Small is Beautiful

Updated: Jul 13, 2019


Some of Rainbow Strum, my local Ukelele and recorder group.

George Harrison, my favourite Beatle loved the ukulele, and really, what’s not to love? With its dainty size, and cheerful sound, it’s a perfect instrument for children. Legend has it that George carried Ukuleles around in the boot of his car, and gave them to friends or people in need of music. He called on his buddy Tom Petty, with two Ukeleles in hand. Tom said, "I can't play the Ukelele George. I haven't got a clue." "Not a problem. I'll teach you," replied George. They spent an afternoon strumming around the garden. Before he left George showed Tom his boot full of Ukeleles and gave him 4 more. "But you've already given me one." Said Tom. "I Know. But you never know when you'll need them." Replied George.

Yes, its dainty size appeals to children. It's the kind of instrument that you'd bring to a teddy bear's picnic. But its real beauty is that it's easy to play. You can strum a chord on one string-with one finger. You can learn 3 chords in half an hour. When you learn the Ukelele you quickly open the door to thousands of songs. Country music legend Harl Howard once said that to write a great song you only need 3 chords and the truth.

You only need one chord to have a good time. This first chord is a leap of achievement for many children. Like riding a bike without stabilizers. As you strum your first chords, there's a wonderful feeling of freedom and accomplishment. "I can do it." Success and confidence build on each other. They are fertilizer. The confidence gained from learning the first song creates the enthusiasm for the next chord. And so on.

In attics, garages and sheds across the country there are sad, neglected instruments- violins, cellos, trumpets and guitars. They lay covered in dust, un-played and un-loved. If you listen carefully you can hear them whimper: "somebody play me, somebody love me." Why did they gather dust? Because they were too hard. If a challenge is too frustrating, we give up. The power of the tiny Ukelele, is that it gives results quickly. Pretty soon, as you strum simple chords you get that feeling: "I can play music." Even better the exhilaration: "I'm playing music with friends." As you play, especially with others- the world gets bigger, and more beautiful. Music connects: it brings people together. As we join, we forget our private struggles- we become part of something much bigger. We find ourselves, strangely, where we have always been: in the human family.

When George left the Beatles he developed a great love of gardening, For years his children had no idea that he was a music legend. They thought he was a gardener. And yet, this beautiful man carried on sharing music with the world. When he gave people Ukuleles he offered them the gift of music. George wanted people to connect: to joy, to the world, and to each other. In my small way, that's what I try to do through through my choirs, storytelling and music groups.


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