In a community known the world over for its ukulele players, and specifically because of the talents of the Langley Ukulele Ensemble, Langleyites are being given further access to the stringed instrument and opportunities to learn how to play.
Consequently, Langley is being given a big chance to build community, insisted Peter Luongo, the retired director of the ensemble who is now travelling the world performing and teaching others how to play the uke.
Fraser Valley Regional Library announced Wednesday that it is expanding its lending library of ukes, thanks to another generous donation.
The library network, which stretches from Langley and White Rock east to Hope and Boston Bar started loaning out ukulele kits back in fall 2016.
This followed the donation of 50 from a Coquitlam uke circle, organizer Jen Chang, and a number of sponsors.
Chang, who was the original inspiration behind FVRL lending the instruments to customers, explained how she first picked up a uke as a kid because her immigrant parents couldn’t afford to pay piano lessons.
Now, she’s sharing the magic of the versatile instrument with thousands of others – kids through adults – who have borrowed a ukulele from the library free of charge for two weeks and discovered what Chang learned years ago.
“Since its inception, the uke lending program has seen an amazing customer uptake, with the kits being borrowed over 1,760 times,” said the library district’s Heather Scoular.
And now, another 21 kits have been added to the lending library.
“The circle’s donation of an additional 21 kits will allow even more of our customers to experience this wonderful little instrument,” Scoular said.
Each kit comes with a ukulele, a soft ukulele case, a digital tuner, and a beginner ukulele book.
But that’s not where the library’s involvement ends. There are a series of opportunities to learn how to play, as well. Some libraries host uke circles, host uke clubs, offer library jams, and even hold classes. Full details on Uke ‘n Play at FVRL is available online.
Luongo, in fact, was one of the people who lead both a children’s and adult beginners class for the ukulele at Langley City library last month, and is now in England participating as a feature entertainer and teacher at a uke conference.
“It was a really exciting opportunity for me to see music have a chance to help build community,” he said, noting that groups of 40 or 50 people will gather at English pubs once a week with their ukuleles and jam.
“Quite frankly, what I saw here blew me away,” he said. “It was really powerful to see that music is bringing these people together… jamming, singing and strumming all the way through the night – together.”
While he spent much of his adult life teaching children, and directing child musicians with the LUE, he’s excited to see so many adults around the globe now engaging with the ukulele.
He recently taught 450 – primarily all adults – in Nevada. This past week he was at a festival in Manchester and London teaching about 300 adults. In February, he took part in a similar conference in Palm Springs for 300 people. He’s off to Nevada again in September to work with a team of 25 adults, then to Calgary and Edmonton to teach classes of about 50 each.
The ukulele is small, portable, easy to learn, and fun to play, that’s a big part of its appeal. The other aspect, he insisted, is the social element so many people are now discovering.
“The world outside of Langley is vested in getting to know how to play the ukulele… and I’m not just talking kids,” said Luongo, who is excited to see even more ukuleles being made available to people throughout the Fraser Valley.
He hopes the enthusiasm and interest he’s seen around the globe will soon take hold among the adults in Langley, and said the library’s efforts to grow its instrument bank tells him they’re already on board.
“Let’s go people,” Luongo said, joking there may not be enough pubs in Langley to host all the ukulele classes, circles, jam sessions, and even jamborees he envisions happening in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, the regional library is celebrating the donation of the 21 ukes with a Ukulele Jamboree event at the Terry Fox Library (2470 Mary Hill Rd. in Port Coquitlam) on Tuesday, May 22, at 6 p.m.
The event, open to everyone, will include family friendly activities, prizes, and of course, some ukulele jammin’.