VIDEO and PICTURES: Bright side of music

HAPPY: The Bendigo Ukulele Group gather to practise their Van Morrison performance. Pictures: BRENDAN McCARTHY

HAPPY: The Bendigo Ukulele Group gather to practise their Van Morrison performance. Pictures: BRENDAN McCARTHY

The only time that I really have relief is when I am playing music, usually in a band or group. - Peter Gavin

Ukelele brightens up

UKULELE players of Bendigo have music on their mind and it's all positive.

The Bendigo Ukulele Group is a living testament to the ways music can be good for the soul.

Peter Gavin has been a big part of the group since early on in its existence.

He said he appreciated the quality of life he experienced while he was involved in a musical group.

"I believe it is important that we all make music," he said.

"It is good for the soul.

"It is a social thing and promotes well-being.

"In fact, it is a fundamental part of what makes us human."

He said he had researched the links between music and health.

"For men, particularly my-age men, it really improves their health and their quality of life and life-expectancy."

ENCOURAGE: Event organiser Peter Gavin sings along.

ENCOURAGE: Event organiser Peter Gavin sings along.

Mr Gavin said he had suffered pain throughout his adult life.

"I suffer pain and have for most of my adult life - all day, every day," he said.

"The only time that I really have relief is when I am playing music, usually in a band or group.

"The only time I am really 100 per cent without pain is in that moment."

He said playing alone had similar effects as playing in a group.

"Just getting up in the morning and feeling a bit s**t, then you play a few songs or sing a couple of tunes and what that does for your physical and mental well-being is amazing," he said.

"I don't understand how people can live their lives without that.

"It's almost a spiritual kind of thing.

"It is not intimidating and it is a joyous sound."

Flinders University Emeritus Professor Roger Rees said extensive research showed it was clear that music affected people in a tangible way.

"Music affects a person’s sensori-motor functioning, which over time can facilitate their mobility, strength, endurance and timing,” he said.

"It can also help co-ordination of gross and fine motor movements in arms, hands, legs and feet.

"The playing of and listening to music is observed to shape a person's speech and language functioning, which includes improvement of vocal control, more fluent and intelligible speech production and meaningful use of verbal and nonverbal symbols in communication.

"The use of music in the long-term rehabilitation process is considered to access sub-cortical structures in our brains. 

"Music and rhythm bind together the individual nervous systems of communities and have the power to move people in all senses of the word.

"Music possesses the capacity to restore one's sense of personal wholeness."

Beth McMahon started the Bendigo Ukulele Group three years ago with help from Peter Gavin.

Ms McMahon exudes positivity and said music was responsible for her happy attitude.

"Some people see how happy we are and think they would really like some of that happiness," she said.

"None of us are on anti-depressants," she laughed, "it's so great for you."

Ms McMahon said the group was "sacrosanct" to her.

"There is research on menopausal depression and the use of music and choir in helping that," she said.

"I love it.

"There is nothing nicer than to get up, even though we are all shy, on stage and perform and have people actually enjoy it.

"There is an enormous sense of achievement and self-esteem that when you are a shy person you can get up in a group and perform and have people applaud you."

PLAYING: Group member Michelle Answorth and organiser Beth McMahon.

PLAYING: Group member Michelle Answorth and organiser Beth McMahon.

Ms McMahon said she used to have what she felt were "lots of reasons to be feeling not too good" about herself.

She said the group had really helped her change this.

City of Greater Bendigo heritage advisor and architect Meg McDougall recently joined the ukulele group.

She said she had a ukulele as a child and had always enjoyed the many benefits of music in her life.

“I was looking for a musical outlet like this group,” she said.

“Outside of work, music is now my main interest.

“I think it really allows people who are a bit shy to come out.

“It is a really inclusive activity and we always have fun.”

The group will perform a showcase of Van Morrison songs on Sunday, July 20, as part of the Blues and Roots Showcase.

Peter Gavin said he was looking forward to the showcase.

"The Johnny Cash showcase we did last year was so much fun," he said.

"We performed them at the Golden Vine Hotel."

This year, the showcase will be held at the Goldmines Hotel.

Mr Gavin said the group was still welcoming new members.

"People come along as beginners and they just get dragged along in the enthusiasm of it all," he said.

"We also get people who may have played in a band at school but never got a chance to continue with music.

"Now they have more time on their hands, they can have a go at something."

In recent years, the ukulele has become a more popular instrument to be played socially.

"These days, we think music should be left to those who are awesome at it," Mr Gavin said.

"The ukulele movement is working because there is no judgement around it.

"We could put a ukulele in anybody's hands and they will giggle and try to make fun sounds with it.

"None of us are really great players and that is the point.

"You don't have to be a great musician, it's the involvement and any noise that it makes that makes it a good experience."

The showcase will feature Van Morrison songs such as Moondance, Crazy Love, Jackie Wilson Said, Gloria, Bright Side of the Road and others.

REHEARSAL: Group members John Taplin and Ian McAtamney.

REHEARSAL: Group members John Taplin and Ian McAtamney.

The group will take ukulele players of any skill level, beginner to advanced.

It costs $10 a session, including rehearsals and performance.

Members practise at the Golden Square Hotel every Wednesday from 6.30pm, with coaching available for beginners from 6pm.

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