Drummers aren’t the only musicians who gather — the healthy-sized drum circle that occurs regularly at Chase Palm Park, for example — to play their instruments en masse. Santa Barbara also has its share of tuba and ukulele enthusiasts who get together and play for the public.
Santa Barbara Ukulele Club
Every Saturday, the sweet sounds of four strings and a chorus of voices rise from beneath the large tree in front of the harbor. That’s where 20-40 members of the Santa Barbara Ukulele Club gather from 2-4 p.m. to play through their versions of hits such as “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and whatever else is on their weekly song list.
Founded in 2008 by Paul Halula — who was inspired by a similar club in Santa Cruz, where he’s since returned — the club includes about 200 people on its email list and is organized these days by Michael Hatton and Doug Nielsen, who welcome players of all ages and abilities. “We all share a love for the uke and music,” said Nielsen. “All who make a positive contribution to the music are welcome. We stress the need to listen. You don’t need to be an expert, but it is important to listen and fit in so the group isn’t thrown off.”
This holiday season, the smiling band of bards will be donning Santa Claus caps to play on the 500 block of State Street during the farmers’ market every Tuesday, 3:30-5:30 p.m.; the Camino Real Marketplace on Friday, December 22, 4:30-6:30 p.m.; and a number of senior living facilities around town throughout December.
Kimi Vandyk is one member, and she’s been sharing videos of the group playing on their Facebook page. “I started playing in grade 5, and it was just a great introduction to music,” she said. “It just brings joy. It’s so easy; little kids can do it. I’m all about having fun and singing along, and this is a really great place to do that.”
And it’s perfect for simply watching as well. Said Nielsen, “So many people connect to music, and when they hear a familiar song, I think it warms their heart.”
Those interested in joining can email SantaBarbaraUkuleleClub@gmail.com. For more info, see santabarbaraukuleleclub.com.
On Saturday, December 9, at noon, one of Santa Barbara’s most unique musical traditions will begin blaring from the tight alley between De la Guerra Plaza and State Street known as Storke Placita. It’s TubaChristmas 2017, when about two dozen big-brass-instrument maestros will run through their annual performance of Christmas classics.
Though the tradition began in Santa Barbara 25 years ago, the first Tuba Christmas was nearly 43 years ago in New York City. “TubaChristmas is the brainchild of the late Harvey Phillips, perhaps the finest tubist of his generation and a driving force in having composers produce music that features tuba,” said Bill Rizzi, who helped organize the Santa Barbara event, one of many that happens in cities around the world. “It features four-part holiday arrangements for tubas and euphoniums, which are small tubas — what a trombone would be if it were fatter and twisted,” said Rizzi, who once played above the ice of Rockefeller Center in New York. “It’s the only time one sees tubas as the main feature. It’s an amazing sound! Tubas don’t have the most glamorous rep — think the word ‘tubby.’ This is our chance to enjoy like-minded bottom dwellers and show off a bit.”
For those seeking more audible exhilaration, the S.B. tuba crew plays regularly at the Brat Haus on State Street, drawing from its “Octubafest” songbook of marches, polkas, waltzes, and so forth. And for those wanting to join in the fun, you can register to play TubaChristmas by heading to SBCC’s Band Room DM-105 on December 9 at 9 a.m. to rehearse. See tubachristmas.com.