Ukulele festival strikes a chord, brightens rainy day in Newton

Newton City Hall’s War Memorial Auditorium transformed into a concert hall on Saturday, as ukulele players from across the state gathered for “Strummin’ Up to Boston,” a ukulele-only music festival.

Sunday’s event was the second annual “Strummin’ Up to Boston” festival, but the first one to be
held in Newton.

John Soares, the organizer of the event, said that after the first ukulele festival in Waltham last
year, he expected the festival’s audience to grow. He also wanted to be able to host vendors for
the event, which led him to book Newton City Hall.

“We have about the same amount of acts,” Soares said. “We’ve got a bigger audience.”
Eight acts performed over the course of the afternoon with performances spanning genres.
In the auditorium, vendors sold ukulele necklaces, instruments, accessories and t-shirts, while
food vendors set up shop just outside the city hall doors.

During its country-themed set, Newton’s ukulele group, the City Hall Strummers, performs “Crazy” by Patsy Kline. Photo by Genevieve Morrison

One vendor, Nancy Kocur, traveled from Dartmouth, Mass. to sell her hand-made ukelele straps
and kazoos at the event.

“I started playing the ukulele about seven years ago and I wasn’t happy with the straps out
there,” Kocur said. “I’m a quilter, so I started making quilted ukulele straps.”

For many strummers, the ukelele is a fun pastime in retirement.

Sheila Shea, a retired professor at Salem State University, said that her ukulele group helped
her channel her love for music. “I played a guitar all through high school,” Shea said. “I just love music, so I wanted to learn the ukulele, simply because of my arthritis in my hands and it is easier.”

VIDEO: City Hall Strummers