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THE TUPELO UKULELE SCENE
Ukulele Having Musical Moment In Tupelo, Mississippi
Tupelo, Mississippi may be better known for its rich musical tradition with the dulcimer, mandolin, or fiddle, but the ukulele – most associated with the islands of Hawaii – is currently having a musical moment in Mississippi’s Hill Country.
The North Mississippi Hill Country Orchestra and Isochronous Symposium (did you get all that?) is the area’s main ukulele club. The group is “dedicated to preserving the long held Ukulele tradition native to the hills of North Mississippi,” according to its Facebook page, which also states the meetings are a “good excuse to sing and drink once a month.”
Don’t let the phrase “isochronous symposium” cause any confusion. Founder Mark Maharrey chose it to try and entice newcomers by using the longest name possible. It’s a fancy way of saying “regular meeting.”
The group gets together regularly to practice, strum, sing, play and drink. Meetings are often in different locations, so members are encouraged to check the orchestra’s Facebook page for more info.
The club’s founder, Maharrey, created the group one day while he was fiddling around on a ukulele, and had a vision of how things could be if he created a club.
Speaking to local newspaper the Daily Journal in 2017, he said: “I was joking around with Dana [Maharrey’s wife] that I wanted to have a ukulele club. I thought we’d hang out at a bar and play songs, but I realized I had to learn to play first,” he said. “I started a Facebook page and said, ‘Hey, come, come, come.’ We’re still trying to attract people.”
The group had its first get-together at Link Centre in February 2017, and their first gig was in front of Main Attraction during the Elvis Presley Festival. Since then, they’ve participated in a flash mob, performed during Tupelo’s Fourth of July celebration and played for residents on the town’s main street.
The North Mississippi Hill Country Orchestra may not be America’s biggest ukulele group, but it’s position in a bigger movement for the ukulele makes it just as important.
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