Thursday, 15 May 2014

Can Playing Ukulele Add Years To Your Life?

"This is an encouragement to old men who think they are too old to learn something new!"
~from the intro screen to John Simmance's first banjolele video


A couple of news items caught my eye last week. The first was a profile of a 97-year-old luthier who attributes his longevity to his many hobbies which, beside making ukuleles, include collecting antique radios, oil painting, and gardening.

The second story reports the finding that learning a new skill can help improve memory function. The study specifically looked at digital photography and quilting, but presumably learning an instrument would be a comparable activity.

Both stories reminded me of John Simmance's YouTube channel. Mr. Simmance took up the ukulele later in life and has recorded the development of his musical hobby in a series of videos. Take a look at his Formby strums after only 9 weeks of playing:


His videos chart each of his instruments: the first banjolele, a second baritone banjolele, and concert and baritone ukuleles, all of which he demonstrates with English folk songs.

Perhaps more tellingly, the videos also show travel, flying, a new dog, and a well-organized workshop where he machines parts to make homemade steam engines.

It's never too late to start playing the ukulele—or doing anything else that interests you. And if doing so adds to your lifespan and keeps you sharp--well, that's just a bonus, isn't it?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

May Day is Lei Day: How to Braid a Ribbon Lei

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. There's even a song telling us so. A few meetings ago, Carey—just back from Hawaii—showed us a bit of hula and a method of making ribbon leis.

You start with two complementary colors of ribbon (we used 1/2" grosgrain ribbon provided by Carey, and it worked very well). For the purpose of this tutorial, we'll keep the lighter color on the left and the darker color on the right.

Make a simple loop at the ends to start.

Slip the dark loop through the light loop & pull it through about 1/2".

Next, form another loop with the light-colored ribbon and slip it through the dark loop.

Continue in this manner, looping dark through light and vice-versa. You may need to occasionally snug up the lei by tugging gently at the ends of the ribbons.

In about 15 minutes, you'll have a length of braid.

You can either tie the ends together, or try to match the braid as I did (before ultimately just stitching the whole thing closed).

Add an embellishment if you like, and it's ready to wear.