TRURO, N.S. - James Hill is an award-winning ukulele player, but it’s the instrument’s mental health benefits that he feels give it a special place in the world.
“The ukulele is one of those things that is calming and empowering, and it’s social,” he said. “it’s the connection to mental health that’s making it really relevant.”
Hill is one of the musicians who will be in town for the third Marigold Ukulele Festival in Truro on Saturday, Jan. 12. He’ll be leading workshops during the day and performing on stage, with his wife Anne Janelle, during an evening event.
The festival is held every two years, and Hill has taken part each year.
“We schedule touring around the festival,” said the Brookfield resident.
Hill grew up in British Columbia, but his school used the ukulele program developed by Chalmers Doane.
“It was a nice connection across the country,” he said.
“You never know how much is going to affect a child long term. When I play for 500 kids in a gym, for over 400 of them it’ll just be fun, but there are a few who may remember it for the rest of their lives.”
He feels the fact that the ukulele is portable, inexpensive and easy to start on has helped boost its popularity.
“For me, as young person, the ukulele gave me an opportunity to explore the road less travelled. There was an opening where I could make a difference and say something that would be noticed more than on some instruments.
Festival organizer Angela Dwyer also got involved in playing ukulele through the school program. Today, she’s also the director of the Marigold Ukulele Players and she teaches both children and adults to play.
“Having Chalmers Doane in our backyard, we felt this was a great place for a ukulele festival,” she said. “Workshop spaces sold out during the last festival and it was a really fun event. Having music in your life is a great thing.
“The internet has really helped make the ukulele more popular. It great for accompanying singing, solo or in a group, and it’s so portable you can take it anywhere.”
Along with Hill, workshop leaders include Cynthia Kinnunen, of Ontario, and Heiki Litke, from PEI.
There are still a few spaces left for the full day event. Registration is $125+hst and includes three workshops plus the evening concert. A basic understanding of how to play the ukulele is required in order fully participate.
Registration information is available on the Marigold Ukulele Festival website.
Tickets for only ‘An Evening with James Hill & Anne Janelle’ are $25 and can also be purchased online.