Ukulele group kicking off in Newport

Posted March 21, 2011, at 8:01 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — The Newport Cultural Center wants to start a bit of a ukulele craze, and why not, asks one of Maine’s leading ukulele practitioners.

After all, said Frets Halligan, the “uke,” as he calls it, is cheap, easy to learn and universally fun for whoever takes a minute to try it.

“It’s a very accessible instrument,” said Halligan. “When people try it, they want more. You just teach them a couple of chords and they hop on really quickly. It’s amazing how fast it happens.”

Halligan hosts a uke group in Belfast which meets at 6:30 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays of each month at the Waterfall Arts Building. Saturday’s event in Newport could lead to a similar program if there is enough interest.

Leigh Hallett, director of the Newport Cultural Center, said the idea was brought to her by Jim Miller, a member of the center’s strategic planning committee.

“Before he described it to me, I had this vague notion about Hawaii or something,” said Hallett. “I’ve learned it’s a lot more than just ‘plinka plinka’ Hawaii.”

Hallett is so enthusiastic about the instrument — and more so about what happens when a group plays them together — that she has purchased a couple for use by the public. She said she was sold on the experience after attending one of Halligan’s events in Belfast.

Saturday’s workshop, which will begin at 1 p.m., will center on the viewing of an acclaimed documentary film, “Mighty Uke,” which relates the triumph of a musical underdog, said Hallett.

Halligan, who said he never has met anyone who wasn’t amazed by the film, will follow up with a hands-on workshop by the end of which the participants will be playing well-known songs. People of all skill levels are welcome to participate and there will be a few extra ukuleles on hand.

“It’s something that’s good for kids and good for adults, too,” said Hallett.

To sign up for the workshop, call 368-5074 to reserve a seat. The event, which is scheduled to end at 4:30 p.m., is free of charge, though donations to support programming will be accepted.

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