“We don’t play unless you sing”, is how John Baguley typically introduces The Ukulele Orchestra of Spalding.
Then they’re off, with a, “Yellow number two from the song book to start with...” and yet another charity group, women’s club or home for senior citizens is entertained by this group of enthusiastic amateur musicians.
“We do about 40 gigs a year and we’re already booked up for this year completely and we have 15 bookings for 2014,” said chairman – and front man at bookings – John Baguley.
There are currently about 32 band members – it’s a fluid membership, with people joining and leaving all the time – and the age range is from 13 to someone in their 70s.
John says: “The youngest four members have a total age of less than 60 and the oldest four, their total age is over 300.”
Musical director is Zeph Churchill, described by John as “phenomenally talented”. Like some other band members, she plays other instruments, trumpet in her case, and she will perform a solo at concerts.
John explains the group was formed in 2008 when Will Dunlop appealed in these newspapers for people who wanted to learn how to play the ukulele to join him.
“I had bought one and never had it out of the box,” admits John. He was one of 18 people who went along, none of whom could play.
At the end of the second week Will gave them the good news that he had booked their first gig!
“Four weeks later we went to Long Sutton Parish Church harvest supper and we had tried to learn six songs and we must have been awful,” recalls John. “Will said, if you can’t play a chord, miss it out.”
The band was given their supper and then asked if they wanted to play some more: and had to repeat the same six songs.
They haven’t look back though, because they have never had to advertise and yet John’s wife Jo, who is bookings secretary, has to turn people away.
Their secret perhaps lies in their versatility: the band has a repertoire of over 150 songs ranging from Oh! Susanna, which was written in about 1850, to the latest Adele number.
They will adapt the play list to the audience, playing for anything from WI groups and in last year’s flower parade to the Age Concern concert at South Holland Centre, donating any money they are given to charity.
Most moving for John are the concerts for the elderly or those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease where audience members remember every word and join in songs they perhaps first heard in their youth in the 1920s.