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New year off to merrie beginning Richard Pena | Fri, Feb 01 2013 12:00 PM

The Merrie Ukes, Bonita’s own musical ensemble ended the past year on a high note. The group entertained at a number of venues with their own brand of Christmas music much to the delight of the listeners. It looks very much like the new year is starting like the old one ended, entertainment assignments early in the calendar.

As has been the custom for the past two years the Merrie Ukes will first entertain the folks at the Collingswood Assisted Living Home on F Street.  Since this is early February and since many of the group are among the young at heart entertainment will be with love songs.

Hideyo Haga, a long time member of the Ukes has teamed with Eloise Luhnow another accomplished musician with a series of tunes that are supposed to make the hardest of hearts melt. There are such classics as “Heart of My Heart,” “Let me Call You Sweetheart” “Side by Side,” and a dozen other selections.

Hideyo, is a man of many talents. His background was in engineering hence some of the finest ukuleles in the group were made by him. His specialty is cigar box ukuleles, instruments that are not only fine looking but also give out a mellow tone.  On top of that he guarantees no nicotine involved.  That, we presume dissipated many puffs ago.

One of the highlights of a Merrie Ukes performance is the many solos and duets that are offered by its members.  Most of these are what I refer to as “show stoppers.” You kind of wish you could hear such songs and their singers long into the morning.  Near the top of this program are two long-time members Merritt and Diana Strickland.  They are a married couple who, in spite of, or because of, their many years together can blend two voices as one. They will be doing the old classic, “Have I told you Lately that I Love You,” and I guarantee this to be a show stopper.  There is also a surprise, at least for me because I don’t think I have ever heard it.  That one is the trio of Ellie Fulks, Eloise and Raymond Ornellas singing a piece in Spanish. Eunice and Bill Canedo will also reprise my favorite, “Besame Mucho.”
The Merrie Ukes will be performing at one of our favorite Bonita venues, Villa Bonita in early March.  We are happy to perform there because they always seem to get quality entertainment and it is nice to be included in that category. 

A few days ago I had a phone call from Challyn Gross, the activity director at the senior living establishment alerting me to a program coming up. This past Monday I, therefore, along with almost all the residents were thoroughly overjoyed by listening to the Kelly Rae Band. This is a small combo of two guitars, a drummer, a fiddler and a keyboard.  Kelly is the only lady member.  They played and sang for nearly an hour, a wide variety of selections, rock, blues, country Western and even a bit of gospel.  Kelly has a commanding, soprano voice who sings in the style of Patsy Cline and has some of her hits in her repertoire.

It was an unknown poet who once wrote a piece about the power of music.  But to better explain this we must get back to the Merrie Ukes. We discovered that of the more than 30members in the group four of those members are right here in Sweetwater Manor. 

In addition to me there is Debbie Pigden, Taffy Komasi and a recent entrant, Sue Osborne. Sue and her husband, Gary, live down the street from me, having arrived here some six years after me. I mention them because a couple of weeks back Gary had a serious operation on his back and has been at home convalescing. I was in the habit of calling frequently until one day I looked out my window and saw Gary walking with the aid of a walker. A little later I called him and he told me he was listening to Sue practice the uke.  Musical therapy, I immediately thought.  Music soothes the savage breast. In this case it is the back.

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