Wednesday, January 28, 2009


There was no Fun Fact for my hula class last week; another food-related event tore me away. I was off at a Dungeness crab dinner put on by the Portland Culinary Alliance, of which I am president. I do love my hula class, but I would never pass up an opportunity to eat one of my favorite foods, the sweet delectable meat from a local specialty here in Oregon, the Dungeness crab. Yum.

But the following weekend I did attend a practice session that a handful of hula sisters participate in every Saturday. And there, at the Aloha Bally's, we saw our kumu hula, Lisa Chang, who was just finishing up her morning aerobics class. I apologized to her for missing two hula classes in a row. She just smiled and said, "Bring your 'ukulele to the next class." Oh oh.

Our hula class is apparently going multi-media by incorporating live music, as played by hula sisters who have been studying 'ukulele. There are three of us now in the "advanced" class. Our kumu, Lisa, started out with our class but had to drop out because of the many demands of running the halau. Now she's starting all over again with the beginners' class.

The main song we're supposed to practice in order to play with the class is the classic tune "Hawai'i Aloha," written in the mid-1800s by a missionary to Hawaii, Lorenzo Lyons, who became fluent in Hawaiian and was known to his flock as Makua Laiana (Father Lyons). "Hawai'i Aloha" is sung at public gatherings before everyone disperses. Lisa apparently intends to give our occasional public performances more of a Hawaiian flavor by adding this special farewell as our concluding performance.

It's a good thing, then, that I have been practicing. And now, in addition to my Sunday afternoon 'ukulele class, I've been going to the monthly gatherings of the Portland Ukulele Association, or PUA for short. Pua, by the way, is the Hawaiian word for flower.

PUA is a convivial and talented group. I've got a long way to go before I dare perform during their open mike events, but it's good for my confidence to see that I can at least play along and know how to play most of the chords.

I discovered PUA last June when I bought a ticket for one of their two concerts that concluded several days of workshops at Reed College led by top musicians from all over the country. I had no idea it would be such a fabulous concert, but all the people lined up in front of Vollum Hall begging for tickets to the sold-out show should have given me a clue.

The show started at 7:30 and lasted till almost 11 p.m., though I never looked at my watch until it was over. I was totally captivated, enthralled and delighted by the marvelous 'ukulele players, solo and in groups, who entertained the crowd after teaching workshops all week. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. I've heard since then that PUA's ukulele festival is considered the very best in the country -- and believe me, there are a lot of ukulele festivals out there!

PUA's annual concerts will be held Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20, this year. I'll try to make it to both of them and will be in line for tickets as soon as they're available. Wouldn't miss this for anything . . . maybe even Dungeness crab!

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