Ukulele fans willing to be strung along

Paul Laverick, among a wall full of ukuleles at Larsen Music on Cook Street, will be teaching a ukulele beginners class during Ukulele Week which runs April 18-28.  - Don Denton/News staff
Paul Laverick, among a wall full of ukuleles at Larsen Music on Cook Street, will be teaching a ukulele beginners class during Ukulele Week which runs April 18-28.
— image credit: Don Denton/News staff

With its mild climate, lush parks, the Pacific Ocean hugging its shorelines and even the occasional palm tree, Victoria is Canada’s closest comparison to a tropical paradise.

Perhaps that’s why a familiar Hawaiian instrument, the ukulele, has seen a resurgence in popularity as of late.

“There’s been a growing ukulele community in Victoria,” said Paul Laverick, a manager at Larsen Music and organizer of the fourth annual Victoria Ukulele Week.

“There’s a lot of young people playing it now. I think it’s the social aspect of playing and singing together.”

Running April 18 to 28, Ukulele Week has been so successful partly because the ukulele is so easy to learn and play, Laverick said.

Hawaiians created the ukulele in the 19th century, modelled on the Portuguese cavaquino, a small four-string guitar.

The instrument generally appeals to people who like to “make their own entertainment,” Laverick said.

“It is sort of a goofy instrument, and the people who play are usually up for a bit of silliness.”

Self-proclaimed “uke guru” Laverick has been teaching ukulele classes at Larsen Music since 2008, and he has several workshops planned in Esquimalt and Victoria throughout the week.

There are also several concerts taking place at venues like Black Hat Bistro and Hermann’s Jazz Club, while professional ukulele performer Ralph Shaw will strut his skills at Norway House, 1110 Hillside Ave., on April 26.

Shaw will also be running his own workshop on April 27, which concert goers can attend for free.

A decent ukulele costs about $40, but the top-of-the-line instruments can cost $1,800, Laverick said.

“It’s a nice thing to carry around with you,” he said. “I got stopped the other day on the way to work, someone saw my ukulele and asked me to play Happy Birthday for their friend. … I definitely know people who have ukuleles stashed in every nook and cranny, so there’s always one to have around.”

The week culminates in the annual Uke Mass Love-In finale concert, where last year about 250 people filled Market Square with the sweet sounds of the ukuleles in unison.

The free event takes place April 28 between 1 and 3 p.m. at 560 Johnson St., and Laverick hopes to break last year’s attendance record.

“We’re also doing a beginner workshop where you can show up at the music store with nothing and we can provide you with an instrument there to have a feel and try a few chords,” he said. “Otherwise, I would suggest keeping one on your person at all times during the week.”

For a full listing of events, visit larsenmusic.ca or call 250-389-1988.


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