strathmore Ukulele Fest.  It's held at the Strathmore Performing Arts Center in North Bethesda, Maryland.  I've been to all three, and I've performed (if you can call it that) at the last two as part of the Washington Ukulele Orchestra .

This was a great event, it keeps getting bigger and better each year.

On the left you see my buddies Gordon Velasco (L) and Moses Kamai leading the audience in a group jam.  This is great fun, and gets everyone playing along and hopefully encourages new players to join in.

There were also some great sets from The Riders, a group of seniors who knock 'em dead on swing standards, as well as the up-and-coming Piney Branch Kids Ensemble.

One of the regulars is the fabulous Victoria Vox, who was accompanied by the terrific cellist Katie Chambers.  Victoria is a fantastic songwriter and internationally known artist.  I encourage you to check out her music!

This shot give you an idea of the size of the event.  I'd guess there were about 1500 in attendance.

This is a shot of the crowd during The Sweater Set's set.  The Sweater Set is former Strathmore Arts-in-Residence Maureen Andary & Sara Curtin. They feature great ukulele (and guitar...) playing and absolutely wonderful harmonies.

Another shot from backstage at the gazebo during Maureen and Sara's show.  Strathmore is a wonderful venue and it's absolutely perfect for a festival.

The festival is so down-to-earth and laid back that it's hard to say there is a "headliner," but this year we were fortunate to hear the incomparable Gerald Ross.  Gerald is a multi-instrumentalist: ukulele, guitar, lap steel, bass, percussion, and more.  Here he is playing a swing tune.  The guy is absolutely amazing.  He quickly dispels any notion that the ukulele is a 'toy' instrument.  

I was fortunate to take one of his swing uku seminars several months ago and I was astounded at his musicianship.  But he's very generous with his time and is super down-to-earth.  

Talk about incomparable.  Here are the real stars of the show, the tireless, wonderful, fantastic Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.  There is no string instrument they can't play at a virtuoso level.  And they are just great people.  I don't know where they get the energy to continually promote events such as this, but I (and thousands of others) am very, very grateful.

And here we have one of the highlights of the night.  Cathy, Marcy, the Aloha Boys, and members of the Washington Ukulele Orchestra lead 944 ukulele players in a Guinness World Record attempt for a ukulele ensemble.  

We played the wonderful Hawai'an standard "Aloha 'Oe" and Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."  Now, at the time, I though we had broken the previous record of 851, but as it transpires, a group  gathered in Helsingborg, Sweden had set the new record on August 20, at 1,547!  How fantastic is that?  It's all about the ukulele!  Absolutely amazing.

And now I see that the great Jake Shimabukuro is organizing to set the record even higher!  I think we are safely on the way to the Uke Changing the World.

Maybe I can make it to Oahu in October!


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