It all started when Doris Theriault went to the Nova Scotia Tattoo in Halifax and saw a wonderful ukulele group from British Columbus and fell in love with the little instrument.
After thinking about it for a while, and with the nudge of some friends, she called a few girls to see if they'd be interested in starting their own ukulele group.
“At first, some of us laughed, but we all said ‘yes,’” says Jeanne Bridgeo.
Thus, in 2011, in Theriault’s kitchen, Les Ukeladies de Clare was born.
After eight years, the group, which started with just 10 members, has grown to 28 members and still meets weekly in Saulnierville.
“We do not have an age requirement,” says Bridgeo, noting most of the women are retired. “We have a few young ones in their 50s, though.”
Nor is there the requirement that you have to know how to play the ukulele, as everyone learned how to play on their own, mostly through workshops or the internet. Although they do give tips, the group doesn’t offer lessons, and it’s down to the members to practise, practise, practise, she says.
Currently, the group is not taking on any new members but, there is a waiting list.
Les Ukeladies de Clare can be found performing around the community, at senior homes, an adult group facility, local events. They play an average of twice a month, more or less, depending on the season.
The music the group plays varies, depending upon the audience and the songs they might know, Bridgeo says. Their repertoire includes a variety of songs from the 1940s to the present, but since the average age of participants is 60-plus, they mostly play music from the ‘50s to ‘70s.
“We also sing French songs since most of us are French Acadians,” she says.
And it’s not just about the ukulele. The group also features a bass ukulele banjo, mandolins, fiddles, shakers, tambourines and harmonicas.
Being part of Les Ukeladies de Clare is much more than just the music, says Bridgeo. It’s about being part of something wonderful with great people who have become friends.
“It’s making someone that’s in a senior home forget their problems for even a minute, making them smile, sing songs they remember and laugh,” says Bridgeo, noting the group even has a member who puts costumes on and dances to the music, while others step dance.
“We try to entertain them as well as sing to them.”
Music is therapeutic and just makes you feel good, says Bridgeo.
“We give as much as we receive, and it’s a way of giving back to our community,” she says.
“Some of our members have gone and are going through a tough time. Being part of this group has been so wonderful. We’ve had a lot of laughs and so much fun that sometimes we forget how much fun we really are having.”