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Funky Frets Uke Festival in Boyertown celebrates ‘unpretentious instrument’

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STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
bbingaman@21st-centurymedia.com
@brianbingaman on Twitter

We’re still riding the third wave of ukulele popularity.

Ben Carr performs during the Saturday concert at the second Funky Frets Uke Festival in Boyertown.

Ben Carr performs during the Saturday concert at the second Funky Frets Uke Festival in Boyertown.

That’s according to guitar and ukulele expert Curt Sheller, who helps run the “mom and pop and pop-pop” Boyertown music store Funky Frets, and organize the Funky Frets Uke Fest.
Well, there is a Wayne-based Philadelphia Main Line ukulele Meetup.com group with almost 400 members.
Interest in the uke, Sheller said, surges with the arrival of a type of mass media. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was radio; after World War II, it was TV (enhanced by the enthusiasm of Pacific Theater veterans that had been exposed to Polynesian culture). Just as 1940s and 1950s radio/TV personality Arthur Godfrey was once champion of the instrument, Jake Shimabukuro is the ukulele star in the era of YouTube (see also Train, Vance Joy, Jason Mraz, Bruno Mars …).
It also helps, Sheller said, that the ukulele is lightweight/portable and affordable; you don’t need strumming accuracy to play; and expectations are generally low when it comes to the four-stringed instrument.
“It’s an unpretentious instrument,” said Sheller, who got hooked on the ukulele in 2003 while browsing online for a small, travel-size guitar. He has authored close to 50 instruction books (some are available as digital downloads) for guitar or ukulele, and recorded a jazz trio album titled “How about More Uke?”.
Sheller is also one of the featured performers/workshop leaders the weekend of the second Funky Frets Uke Fest Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Here’s a look at what’s coming up:
Friday, Sept. 30
√Concert with The Curt Sheller Trio, Mim, and Don Peyton, 7 p.m. (registration starts at 5), Trinity Church, 250 Sweinhardt Road, Boyertown.
√After-party concert with The Whiskeyhickon Boys, 10 p.m., The Other Farm Brewing Co., 128 E. Philadelphia Ave., Boyertown.
Saturday, Oct. 1
√All-day festival with workshops, lunch with Ukulele Jeopardy and a Hawaiian shirt contest, a catered dinner, open mic. and evening concert with Curt Sheller, Liz & Jim Beloff, Rachel Manke, Uncle Zac, Ben Carr, and The Aloha Boys; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Trinity Church, 250 Sweinhardt Road, Boyertown.

One of the highlights on the Funky Frets Uke Festival is a train ride on the Historic Colebrookdale Railroad.

One of the highlights on the Funky Frets Uke Festival is a train ride on the Historic Colebrookdale Railroad.

Among the workshops will be a hula class and lei making. For a more detailed schedule, see https://funkyfretsukefest.com/calendar. You’re encouraged to pre-evaluate your ukulele skill level, to choose which workshops are best for you, at https://funkyfretsukefest.com/skills.
Sunday, Oct. 2
√Strum-along Train Ride, 10 a.m., Historic Colebrookdale Railroad, East Third Street, Boyertown.
There will be workshops on “Da’ Blues” and “Ukulele Players Intro./Guide to Hawaiian Music” (which also includes a crash course in basic Hawaiian words), a picnic and a jam after the ride at a location to be determined.
Tickets
•$135 for all-festival.
•$89 for Saturday-only.
•$25 for the train ride only.
•$10 in advance, $15 at the door for just the concerts on either Friday or Saturday.
Go to www.funkyfretsukefest.com/tickets. You can also call Funky Frets at (484) 415-9677.

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