Limerick ukulele orchestra was founded by Pat O’Neill after being inspired by the UK ukulele orchestra. Picture: Zoe Conway
Limerick Ukulele Orchestra Takes Chez le Fab by Storm
By ilovelimerick correspondent Ciara Maria Hayes
Last night fabulous arts café and wine bar Chez le Fab were hosts to Limerick ukulele orchestra – a new activity that launched two weeks ago and has been wonderfully successful for both sessions thus far.
The idea was developed by Limerick local Pat O’Neill after being inspired by the UK ukulele orchestra on YouTube. “I come from a trad background, surprisingly,” Pat told I Love Limerick. “My father taught me about two thousand songs; I can’t read music, and I can’t sing, but my brother’s an instrument maker – he was the head of the Limerick School of Music’s instrument-making department, but he’s just retired. I’d been going up to the classes because he’d always wanted me to make an instrument, mandolin in my case. But then I started seeing the ukulele coming through as an instrument and gaining in popularity!
“Then I saw the UK ukulele orchestra on YouTube, and they play Albert Hall and all these other places. They play in tuxedos, it’s all very formal, but they’re also very humorous and entertaining. I said you know what, Dublin has a ukulele orchestra, Cork has one, Galway has one, we might as well have a Limerick ukulele!”
The Limerick ukulele orchestra is open to all from beginners to experts, and its a very informal setting. There is no one person who teaches and instructs – everybody works together to create delightful melodies and a strong sense of community, surrounded by Chez le Fab’s wonderful artwork and delicious hot drinks.
Limerick ukulele orchestra member Stephen Heslyn stated, “I think its a brilliant idea. Pat asked me to come and join it and actually asked me to go on Spin South West with him and do a radio interview because they wanted someone to come on and play, so I went on and played ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love With You’ and it was really good. We had about maybe fifty people here two weeks ago and about that number again, maybe some new people, so it’s really good.”
Last night the Limerick ukulele orchestra helped each other learn some new chords as well as recite some well-known songs, including John Denver’s ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, Christy Moore’s ‘Ride On’ and a very popular ukulele track ‘Riptide’ by Vance Joy.
Newcomers and beginners were made instantly feel at home. “So far so good!” laughed one newcomer, Lillian Hickey. “It’s great. It’s good to have somebody show you some of the new chords and things, especially when you’re new yourself.”
While there was no formal teacher, one member, Sarah Collins, was particularly helpful to those finding their feet. “I lived in New Zealand for six years. I just picked up the ukulele, kind of just for the craic. It kind of grew on me! When I moved back to Ireland I started teaching. So when I moved back to Limerick and I heard this was on, I thought it was fantastic. Its a really, really good outlet for people. There’s nobody that will ever listen to the ukulele or play the ukulele and ever be sad – it’s the happiest instrument of all time! Being here and being able to help out people who may have never played before and just getting them off the mark with songs is just a really nice thing.”
The ukulele orchestra plans to take place on Thursdays fortnightly in Chez le Fab.
For more stories about Chez le Fab, go here.
For more stories about music events, go here.
To check out the UK ukulele orchestra on Youtube, go here.
Pictures: Zoe Conway/ilovelimerick